The Wooly Bugger is one of the most iconic fly patterns around. It’s a classic wet fly or streamer that is easily recognizable and comes in a range of different colors and variations.
An incredibly versatile fly, the Wooly Bugger belongs in fly boxes all over the world! Here’s everything you need to know about this pattern in our detailed review.
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About the Fly
The Wooly Bugger is, hands down, one of the most well-known streamer patterns in the world, and with good reason. Fished just below the surface, the fish go crazy for this tempting pattern. You can fish it in freshwater or saltwater with equal success, and you can catch real whoppers with this fly.
Woolly Buggers look like a big ol’ tasty bite for any lurking fish, especially if you’re fishing one of the larger sizes. You’ll be guaranteed some of the best fly fishing ever using a Wooly Bugger – trout tend to take this fly in an explosive and easily visible way!
The Wooly Bugger fly performs well in all sorts of environments, from streams to lakes, rivers to tidal flats. No matter what the conditions are or whether the water is fast or slow-moving, you’ll get loads of success with a Wooly Bugger.
The origins of the Wooly Bugger are unclear. Some people credit Russell Blessing, a fly fisher out of Pennsylvania, for tying the first Wooly Bugger around 1967. Blessing aimed to imitate the dobsonfly nymph  but was clearly inspired by the Wooly Worm pattern too.
What Does It Represent?
The Wooly Bugger fly can resemble a range of food sources for the fish, including minnows and other baitfish, leeches, salamanders, and even drowning terrestrial insects. You can also use this fly pattern to mimic crayfish, crabs, shrimp, and clam worms, so it really is a versatile pattern.
When you get into fly tying, you can experiment with different variations, sizes, and materials to imitate different species effectively. There really is no limit when it comes to fly tying your own Wooly Bugger flies.
Wooly buggers tend to be tied in sizes from 2 – 14, but can be tied in sizes right down to 20 as well. There are so many different variations of this pattern, which explains its popularity around the globe. It’s as simple as making a few small adjustments to the size and color to match the local forage.
Here’s what you need to tie your own Wooly Buggers:
- Hook: Streamer Hook in size 6 – 12
- Thread: Olive or black thread 8/0
- Hackle: Black saddle hackle
- Tail: Maribou – olive
- Body: Chenille – olive or black
- Rib: Fine copper wire
- Weight: Lead wire
- Adhesive: Head cement
How To Tie A Wooly Bugger
You’ve got your complete fly fishing kit – the fly rod, fly lines, fly reels, and now you’re wondering what’s next. Why not learn to tie your own flies?
You can easily stock up on flies in a fly shop, but fly tying is rewarding, fun, and makes your fishing habit more affordable. The best way to get started with fly tying is by watching a few video tutorials. There are some great videos out there that will break it down, step by step, so you can follow along and perfect your fly tying technique.
Here’s an easy video on how to tie the Wooly Bugger:
How Do You Fish It?
The great thing about Wooly Buggers is that you can use them in any situation, no matter what the conditions and weather are or how the fish are behaving. It’s an excellent pattern for finding aggressive bass, trout, and other species.
If you’re fishing deep, murky water and you’re not having any success with your other flies, that’s a good sign to switch over to fishing a Wooly pattern instead.
These flies are highly visible, and are a top choice when you don’t know your fishing spot too well and can’t tell what the fish are eating. Wooly flies are top searching patterns, so you’ll be sure to draw out any hungry trout and get them to strike.
If you’re using larger patterns or heavy, weighted patterns, you need to have the right gear to go with it. I would recommend using size 6 or 7 wt rods with 3X tippet, and pair this with a floating line or a sinking tip line for the best success.
The best way to fish your Buggers is with a tight line and an active retrieve. Don’t focus too much on your presentation or mastering that drag-free drift with your fly rod. Instead, focus on casting out to promising spots, and you’ll be guaranteed a catch. The trout just can’t resist this tasty-looking fly.
Feel free to play around with different techniques, as you’re not limited to just one style of fly fishing when it comes to fishing with Buggers. Try casting perpendicular to the bank and stripping in short, sharp bursts to grab the trout’s attention, or shake it up by slowing down your retrieve and pausing from time to time.
One top tip when fishing with Woolly Buggers is to cover the water. Don’t waste time and energy casting out to the same spots on the river again and again. You’ll catch more fish by moving around and choosing new places to cast to if you don’t get any bites in one location.
The Wrap Up
So there you have our complete review of the Woolly Bugger pattern! It’s an iconic, versatile, and productive fly that every fly angler should have handy on any fly fishing trip. And now, you’re all set to skip the fly shop and tie your own Woolly Buggers instead!
As always, if you found this review helpful, give it a share on Facebook and Twitter so more people can read it! Feel free to contact us by email or comment below with any questions or suggestions. And don’t forget to check out our other dry flies, nymph, and streamer fly pattern reviews, too!