The Wooly Bugger is classically classed as a wet fly or streamer pattern. It is often the go-to fly of choice by many a fly fisher to cover a large variety of conditions and species.
The Wooly Bugger is believed to have first been tied by Pennsylvania fly tyer Russell Blessing in the early 1960s, and it was tied to imitate a hellgrammite. Over the years, it has evolved into many different formats, with a few key triggers remaining.
In this how-to tie, the Wooly Bugger fly tying tutorial, I will tie my version of the original version.
Materials for Wooly Bugger
- Hook: Wet fly, streamer hook Size 6- 14 for this SBS, a Mouche 8444 #8 stream hook has been used.
- Bead head: Tungsten 3mm ( Copper, gold, hot orange, chartreuse are popular choices)
- Tying Thread: Griffith Sheer 14/0 or Semperfli 30D
- Tail: Olive marabou feather fibres
- Flash: Crystal flash or gold tinsel flash
- Rib: Gold rib lead-free wire
- Body: Olive hairs ear dubbing or brown, olive chenille
- Hackle: Cookhills saddle hackle brown
- Head cement: Solarez hard thin
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Step-by-step for Wooly Bugger
Slide your bead onto the hook shank. If you want to add more weight, you can use lead wire. Make one or two lead wire wraps behind the bead.
Lock your hook in the vise, making sure it is secure and not too close to the tip of the jaws, as the hook may slip when you apply tension to it. I advocate using barbless hooks where possible to ease the removal and minimise the damage done to the fish.
Start with a solid level thread base to work with from. You can wrap the tying thread up and down the shank creating a slight body taper from the bead head back to the tail.
Tie in the olive marabou feather; I like to make my tail the length of the hook shank. Wrap the thread forward, tying in the tag end of the marabou feather along with the hook shank. This gives the body bulk. If you are using chenille for the body, trim the tag marabou off to allow space for the chenille.
Tie in your gold lead-free wire (this won’t add much weight to the fly on larger sizes). Tie in a hackle feather tip (with the hackle feather, I like to strip one side off to give a sparser hackle spread, remember the more hackle, the slower the sink rate). Add a few wraps down the shank making sure all fibres are secure.
Make a ‘dubbing rope’ and wrap the dubbing forward until you reach the bead. Make two securing wraps. Now inspect the body you want a slight taper from bead head down to the tail.
With your hackle pliers, wrap the hackle forward, making sure you don’t trap any of the feather fibres ending behind the bead and tie it off.
Wrap the lead wire forward between the hackle feather fibers making sure you don’t trap anything, ending behind the bead and tie ti iff.
Add a few thread wraps to make a small collar behind the bead, whip finish and apply your head cement.
- Secure hook with bead, and start with a solid thread base.
- Tie in the marabou tail and crystal flash. Make sure you create that tapered body.
- Tie in the gold rib wire and hackle feather.
- Make the Wooly Bugger body by wrapping your ‘dubbing rope’ forward.
- Wrap hackle forward ad then the gild wire and tie off
- Make a thread collar whip finish and apply head cement.
About the Wooly Bugger
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.
Wooly 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 Woolly 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 Woolly Worm pattern too.
What Does a Wooly Bugger 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 clamworms, 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.
How to fish the woolly bugger
The Wooly bugger can be fished is a few different ways. The classic ‘sink and strip’ is the most commonly used by your average fly fisher. This is when you cast out a long line, allow the fly to sink to your desired depth, then retrieved it at various speeds. This can often induce a take from a hungry trout. It is important to remember that this style of fishing will often result in a take in between strips, so be sure to keep contact with the fly at all times.
The Wooly Bugger can also be used on the point and as droppers when fishing a washing line rig.
Whichever way you choose to fish the Wooly Bugger, it is always an exciting way to catch.
The Wrap Up
So there you have our complete review of the Wooly 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 Wooly Buggers instead!
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