Fly of the Month: The (Forgotten?) Woolly Bugger

How is it one of the most popular flies of all times is now “forgotten” by some fly anglers.  Is it that they believe the fish have “seen” so many of them over the years that the fly has lost its effectiveness?  Is it that the fly is so fast and easy to tie that it just isn’t exciting anymore?  Whatever the reason is I am thankful because it means fewer anglers are fishing the fly on the waters that I frequently fish – and that makes it better than ever!

Living in Mountain Home, Arkansas I live only minutes away from the famed White and Norfork Rivers, two of the best tailwater fisheries in the world.  During high water, many anglers, and guides rely upon large, articulated streamers to catch large brown trout.  These patterns work well, but I believe the fish are starting to become conditioned to these flies.   I have found that I can tempt these fish just as easily with a large (size 2-6) Woolly Bugger.  Because the Woolly Bugger is so easy to tie I often switch between white, black, olive, brown, chartreuse, and purple buggers depending upon the mood of the fish.  It always amazes me how the fish will “absolutely hammer” one color on one day and a different color on another.

Because Woolly Buggers are so easy to tie I don’t mind losing a few to streamside obstacles. Likewise, by adding dumbbell eyes, coneheads, or beads I can tie a fly that is much heavier than I can buy in any fly shop.  The color combinations and “tweaking” you can do to this simple pattern are incredible and as a result, it is a fly that can work on most any body of water, and for most fish.

In addition to trout, I have caught bass and panfish of most species, pike, walleye, and muskies on Woolly Buggers.  In saltwater, I have caught redfish, bonefish, striped bass, bluefish, snook, and tarpon on them.  By varying the size and color of the fly you can use it for almost anything.

So this December, we celebrate the Woolly Bugger.  If you’ve forgotten how effective it is then maybe it’s time to whip out the vise and tie up a few.