Friday, January 18, 2013

How To Tie a Woolly Bugger

If you are only going to learn to tie one fly, it should probably be the Woolly Bugger.  I know that I can approach any body of water that holds fish anywhere in the world, tie on a size 10 Woolly Bugger and have a pretty good chance at catching a fish.  They are pretty simple to tie, and easy to modify with various materials.  Once you learn how to tie a Woolly Bugger, you can easily tie an Egg Sucking Leech, which is a productive fly for steelhead and other anadromous species in the Great Lakes.

Below is an 8 minute video on how to tie a size 10 black bead head Woolly Bugger.

If you're new to fly tying, I have a post about commonly used tools and materials, and another post demonstrating basic fly tying techniques.

I usually tie a size 10 Woolly Bugger for stream trout and panfish.  If I'm  going for smallmouth,  I usually start with a size 8, if I have a lot of short strikes, I'll go to a 10.  I usually tie size 6 Woolly Buggers for largemouth bass and for salmon migrating up the streams.

Sometimes I'll tie black Woolly Buggers with grizzly hackle instead of black.  I almost always tie olive Woolly Buggers with grizzly hackle.  The olive dye from the marabou will leach into the lighter grizzly hackle and make for an interesting fly.  A few strands of Flashabou in the tail of your buggers may increase their attraction.

Here are some Woolly Buggers and variations I've tied this year.

Size 6 conehead 

Size 6 beadhead with Flashabou

Size 10 Egg Sucking Leech

Size 10 Force Choking Leech, a fly of
my own design.

Here are some fish I've caught on Woolly Buggers.

Summer 2012, Minnesota's Otter Tail River 

fall 2007, Otter Tail.  Biggest smallmouth I've
ever caught

Grizzly hackle bugger, Milwaukee

Milwaukee River smallmouth

Olive and grizzly bugger, Milwaukee

That's a nice Milwaukee River Smallmouth
caught within city limits

Nice rock bass, Milwaukee River

Chinook salmon from the Menomonee

See the Bugger in her mouth?
If I were only going to carry one fly, it would be a black Woolly Bugger, they are just so effective for so many species of fish!  They are kind of like the fly fishing version of the Mister Twister curly tail grub.

feel free to ask any questions, have fun!


  1. You think a size 6 is big? You should check out my Giant Woolly Bugger post on my blog. I've caught a couple really nice Smallies on the giant version- one around 3 lb (in Alabama) and the other about 4 lb (in Arkansas). I imagine the Wisconsin Smallies would go for the big one too.

    1. I certainly will. I've never tied anything bigger than a 6, but my only fly rod was a 5 wt. I broke it, but I'm going to replace it soon with another 5 wt. Eventually I'd like to get a heavier one, and a lighter one now that I got a good full time job and I'm done with school.