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2x or 3x streamer hook, such as Mustad 9671 or 9672, or Tiemco 5262 or 5263


Heavy duty flat nylon; color to match materials.


Lead, wrapped around shank, size .015 or .020

Bead: (Optional)

black or gold bead, sized to fit hook


Marabou, color of choice (e.g., brown chenille, olive marabou (option: include flashy material such as Spirit River Lite Brite along sides of tail


Chenille in proper size to match hook (option: use crystal chenille, or fuzzy mohlon yarn).


Webby saddle hackle, color coordinated with body (i.e., use something with contrast).

Woolly Bugger

In the January/February issue of American Angler the editors featured the results of a poll taken on their web site. Readers were asked to post their ten favorite flies. Guess what pattern came in first. Yup…it was the plain, old, ugly Woolly Bugger. Who knows (or cares) whether their poll was done in a scientific manner—I find humor in this paradoxical result. Look at any fly fishing catalog, or go into your favorite fly shop. How many thousands of exotic patterns are displayed, each with its own mystique, each with its creator’s warranty that it is by God the fish-catchingest fly ever conceived at the vise. But there’s more: listen to the rest of the top ten list—Hare’s Ear; Elk Hair Caddis; Pheasant Tail Nymph; Adams; Prince; Parachute Adams; Royal Wulff; Ant; and Stimulator. Somewhere buried in all this business there is a lesson about what one really, really needs in one’s fly box. Anyway, it does pay to get back to basics once in awhile, if for no other reason than to get centered once again amidst the blizzard of new-fangled patterns all screaming for attention and notoriety. The Woolly Bugger is simple, requires only a few common materials, is easy to tie, and…catches fish.


  1. Place bead (if used) on the hook. Wrap lead around the shank. In the bigger sizes (#6, 4) use 10 wraps of .020; reduce the size and wraps as the hook gets smaller. Cover the hook shank and lead with thread. Stay back from the eye a distance equal to at least 1/6 of the hook shank.

  2. Apply a coat of Flexament to the hook shank, and wrap back to the bend of the hook, just above the back of the barb.

  3. Cut a small bunch of marabou from the stem, and wet the butt ends to gather it together. Tie it on directly on top of the hook. If you want to make the fly a bit flashy, add some flashy material on each side of the tail; do it sparsely, as too much will tend to put the fish off. Wrap everything down securely

  4. Tie in a saddle hackle by its tip, at the same point that the marabou was tied in. It should be tied in “wet fly” style, with the shiny side forward. Tie in the chenille (or mohlon yarn) at the same point.

  5. Wrap the chenille forward in tight wraps. If you applied a bead, end the wraps about 1/8” behind the bead. If you did not  use a bead, leave the same amount of space behind the eye.

  6. Grab the butt end of the hackle, and begin wrapping it forward. Be sure to keep the shiny side pointing forward, so that the hackle sweeps back. When you reach the front of the fly, take a couple of extra wraps at the front. This creates a heavier profile at the front of the fly. Tie the hackle off, and then use your fingers to sweep the hackle back toward the tail. Add wraps in front of the hackle to force it to stay in the swept-back position.

  7. Whip finish after forming a nice, tapered head. Apply a droplet of super glue to the head, or behind the bead if you used one.

Fish this ugly old dog deep, or on a swing. Where possible, use the short line nymphing technique

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Copyright 1998 by Granite Bay Flycasters unless otherwise noted.