"Bass-fishing history has more to do with
the development of suitable artificials than
it does with anything else. The flies and
bugs typical of bass fishing are about the
only things, save the environs where they
are sought, that set off bass fishing as an
endeavor separate from other types of fly
fishing. This however, is not insignificant.
At the time that anglers first began casting
flies to bass, trout patterns were used. The
favored artificial flies were big, and Henshall
[James Henshall author of Book of Black
Bass in 1881] said the flies patterns
were not critical. In fact, the gaudier and
more colorful the flies the better they were
perceived to work. Most popular bass patterns
were copies of trout flies. The fancy flies for
trout grew more and more popular under this
prevailing attitude, and the size and materials
in the bass version developed rather naturally
into what would be known as bass bugs...
The bass bug proper came about as a couple of
different traditions converged.
As early as the 1760s, William Bartram reported
a technique used by native Americans in the
Southeast to capture largemouth bass. The lure
was called a bob, a fist-sized wad of deer hair
and feathers wrapped around three hooks bound
by their shanks. The bob was suspended from a
long pole and worked over the surface of the
water from the front of a canoe, as the canoe
was worked quietly along the shoreline by a
paddler in the stern.
According to McClane [McClane's New Standard
Fishing Encyclopedia], the original cork-bodied
bass bugs developed in Missouri and Arkansas, on
the Saint Francis and Little rivers. These waters
gave rise to local lures stuck together from
beer-bottle corks and turkey feathers, well before
The development of the hair-bug, the spun deer-hair
style body, is a mystery. Schullery says Henshall
is often acknowledged as creator of the trimmed-hair
bass bug, but he fails to give a date for this.
William Bayard Sturgis claims the hair-spinning
technique came to Chicago about 1912, brought by
Emerson Hough, who found a fly tied in this way
on a fishing trip in the "far North." Originally,
Sturgis reports, the body was spun with bucktail.
Hough and Fred Peet worked with the tying technique
through that winter, developing a fly named after
Hough. Later, according to Sturgis, tyers switched
to deer body hair for spinning."
Recipe Emerson Hough Bucktail
Tail: Light reddish-brown bucktail hairs of
various lengths: the longest being about an inch.
Credits: Quoted text from A Concise History
of Fly Fishing by Glenn Law, published by
the Lyons Press. Photo and recipe from
Forgotten Flies published by the
Body: Brown deer hair spun and clipped to shape.
Wing: Dark brown bucktail tied in at a 40 degree angle.