Fly Of The Week
Bass Woolly Bugger
Bass Woolly Bugger
By Deke Meyer, Monmouth, Oregon, USA

Excerpt from Tying Bass Flies
12 of the Best

Frank Amato Publications, Inc.
P.O. Box 82112, Portland Oregon 97282
Phone: 503-653-8108

Previous Flies
Fly Tying Terms
Bass Woolly Bugger

The Woolly Bugger is an ideal underwater fly for bass because it simulates many prey items that bass like: baitfish, crayfish, dragonfly nymphs, leeches or other quarry. Also, the hackle and marabou creates the illusion of bulk and lifelike movement, but without the bulk. These materials collapse against the hook shank when cast, offereing minimal air resistance and allowing for a smooth, streamline cast.

Tying Tips

Some tie the Woolly Bugger without a lead wire underbody, theorizing that the fly swims more smoothly underwater and reacts better to the anglers' fly line manipulations. The advantage to lead weighting is that the fly sinks better, and if you weight just the front of the fly as in the photos, the fly exhibits an up-abd-down jigging effect on the retrieve, which attracts fish. The Woolly Bomber includes weighted eyes on the front of the fly. (Be sure to tie the eyes on top of the shank so the fly will flip over on the retrieve, helping to avoid snags.) There is no "right" or "wrong" way to tie this fly. Also, the marabou "shrinks" when underwater, so tie in about twice the amount you want the sunken fly to display. However, too much marabou inhibits the sink rate of the fly.

Some good color combinations include (body/hackle):
black / grizzly; black / olive; black / fluorescent blue with blue Flashabou in tail; brown / grizzly; brown / olive; brown / brown; all black, white or chartreuse.


The origins of the Woolly Bugger lie with the Woolly Worm. In The Practical Fly Fisherman, 1953 A.J. McClane wrote that the Woolly Worm ". . .made its reputation as an Ozark bass fly back in the 1920s. Actually this pattern was first described by Izaak Walton back in 1653 and has three centuries of recommendation to its credit."

If we look into one of the first written words on fly fishing, in Treatise On Fysshynge Wiyh An Angle 1496, Juliana Bernes wrote, "The wasp fly: the bodyof back wool and wound about with yellow thread, the wings of the buzzard." If we could view what Dame Bernes tied, we might see a prototype black Woolly worm with yellow thread rib and black palmered hackle. If not exactly what we use today, a black fly with loose flowing black hackle is an excellent prescription for a fish-catching fly, made all the better for the addition of a marabou tail.

Tie a few of these in various sizes, some with and some without a weedguard. To some, add a bit of Fashabou to the tail, to impart bright quick flashes that bass can see in turbid water. ~ Deke Meyer

Materials List:

Hook:  2X-long, 3X-long or 4X-long shank, heavy wire, size 1/0 - 10.

Thread:  Yellow 6/0 or 8/0.

Tail:  Marabou; Flashabou or Crystal Flash optional.

Body:  Yarn, chenille or dubbing.

Hackle:  Dyed wide saddle or neck hackle.

Eyes: : Optional, weighted barbell eyes.

Weedguard:  Optional, still monofilament, diameter matches hook diameter.

Tying Instructions:

1. Debarb hook. Attach thread, wrap to rear of hook. Wrap lead wire (or alternate wire) around front half of hook, leaving room for head. (With your thumbnail mash the ends of the lead wire on the hook after wrapping, for a smooth thread and yarn transition.) Wrap thread forward through lead, then back to rear of lead wire. Cement thread and wire area.

2. Tie in marabou so it extends about hook shank length to the rear and butts up to the lead wire. (Tie in optional Flashabout or Crystal Flash if desired.) Trim excess and wrap enough thread to secure material. Cement well.

3. Move thread to the front of the body. Lay yarn on top of the body, wrap thread to rear of body, then up to the front.

4. Move thread back to tie in hackle by tip, shinny side forward, wet fly style. Leave room for at least one wrap of yarn behind hackle, in front of tail. (Hackle width should be about 1/2 hook shank length, with stubs left on trimmed hackle so thread will grip the stem better.)

5. Bring thread forward. Wrap yarn forward, tie off and trim. (Get one or two wraps of yarn between tail and hackle tie-in.) Cement yarn tie-down area.

6. Wrap hackle forward, tie off and trim excess. (If you desire more hackle at the front, tie in a front hackle, wrap it on, then tie it off. Whip finish and cement head.

Fishing Tips

A simple but effective technique is to cast close to cover, then retrieve the Bugger in quick 6-inch pulls of the line. Fishing a Bugger is exciting when bass smack the fly hard. Sometimes you may need to slow the retrieve, or even give it a jigging type of action, fishing it vertically as well as horizontally. Be alert for the light strike, and keep your rod pointed at the fly to better detect the strike and to get the maximum power into the hook set.
At other times you may need to retrieve the fly as fast as you can - simulating prey fleeing from the predator bass - but be sure you mount your fly on a stout tippet - the strike will be hard. ~ DM

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