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The Woolly Fur-Bugger
Text and photos by Peter Frailey

The Woolly Fur-Bugger is one of several of Peter Frailey's flies included in Gary Soucie's new book from Amato Publications, Woolly Wisdom. Labeled the Baby Fur Bugger in Gary's book because of the smaller size shown, Peter chooses here the more descriptive name of Woolly Fur-Bugger to cover the full range of sizes he ties. Below Peter has prepared step-by-step instructions for building this simple and sturdy variation of the venerable Woolly Bugger. ~ editor

In the off-season several years ago, I was tying small Woolly Buggers and having a devil of the time with the marabou tails because of my rough winter-dry hands. I don't remember what switched me to rabbit fur, but with the availability of Zonker strips in dozens of colors I was easily converted to buggers with fur tails. The tails are bushy, thick and durable.

There is one major disadvantage: the length of the fur. I tie a few 6's but the tails are often a bit shorter than I like. I find the most effective sizes to be 8 to 12, on 2xl or 3xl hooks.

In sizes 12 to 16 I will pull out the guard hairs to increase the "fluffiness" of the tail. In the smaller sizes I prefer a 2xl hook, as this configuration gives a larger hook gap relative to the length of the hook shank. I like to keep the hook gap substantial because most of my fishing is in fast water where I appreciate the extra holding power. I also think that because the lead wire wraps narrow the gap, starting with a larger hook gap will compensate for this.

For the body I prefer dubbing over chenille. This adds a great deal of "bugginess" to the fly. I am slow at the dubbing process, but on size 10 and smaller hooks the task is accomplished with relative ease. On bigger sizes you might try an underbody of wool yarn to build up the body quickly, followed by a layer of dubbing.

'Usual' Ingredients:

    Hook: Size 6 to 16, 2xl or 3xl.

    Thread #1: 3/0.

    Weight: 6 to 12 wraps lead wire.

    Tail: Rabbit fur.

    Thread #2: 3/0 or thinner, same size or downsize from Thread #1.

    Hackle: Rooster saddle feather or hen neck feathers.

    Body: Dubbing.

'Adapted' Ingredients shown in photos:

    Hook: Tiemco 5263, size 10.

    Thread #1: Olive Danville Flat Waxed Nylon.

    Weight: Lead wire, .025" inch diameter.

    Tail: Olive rabbit fur from Zonker strip.

    Thread #2: Brown Danville 3/0.

    Hackle: Two brown Conranch hen neck feathers.

    Body: Olive Krystal Dub.

Tying Instructions for the Woolly Fur-Bugger:

Step 1: Prepare the hook by pinching down the barb, wrapping with thick thread and adding 8-12 wraps of lead wire. I use wire that is about the diameter of the hook shank.

Step 2: Form a cigar-like underbody by completely covering the lead wire with wraps of thread. Taper the body at both ends of the lead wire. A thick thread covers the lead wire quickly and allows me to tightly cinch down the rabbit fur tail.

Step 3: Tie in a bunch of rabbit fur with just a few turns of thread. The tail should be about as long as the hook shank. Shown here is fur removed from about 1" of an olive Zonker strip. (You will notice that to create a bugger-length tail you will need to work with a short tie-in area.)

Step 4: Add a touch of head cement or nail polish to the rabbit fur butts.

Step 5: Tie down the butts tightly. This will squeeze the head cement into the fur and swirl it around the shaft, creating a secure bond.

Step 6: Use a whip knot tool to place a whip knot at the back of the body, right over the cemented area and cut off the thread. Coat the entire thread-covered body with a layer of nail polish. This will help keep the lead from discoloring the dubbing after it becomes wet from fishing.

Tip 1: Remove the hook from the vise and set aside to dry. (I like to stick the hook into a discarded chunk of Styrofoam.) Repeat the process with five more hooks. After preparing six hooks, re-insert the first hook (which should then be dry) into your vise, and move to step 7. Keep tying until you have completed all six flies! For me, that's a nice 1 to 1 hour evening activity!

Step 7: Re-tie using thread #2. Dub about 1" of thread and make several wraps at the rear of the shank.

Step 8: Tie in the first hen neck feather, by the tip.

Tip 2: Choose feathers with barbs of a length about 1 times the hook gap. A hen neck feather will typically give you three palmered wraps around a dubbed body. So, you will need two hen feathers to complete the job. Or, use one rooster saddle feather.

Step 9: Dub the body to approximately mid-shank.

Step 10: Palmer the hackle forward to mid-shank, making two complete wraps. I stroke the barbs toward the rear, using my left hand, as I palmer forward. Tie off and trim.

Step 11: Tie in the second hackle.

Step 12: Dub the front half of the shank.

Step 13: Palmer the second hackle forward, making three complete wraps. You will now have made a total of five wraps of hackle from back to front. In the photo, there appear to be only four wraps because the fourth and fifth wraps are side-by-side in front of the dubbing, to create a subtle collar.

Additional Tips:

Tip 3: If you prefer, strip off one side of each hackle before wrapping to provide a softer result.

Tip 4: Different colored hackles will create a two-tone appearance.

Tip 5: If you want to speed things up, try omitting the rear hackle altogether! Simply wrap one hackle over the front half only, with three turns. This is not quite a full Woolly Bugger, but I doubt the fish will notice. Who knows, it might even outperform the full-length version!

Final Comments:

I fell in love with the Fur Bugger the first time I tied it. To me this variation is buggier and more nymph-like than the standard bugger. Indeed, much of the time I fish them like a nymph, dead-drifted over the bottom. But swing 'em to the surface after the drift is completed and you'll nail fish, too. ~ PF

For other interesting flies and stories visit Peter's Web site:

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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