Wooly Bugger: The Big Mac of Flies

News & Tips: Wooly Bugger: The Big Mac of Flies

The other day I was talking to an old friend about fly fishing in general and flies in particular when we got around to the question that has plagued fly anglers ever since the second fly was plucked off the vise
That being: If you could use only use one fly, which would it be?

The author considers the Wooly Bugger the Big Mac of all flies.

I didn't hesitate to answer. For me, that fly would be the wooly bugger.

My friend laughed, complimented my choice, and muttered, "Ah yes, the Big Mac of flies."

I thought it was an apt description.

I don't know many people who haven't tried a Big Mac; nor do I know many fish species that haven't taken a swipe or two at a wooly bugger. I have caught all manner of trout, bass, pike, walleye, muskie and panfish with these must-have flies. And I'm reasonably sure there isn't a freshwater fish worldwide that a well-presented bugger couldn't tempt either.

Like the Big Mac, wooly buggers are easy to mass produce, inexpensive and extremely popular with their targeted audiences.

The secret to its success is versatility. You can tie them big or make them tiny, depending on your needs. And, when you add a bead head or weight them, you've got yourself a very effective jig.

Tied in white, the bugger is a great baitfish imitation. In black or olive, it could easily be mistaken for leech, dragonfly naiad, tadpole or hellgrammite. In certain shades of brown, with the right retrieve, it's a dead ringer for a crayfish. It is also effective in a host of unnatural colours — I've had great results with pink and white for largemouth bass, for instance.

Submerged, these things with their undulating marabou tails and moving hackles simply look like fish food. Every little twitch or current pulse makes them appear to come to life. There's virtually no wrong way to fish one either.

Don't believe me?

Last summer, I walked over to my boat for an afternoon of fishing. Just as I got to the dock, a nice bass swam by. I quickly cast towards it with a wooly bugger but missed the mark. So I shrugged, got in my boat and backed out. My line and fly dangled in the water because I figured I'd troll till I got to my spot.

Ten yards out, I put the motor in forward gear and it stalled. Without thinking, I gave the motor pull cord a quick yank and it started immediately — in gear. Unfortunately, the sudden lurch forward caused me to back flip into the water. The little tin boat then raced off for 40 yards towards deeper water with my fishing tackle and lunch. Then, thankfully, the motor stalled.

I swam to it and though I couldn't get in, pushed it to shore where a small crowd of bemused neighbors greeted me.

Just as I was about to go into the house to change clothes and dry out my wallet, I noticed the rod tip twitch. You guessed it; I reeled in a nice bass that couldn't resist an olive wooly bugger.

I looked at my neighbors and, without so much as a smirk said, "I guess my new technique works." Then I walked inside with head held high.

Yes, a wooly bugger can surely save the day. Make sure you have a few in your fly box.