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Woolly Bugger – Fly Pattern Info

The Woolly Bugger is one of those flies that everyone knows. Even people who don’t fish have heard of a Woolly Bugger from their friend or family member. It is definitely a household name, and it’s been around for a long, long time.

Although new streamers are always being innovated, the classics still remain effective. Woolly Buggers will catch fish in just about any river or lake. Ranging in sizes #6 – #12, buggers can cover a wide range of applications. Trout, Bass, Carp, etc – fish just love this fly.

This article will cover the benefits of Woolly Buggers, and why you should consider having some in your fly box. Whether you’re a trout junkie or a bass fanatic, Woolly Buggers will get the job done. Common colors are black, olive, and brown – however, there are endless color combinations. If you’re a fly tyer, you can really play around with these variations at the vise.

Woolly Buggers Can Be Thrown With Most Fly Rods

When fishing larger articulated streamers, a 7 or 8 weight is best. The mass of these flies requires a heavier rod and fly line to throw them. These flies are simply too big and bulky to be cast with a 5 weight rod setup.

Since Woolly Buggers are relatively small, they can be thrown with smaller rods – even 4 or 5 weights. This means that you don’t have to have a dedicated streamer rod to fish them. Your main trout rod will work just fine for buggers! This is great for beginners, because they don’t have to invest in more gear.

Woolly Buggers Are Very Versatile

Some fisheries have specific fly patterns that work very well. If you don’t have the right fly, you won’t catch many fish.

However, buggers can be taken to many fisheries and fool many different fish. If you’re unsure of what fly to tie on, a Woolly Bugger is a great place to start. This is very true for trout streams, but lakes as well. They can even fool larger bass and pike.

I definitely think the Woolly Bugger is the #1 most versatile fly on the market. Not only does it work all over the USA, but also all over the world. Fly anglers in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand all know about buggers.

It is also a perfect searching pattern for new areas. You can cover a lot of water with a bugger throughout the course of a day. This will help you find out where the fish are holding.

Many Variations Of The Woolly Bugger

With common sizes ranging from #6 – #12, this offers 4 main sizes of Woolly Buggers. Pair this with an endless array of colors, and the options are never ending.

For beginners, I often recommend starting with the 3 main colors of buggers – Black, olive, and brown. On top of this, you can play around with wire colors, hackle colors and bead colors. Some flies like the Thin Mint combine 3 different colors into 1 bugger. By tying your own Woolly Buggers, you can produce variations that aren’t commercially available.

Depending on fishing conditions, it is good to have weighted and unweighted buggers. Tungsten bead heads are great for faster and deeper water. However, unweighted buggers are better for shallower and slower water.

You also have to keep in mind which line you’re going to fish. Sink tip lines will get the Woolly Bugger down fast, while floating lines won’t. If you’re fishing buggers with a floating line, having a bead head bugger is much more effective – you want it to get down to the fishes level, so they can see it.

Simple To Tie

The video above by Fly Fish Food shows just how easy it is to tie a Woolly Bugger. Even beginner tyers can get this fly down fairly quickly. As you improve your tying skills, your buggers will get better and better.

There are lots of flies that fish great, but are hard to tie. Some flies can take 30 minutes or more at the vise, especially when it comes to streamers. Woolly Buggers should take no more than 10 minutes, and you can whip them out fairly quickly.

Another plus is that it isn’t as disappointing when you lose one on a snag. They are easily replaceable and quick to produce.

If you prefer to buy your flies, buggers are one of the cheapest streamers to buy. Often $4 or even less, buggers are much more affordable than other streamers.

Works Everywhere

Woolly Buggers can look like many things – baitfish, sculpins, small trout, etc. Fish aren’t sure exactly what they are, but they eat them out of instinct. Depending on the color of your bugger, you can imitate a wide variety of species depending on your fishery.

Lake anglers may want to try orange buggers to imitate crayfish. River anglers like black and olive buggers since they look like sculpins. Whatever the application, a bugger will get the job done.

For this reason, fly anglers all over the world use Woolly Buggers on a regular basis. They have proven themselves time and time again as one of the best streamers around. If you’re just starting to build your streamer collection, don’t forget the Woolly Bugger. From there, you can invest into different streamers – such as articulated flies with bigger profiles.


New fly patterns come out all the time. Streamers are getting larger and more complicated every year. However, you can bring it back to the basics by fishing a Woolly Bugger. This is especially true if fish want a smaller offering – sometimes fish will deny a big streamer because it doesn’t look very realistic.

Stripping Woolly Buggers can be very effective, but you can also dead drift them as well. If the fish aren’t in the mood to chase flies, a dead drifted bugger can be extremely productive.

So, the next time you head out on a fly fishing outing – make sure to have some Woolly Buggers in your fly box.