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dmabe 10-03-2010 12:47 PM

Wooly Bugger help
I am a newbie to fly fishing and have been using mostly midge's with indicators which I have been having some good days on the river with best day so far was 18 browns. I have dabbled with some dry flies but I have not had no where near the sucess that I have had when using midge's. I want to try some wooly buggers but really dont know the proper type of water and or technique to use them.

Ard 10-03-2010 12:52 PM

Re: Wooly Bugger help
Welcome to the forum,

I will let the members respond to your question and you will get a good mix of techniques for fishing a bugger I'm sure. I'm also sure that you will find many answers to many questions you will have in the future within these threads.


MoscaPescador 10-03-2010 01:51 PM

Re: Wooly Bugger help
The beauty of the Woolly Bugger is that it could be fished in stillwater or moving water. Take your pick. In stillwater, throw it as far as your can, allow it to sink to the desired depth, then strip it in at varying speeds. Sometimes slow strips work the best. Sometimes fast strips work the best. Sometimes a combination with a pause or two might work the best. For moving water, quarter down your cast, maybe throw in a mend or two, allow the bugger to swing in the current, and prepare to hold on for the grab.


peregrines 10-03-2010 02:33 PM

Re: Wooly Bugger help
Hey dmabe welcome to the forum.

Tell us a little more about where you are and the types of waters you fish--- (streams or lakes?)

Mosca hit the nail on the head with great advice-- the good news is that some flies (like woolly buggers and muddler minnows) are hard to fish "wrong".

Most folks fish them close to the bottom, so woolly buggers are often weighted with lead (or “nontoxic”) wire wraps, beadheads or both. Additional weight in the form of split shot added to the tippet, or the use of a sink tip or full sinking line can also be used (especially if you’re fishing deeper lakes or deep pools in large rivers).

If you're fishing still water- in a lake or pond for example, one way to fish them is to cast out, let them sink a bit, then retrieve them back in 3” strips--- with a strip-strip-pause, strip-strip-pause type of retrieve. By counting “mississipi’s” after the cast and before the retrieve, you can fish different depths--- start at 10 mississipi’s for a few casts, add another 10, repeat until you hit fish or start pulling in stuff from the bottom. Woolly buggers can imitate a lot of different things. In lakes and ponds, black woolly buggers are a good imitation for leeches, and small olive ones size 10 or so, fished over weed beds can imitate damsel and dragon fly nymphs. And try some "fan" casts, casting not only straight out, but to the left and right--- you might have a better chance of running into a fish by covering more water and either finding the odd cruising fish or some sort of structure, like a drop off or hole that attracts fish.

In a stream you can fish them a bunch of different ways, depending on the size of the stream, current speed and water depth. Here are a few different ways you could try:

For larger streams, you can cast across current and let them swing downstream. At the end of the swing let them hang in the current a bit, then retrieve with short strips. You can cover a lot of water this way. As Mosca said, throw a "mend" or two in your fly line to keep the fly from swinging too fast as the faster current in the middle of the stream grabs the fly line and starts to "belly" it downstream. (Here's a link to an excellent article on mending: Fly Fishing, Fly Presentation, Mending - MidCurrent )

To fish a narrow run in a small stream you can “drop back” your woolly bugger by feeding fly line downstream and steering it through the run with your rod. You can also do this by standing up stream and feeding line out so a bugger drops back down to tree roots and other snags, or along undercut banks that might be difficult to get a fly into otherwise.

To fish a riffle, you can cast upstream with an indicator and let the bugger tumble along the bottom—this could be a good tactic if your stream has a lot of large stonefly nymphs.

In high water or off colored water you can cast across current let it swing below you—and after letting it hang, sometimes ripping a large fly (like a bugger) fast along the bank can get some savage strikes.

I’m sure others will chime in—feel free to experiment.

And keep asking questions... there are some great folks here that can help get you going.

dmabe 10-03-2010 03:32 PM

Re: Wooly Bugger help
Thanks for the tips and I mostly fish tailwaters of the South Holston & Watauga rivers of East TN.

milt spawn 10-03-2010 04:10 PM

Re: Wooly Bugger help
The only thing I might add would be to use different lines in different situations. Maybe a fast sink-tip in heavier current, or a clear intermediate full sink in lakes, etc...

Frank Whiton 10-03-2010 04:21 PM

Re: Wooly Bugger help
Hi dmabe,

You have a lot of good advise. Here are my thoughts about the Woolly Bugger. I don't particular like cone head buggers as most of the heads are too heavy. I like to tie my buggers with weight in the body with a standard thread head. I can vary how heavy the fly is by using more or less weight in the tie. This gives a different sink rate and works best for my style of fishing. I have had good luck fishing a bugger in a dead drift like I was fishing a nymph. Casting up and across I mend the fly line and let the fly search its way down stream. At the end of the drift I swing the fly across the currant and stripping line on occasion to change the swing.

I think that some buggers are tied with a hackle that is too stiff. I like the hackle to be more on the soft side so it moves with the currant. The method I use comes from fishing a lot of woolly worms before the bugger was popular. The Woolly Bugger is a modified woolly worm. I still have woolly worms in my fly box.


yatahey 10-03-2010 06:58 PM

Re: Wooly Bugger help
All of the above advice is stellar. The only thing I would add is use a short stout leader. About 3' of 8-10# test works best for me.

Cool Hand Hodge 10-13-2010 02:07 PM

Re: Wooly Bugger help
I fish the bugger one way. Throw it and let it dead drift, swing it across the current and strip it back. Has caught the great bulk of all my fishing.

crittergetter 10-13-2010 03:28 PM

Re: Wooly Bugger help

Originally Posted by yatahey (Post 146673)
All of the above advice is stellar. The only thing I would add is use a short stout leader. About 3' of 8-10# test works best for me.


Yat hit it on the head for me. I lost lots of fish because of how hard they hit a wooly..

My add...
I had a mental issue with Wooly's for the longest of times. I would get hits and wouldn't get fish on. I started varing my retrieval and focused on an accordian set.
Lastly, my catch rate went up fishing doubles with Wooly-Wooly or Wooly-CrackleBack or Wooly-Small Muddler or Beadhead Wooly - Nobead head... This was hard at first to not get tangles but roll cast or plop cast up stream and use the techniques others have said for the mending and fishing the swing and then strip back the doubles or use the stream to load up your rod for the next upstream roll cast.

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