above: Peacock Backed Wooly
The wooly bugger is a pattern which originated in Missouri in the James River area some time ago ( I do not know the date....some say the 1880's and some say 1920's) . This area (which is now near Branson, MO) was famous for summer camps and river floats long before the Army Corp of Engineers dammed the White River system. Originally, the fly was used for river bass or the native Neosho smallmouth which exist only in this region.
The fly has been carried far and wide across many continents and used for almost every type of fishing. Western trout anglers picked up on this fly and it's popularity spread. The wooly bugger (like several other flies such as the egg fly and San Juan Worm) today is viewed by some anglers as boring, uninteresting and almost the same as using bait. Why some people develop this sort of attitude is beyond me. Very simply, this one fly I am never without. Like the Hare's Ear, Adams, Squirrel Tail Nymph and a Parachute fly, I would find it very difficult to fish without this fly.
The Wooly Bugger is so very effective because it imitates so many forms of food. The wooly bugger can imitate damsel nymphs, crawfish, sculpins, stonefly nymphs, hellgrammites and all sorts of other types of food. By far and away, areas rich in sculpins and crawfish will enable this fly to shine like no other.
Perhaps one of the reasons many anglers turn up their noses at this fly is that so many of these flies have been tied so poorly. The reasoning is that any fool can wrap some yarn and palmer a hackle around a hook. Any fly, including the wooly bugger can be improved upon and made more attractive.
When I first started fishing the White River system several years ago, I became obsessed with finding the ideal wooly bugger. I tried literally hundreds of combinations to find one fly that would consistently out fish a standard pattern. One unique factor in finding these patterns was the river itself. Since the White is stocked with millions of trout each year, so many fish are cycled through the river that you are given an almost unlimited opportunity to fish in a variety of conditions to fish which have never been exposed to these sorts of flies. By a matter of elimination, I developed the patterns which are so very effective I almost hate to let "the secret" out. Try these for yourself and I think you will find they are highly effective flies.
One of the keys in making a good fly is to use good materials. I have a difficult time understanding tiers that skimp on materials like some old skin flint. Some fellows will spend hundreds of dollars on tools and then turn around and use the most awful bunch of crap for materials. Later they wonder why their flies have a bad appearance and why their flies fall apart or don't fish very well. In my mind they have their priorities backwards. Always use high quality materials and buy the best stuff you can.....regardless of the price. A fancy tool can not make a silk purse out of a sow's ear........I can still tie a top notch fly using a $15 vise and a $3 bobbin. In other words, the ingredients and the baker are what makes the cake.....
The basis for building Mike's Peacock Wooly Bugger is properly selecting two things: marabou and hackle. On another page I outlined the differences in hackle and why different hackle is useful for different applications. For the wooly bugger you need hackle that is soft and webby. High quality dry fly hackle like Hoffman saddles are very poor choices for making this fly since the hackle fibers are too short and stiff.
The best feathers for woolies come from the base of a medium quality saddle. These small undeveloped triangular shaped feathers with a webby center and a soft hackle edge....ideal for this fly. The feathers give the fly an incredible action and make the fly come alive.
Above: The correct Wooly Bugger hackle
The second key factor in making this fly is the marabou.....again don't skimp. For several years I used Wapsi's wooly bugger marabou until they went on a rampage and sold a lot of stuff overseas. Suddenly, the quality went down and I got more and more packages with broken tips and feathers with too much stem. I now use only strung marabou for this fly and I use one whole feather per fly. Using these a full marabou feather for each fly with nice saddle hackle and you will have a fly that fishes better and looks better.
Tying The Peacock Backed Wooly
Top View: Peacock Wooly
Hook: Kamasan B830 Size 8 or B820 size 6
( Sub Mustad 9672 size 6, 8 or 10 if you wish )
Bead: Medium Gold
Thread: 6/0 Black
Tail: Bronze Flash-a Bou over Strung Olive Marabou
Back: 4-6 Strands of Peacock Herl
Body: Olive and Black Variegated Medium Chenille
Rib: Fine Gold Oval Tinsel
Hackle: Grizzly Dyed Olive Saddle
Tying The Fly
Begin by sliding the gold bead up the hook. Make sure that the small hole faces the eye of the hook. If you have trouble getting the bead over the hook point you may wish to smash down the hook barb and bend the gap apart slightly. ( If you do this be sure to bend the hook back after the bead is on.)
Tie in one whole marabou feather along the hook shank. The tail should be 1 to 1 1/2 times the length of the hook shank. Leave 2-3 eye lengths open to avoid crowding the head. Tie in 4-5 strands of bronze flash-a bou on top of the marabou.
Tie in four strands of peacock herl by folding the peacock in half. Tie in the fold or base of the "V" shape. The peacock should be longer than the marabou tail to avoid getting the flash-a-bou and marabou mixed in when you pull it over the back.
Tie in chenille by stripping a little of the fuzz off the end of the chenille. Tying in the string of the chenille will make the butt of the fly less bulky. Add a gold rib of oval tinsel if you wish.
Stroke the fibers of a saddle hackle down so that the fibers extend to 90 degrees. Tie in the feather by the tip.
Wrap the chenille forward. Palmer wrap the hackle. Pull peacock herl over the back of the fly . Give the peacock a slight tug and tie down. If you pull too hard you'll break the peacock strands. I usually glue the head of the fly to make it last longer.
The Brindle Bug
When I was experimenting with colors and woolies I came up with this one. I thought the original pattern was called the Brindle Bug which is an old NW steelhead fly. After talking to several old time tiers, I found that my brindle bug wasn't the same........I have since sold and tied many dozens of these flies now so the name has to stay. Yet another source of confusion I suppose......
The same rules as above apply for selecting materials. This fly is basically the same as the fly above only we are using just a collar without a back. For the beginner this is a very easy fly to tie. DO NOT let the simple appearance and design fool you. This is one of my single most effective flies I have ever made.
Hook: Kamasan B830 size 8 or B820 size 6
Mustad 9672 size 6,8 or 10
Thread: 6/0 Black
Tail: Black Strung Marabou
Body: Olive and Black Variegated Chenille
Rib: Oval Gold Tinsel
Hackle: Black Hen Saddle Tied as a Collar
Tie in the tail as above leaving 2 eye lengths open. Tie in chenille and rib. Wrap chenille forward and make 4-5 wraps with the oval tinsel making even spacing. I prefer to use wide 1/8" spacings in the rib.Tie in one whole hen saddle. Wrap hackle as a collar and finish.
For more Info Contact:
Mike Hogue / Badger Creek Fly Tying / 622 West Dryden Road, Freeville, NY 13068