Tying Live Body Bugs
by Mike Hogue

Above Photo: Mike Hogue's Foam Bass Bugs, photo by Al Beatty.

Portions of this article first appeared in the fall 1996 isssue of The FlyFisher, the national magazine of the Federation of Fly Fishers. Special thanks to Al Beatty for his help in taking the photos.

About Live Body:

For several years I've been using a material called Live Body to make bass bugs. Live Body is a round die-cut foam blank which is 1 1/2" long. These blanks come in white, black, blue, brown, green, red, yellow and gray. The diameters of Live Body range from 1/8" (which can be used for ants and extended body flies) to 3/4".

Live Body combines the unique properties of softness and durability which give your finished bug a life like quality with the advantages of both deer hair and cork bodied bugs. Because Live Body is somewhat ridged, the body can be shaped and sanded. These bugs can also be colored with markers or come predyed saving the tier time and effort in construction of the bugs.

Making your own tools:

To make foam bugs you need to make a mandrel in order to spin and sand the bug. Begin by going to the hardware store and buy a 1 1/2" machine screw that is about 3/16" in diameter. Several other sizes of an 1/8" or less may also be very useful in making smaller sized bluegill bugs. If you have long toggle bolts, the screws which come on the bolt may also be used. To make your mandrel, cut the slotted head off as close as you can to the edge. With a file square one end. On the other side file the end to a tapered point. The squared end gives the mandrel a seat which can be held easily in the drill , while the tapered end allows you to thread the foam on to the mandrel. If you have a Dremel these steps can be completed using a cut-off wheel and grinding stone bits.

Making the Bugs:

In making the bass bugs, I use the 1/2" size Live Body material. I've experimented with the larger and smaller sizes and found this size to be the best . The completed bugs balance and swim well and are not overly bulky. The 1/2" bug can be cast with a 7 or 8 weight rod and if it's not too windy out, a 6 weight.

To make your bug , cut each Live Body strip into three equal proportions. Take each cut plug and punch a hole in the exact center with a bodkin. Weave the the body on to your mandrel and insert the mandrel into a drill or Dremel. Turn the drill on and with a fine or medium grit sand paper sand the outside end into a cone shape. Then unthread the cone shaped head from the mandrel. The whole process takes just a few minutes. With one pack of Live Body you can make 30 bodies. The completed bodies cost about $.08 each ( $2.25 per pack /30). If you compare this price to premade foam bodies, or cork, you have a very economical bug body.

To make the bug I start by putting my hook into my vice. Then I push the bug body all of the way to the end of the shank. Wrap the front third of the hook shank with several wraps of heavy size A rod winding thread, Fly-Master Plus or size 3/0 mono cord. Cut-off the thread. Coat the thread wraps with zap-a-gap super glue and quickly pull the body over the thread wraps. I prefer to use the zap-a-gap brand super glue because it is one of the few super glues which won't break down in water. The bug body is complete!


Mike's Frog:

Hook: Mustad 37190 size 6 or (substitute 3366 size 2)
Base for live body: Fly Master +, Black
Tailing Thread: 6/0 Black
Tail:Gold Crystal Flash over Kelly Green Marabou over
2 strands of green and yellow rubber hackle
Rear Legs: 1 pair each of green & yellow dyed grizzly splayed out
Skirt: 1 strung green,& 1 strung yellow hackle
Body: 1/2 " Yellow Live Body, top colored green and face colored red
Fore legs: 1 green, 1 yellow med. rubber
Eyes: 7mm yellow doll eyes

Tying Steps:

1) Form body as described above and attach body to hook shank.

2) Fold in half 2 " strands of rubber legs and tie in. Tie in 1 marabou feather. On top of marabou tie in a clump of 20 strands of gold crystal flash.

3) Match ends of 1 green grizzly feather & I yellow grizzly feather, tie in and splay out. Tie in another matched set. Coat thread wraps with head cement or finger nail polish.

4) Tie in strung hackle wrap as a skirt and tie off.

5) Color back of bug body with a green marker. Color face with a red marker. Add brown dots to back.

6) Glue on eyes, by adding a small drop of zap-a-gap to eye's back and sticking eye to the bug body. Very tricky step-hold eye between thumb and fore finger and add glue with other hand. Quickly touch the eye in place and then push in for a few seconds. If you goof it up , peel the eye off and start over. If you get zap-a-gap on your fingers, let dry it and rub your finger over sand paper to remove the glue. The glued eyes will act as rudders to keep you bug from rolling side to side and help it turn over properly.

7) Insert legs by weaving legs through body with a large darning type needle.

8) If you wish to add a weed guard, flip the completed bug on its back. In front of the hook point punch a hole in the exact center of belly of the bug. Use a clippers to cut a 1 1/2 " piece of 20 lb mono. Cut one end at 45 degrees. Add a drop of super glue to this end and stick it in the punched hole. Let dry. Fold the mono over the back end of the hook and clip the tag off.


Email: Mike@eflytyer.com

For more Info Contact:

Mike Hogue / Badger Creek Fly Tying / 622 West Dryden Road, Freeville, NY 13068

Phone: 607-347-4946