The 5 Lives of the Woolly Bugger

I have been told that the Woolly Bugger, Clauser Minnow, and Lefty’s Deceiver will work on any fish, in any type of water, anywhere in the world. DD

Black Woolly Bugger

RUSSELL BLESSING, who invented the pattern, says he usually starts out dead-drifting the Bugger, “to see what happens.” If that doesn’t produce, he will add jigging motions on the strip, jig it back at the end of the drift as Barry Beck described [see several paragraphs below], cast up and across the current and let it swing, use hand-strip retrieves. “Sometimes,” he says, “it takes fast strips. Some of the guys around here will strip it as fast as they can.

Almost everything works, some of the time.” Amen to that.

Think of the Woolly Bugger as a streamer. Use a stop-and-go retrieve to give the Bugger the darting motion of a nervous bait fish. From time to time, insert a long, fast strip into the retrieve, as if the bait fish had spotted a predator and decided to scram. Twitching an unweighted Bugger just below the surface sometimes makes fish mistake it for a wounded minnow.

To imitate darters, keep the fly on the bottom and use fast, short strips. Sculpins swim a bit more deliberately, so you can also fish the Bugger along the bottom a bit more slowly. If the stream you are fishing has both darters and sculpins, fish your bugger like a sculpin: They’re slower and easier to catch, and fatter besides, and predatory fish have figured that out.

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