How to Fish a Wooly Bugger? (Everything You Need to Know about Wooly Bugger)

If you miss several strikes, then you know it is painful as strikes are the way to success. If you do not have an idea about identifying the best combinations and proper techniques for fishing a wooly bugger. Then even having the best accessories cannot guarantee success.

How to fish a wooly bugger?

I don’t think that there is a wrong or right way to fish a Wooly Bugger. You can dead drift it downstream; add a split shot to suspend it with a strike indicator or you can strip it back with varying speeds. This is when you can get some violent strikes.

If you have a fly box with hundreds of flies in it, you probably know what the woolly bugger can do for you.

The Wooly Bugger can easily copy what a fish or insects do under the water. So, the fishes can be easily attracted to these Wooly Buggers.

The color of their body can be varied according to the needs, so they become attractive, which helps in tempting the fish, and you can try these methods to mimic their food.

There are a number of plans of action by which you can increase the potency of fishing with your woolly bugger.

These multi-skilled Wooly Buggers are so productive at getting bites because they can imitate a variety of different food sources.

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History of Wooly Buggers

The Wooly Bugger pattern was created by whom, no one knows exactly. It is believed to be an adjunct from the Woolly Worm.

It is an Old English pattern that can also be useful for trout and pan-fish. Primary credit for the Wooly Bugger goes to Russell Blessing back in the 1970s.

Some believe it’s a modification of the Black Martinez fly while others think it was created for bass in Missouri in the 1800s.

No matter who or from where it originated, it is the one fly every fly fisher should have in their fly box.

What is a Wooly Bugger?

A wooly bugger is an artificial fly that is known as a streamer or wet fly. They are used in fly fishing to target both freshwater and saltwater fish.

They are usually fished just under the surface of the water or towards the bottom and can be used in almost any setting.

Woolly Bugger

Wooly buggers are commonly made with a marabou tail, a fur body, and a feather. They come in a variety of colors and can also go in their weighted varieties.

The Position of Wooly Bugger in the Water

The Wooly Bugger modifies itself very quickly to the depth of the water. Though, we have noticed that while down at the bottom of the lake, Wooly Buggers perform better.

For this purpose, what you need to do is to use lead wires. Careful measurement of the lead wire’s diameter is essential, or else the performance will not be up to the mark.

Multiple wraps around the Wooly Bugger can help you get it down enough into the water, which is one of the most important steps of learning how to fish a woolly bugger.

You can also use split shot sinkers above the fly to help get it down to the depth that you want to fish.

Do Woolly Buggers Sink or Float?

Where you choose to fish, it doesn’t make a difference. While using a Wooly Bugger, the location or the type of water or anything else does not matter.

It is almost impossible to fish it wrong because the Wooly Bugger can be fished on top or close to the bottom, most people fish it underwater.

Stay calm, relax, and let the tail do its job. Floating works fine, but a sinking fly works better for big fishes where they tend to hide.

brown trout in fly fishing net

Mimic Technique for How to Fish a Wooly Bugger

Under the water, the Woolly Bugger can imitate what a fish or insects do. In this way, the Wooly Bugger attracts the attention of the fishes. The attractive colors of the fly will help in tempting the fish; you can try these methods to imitate fish foods.

Pro Tips:

  • ​Just below the surface of the water, Quiver the Wooly Bugger.
  • By using fast and accurate darts in fish darting.
  • Mock the movements of leeches by swiftly drafting the fly.
  • Using a dead drift technique to mimic the nymph.

Bottom Bounce Technique

In this technique, the Wooly Bugger is allowed to touch the bottom of the surface under the water. For this, heavy wires that are made up of lead are used.

Swing Fly Technique

This is a useful technique of attracting the fish by slowly oscillating the fly. The colorful Wooly Bugger imitates the action of various fish foods, and it helps in seizing them.

It is considered as the most effective fly ever produced, and this is the reason that everybody wants to learn how to fish a wooly bugger.

Fast Strip Method

This is a more standard technique of fishing the fly. It needs a lot of practice and finding the appropriate angle to fish the Wooly Bugger.

Slow Crawling Method

In this technique, the Wooly Bugger mimics the breathing of a fish. This is one of the most demanding and complex fishing methods as it is not at all easy to cast the Wooly Bugger three to five inches below the uppermost layer of water.

Strip and Pause Technique

A popular method is to pull the wooly bugger through the water with a strip retrieve. You can vary the speed and length of the retrieve.

Try using a 6 to 12-inch strip and pause for a while. Work it slowly and steadily. If that doesn’t get the fish biting, you can switch your tempo and try shorter 2 to 4-inch strips.

Just be patient because often the fish won’t hammer your bugger right away, but will wait and follow it before attacking.

Bottom Bouncing

If you’re going to bottom bounce your wooly bugger, you need to have it weighted towards the center of the shank with lead wire. Bottom bouncing is an effortless technique. It tends to work best if you just touch the base.

As with any fishing technique, to find what works best, you have to experiment with speed and tempo. Start with slow bouncing, and you can work your way up to faster twitches along the bottom to find what works best.

Dead Drift

Cast upstream from the zone you think the fish are in and let your bugger dead drift through the strike zone. After it passes downstream, you can strip it in and try again. This is a relatively simple method that can work quite well.

Russell Blessing, the inventor of the pattern, says that he usually started dead drifting the Bugger to see what happens.

If that won’t work, then he would add bouncing motions on the strip, then bounce it back at the end of the drift, cast up across the wave, and let it swing. Sometimes, it takes fast strips.

rainbow trout caught by a fly fisherman in autumn river

Why is the Wooly Bugger Pattern so Effective?

It can be fished anywhere and any way, you can think of. It can be used in streams both small and large, ponds, lakes, and salt flats. It can even be fished in any water condition.

When most flies can’t get the job done in the rain or fast-moving water, just choose the right colored Bugger, and you can a winner.

The Wooly Bugger is a Productive Fly

There are a few reasons that the Wooly Bugger is so productive.

  • It has the ability to mimic and look-like a baitfish. The hackle, on the front of the fly and the marabou tail when wet, seems similar to a bait fish. The hackle helps push some water and define the body and the marabou tail throbs like a swimming tail that makes it easy to chase a target.
  • Its excellent shape is another huge reason for it being so successful. Simple and small changes to the texture can have an intense impact on its success.
  • The other reason is its ability to be tied in a variety of weights. Heavy flies are advantageous in fast-flowing water where bait fish are often caught.

Wrong Way to Fish a Wooly Bugger

If your presentation is less than perfect, the Bugger is a very friendly pattern. Just throw it in the water, and hopefully, the fish will do the rest.

Tie them in every color and size you can think of. Tie them with different amounts of weight and try some with bead heads and lead eyes. You can use rubber legs as well, which can be a great addition.

You can tie Buggers which are so fancy that they become entirely different patterns, but the simplest Buggers are often the best.

Brown, black, and, above all, olive in color are classics for a reason. Two-tone versions are great attractors as well.

Tie them as small as Number 16 and as large as Number 2 extra-long. Dress them sparsely but bushy and messy patterns will work too.

You can dead-drift, swing, bottom-bounce, crawl, or fast strip a Wooly Bugger. Given the right time and place, each of those techniques will take fish. Try another, if one doesn’t work. Or a combination of two or more on the same retrieve.

In writing in The Fly Fisherman, Barry Beck said that the most productive technique is to pump the Wooly Bugger back with a slow and patient retrieve.

The retrieve is preceded by pinching a small shot immediately ahead of the fly and cast it up and across the current.

He defined the winning retrieve as a combination of 3- to 5-inch, hand-over-hand strips accompanied by a 4 to 5 inches, up-and-down rod motion. This will allow the Wooly Bugger’s marabou tail the proper “breathing” action that turns the fish on.

Problems Faced while Fishing a Wooly Bugger

The problems that you generally face are:

  • having the appropriate hook size.
  • the color of the fly to use.
  • to use it in freshwater or saltwater.
  • techniques that provide immediate and effective results.

Starting by solving various doubts and misconceptions, this article will help you through the journey of fishing.

It will give you the best solution of all the problems that occur while fishing a wooly bugger. All the tips and tricks that are tried and tested can be used, and you will get the opportunity to learn how to fish a wooly bugger.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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