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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing

buggers and "bop it!"

Most fly fisherman and women have heard of the “Wooly Bugger”. It’s famous enough to the point that non fly anglers even know it’s the name of a fly. I met my Wife more than 10 years ago, and at the time she did not fly fish. She knew “#woolybugger” was the name of a fly though. I love this fly and if you don’t, you really should learn to.

There are probably at least 4,598,753 variations to this fly. There is no right or wrong way to tie it. There are no proper colors or sizes. “Wooly Bugger” is probably more of a category of flies these days rather than any particular fly. The creativity in the world of buggers is tremendous. Tie them long or tie them short. Tie them on jig hooks or tie them on long shanked streamer hooks. Tie them heavy or tie them unweighted. Tie them big or tie them small. Tie them all!

There was a game I played when I was kid and I’m near certain my parents probably wanted to pop the batteries out on occasion. It’s called “#BopIt”. “Twist it!” “Pull it!” “Bop it!” “Pass it!” These were the commands given by the original game. Much like the bugger, different variations evolved from the original. The wooly bugger is kind of like the #flyfishing edition of “bop it”. The commands for the bugger could be “swing it!”, “strip it!”, “jig it!”, “dead drift it!”.

The endless ways to tie this fly and the many ways to fish it make it extremely effective. It can mimic anything from stoneflies to leeches to crayfish to even cinder worms along the coast. Yes, I have used buggers for Stripers and they work (there are more effective flies though). I’ve used them everywhere. I’ve stripped them as fast as possible. I’ve swung them slowly across the current. I’ve dead drifted them in rivers and lakes under indicators. I’ve dead drifted them while contact #nymphing. I’ve jigged them across the bottom in slow pools. Buggers catch fish.

I’m writing this little piece because as I watch the lightning and listen to the thunder early this morning, I’m whipping some flies up for an upcoming trip, and a few buggers are amongst them. It got me thinking about what I’m hoping to catch with them and what I’ve caught in the past with buggers. Panfish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, brown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroats, brookies, salmon, steelhead, stripers, pickerel, carp, bullhead… I’m sure I’m leaving some species out. It’s rare that I don’t have some form of a bugger in a box I’m carrying.

Wooly buggers and all of its variations have a place in everyone's fly box.
This is one of the buggers I tied this morning.

Buggers are one the easiest flies to tie and allow some of the most creativity with colors and materials. There is no wrong way to tie them and no wrong way to fish them. Some combinations are better than others. For instance, I’m not a huge fan of a bubble gum pink tail, yellow chenille, chartreuse hackle, silver ribbing, and orange bead combination. However, I don’t doubt for a minute that there is a finned companion out there someplace that would eat that fly. September is drawing closer and bigger flies and buggers will become more important in the next few months. Start stocking up now.

Tight lines,

Brian Lansing


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