Lake Taneycomo

The Wooly Bugger – A Fly for all Seasons

Posted by Don Mulnik on July 25th, 2007
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It was last summer when I discovered the Woolly Bugger while fishing in Lake Taneycomo. It was one of those days when nothing seemed to work well in the trophy area below the dam. So, a friend of mine said “try this” as the sun started to heat up the rocks below the dam. I tied on the odd looking creature in a brown color on a #8 hook and let it fly. The rest is history, I have been hooked on the woolly bugger since.

Since that summer encounter with the woolly it has produced consistently right thorough Fall and into the Winter and onto my trips thus far in the Spring. What is it about this thing that consistently produces results? Well, it seems to be everything and nothing at the same time to the waiting trout. It is both a simple attractor and imitator of aquatic life all at the same time. It can imitate the Sculpin, the Crayfish, and larger insects and minnows in the food chain.

Joel Vance has a feature article in the April 99′ issue of the Missouri Conservationist about the Woolly Bugger. In it he tells us that this fly gets no respect but has been around since the days of Izaak Walton. He further states that “Woolly buggers are woolly worms with chrome fenders”, meaning they are usually tied with a little flash in the tail or body. And, I agree with his conclusions that this fly is “Dynamite” in Missouri waters.

Having had almost a years experience with this fly let me tell you how I fish it in Taneycomo. Just like the Soft Hackle I cast this fly across current or at a quarter downstream. I use a five weight rod with a tapered leader of 7 feet and at least a 4 foot section of 5x tippet. After casting cross current I let the fly sink while watching the line, many times strikes occur while the fly sinks. After the line takes a natural bow I begin slowly stripping the line and watch for the strike. Sometimes they will hit on the strip in the swing other times they will hit when the line is almost straight downstream from you. At times you have to vary the retrieve, so experiment.

To trout it must seem a big meal compared to our usual offerings below the dam and I especially like it when things get a little windy and there’s a healthy chop on the water. The woolly has done well for me since last summer catching trout of all sizes, from the dinks that come from our Federal hatchery to the nicer fish put in by the DOC and on to the brutes that have been around awhile.

My favorite woolly color is a dark olive, on a size 10 hook, with a 2x long shank. I tie mine with several strands of flash in the tail and a little along the body. I also weight them with 15-20 turns of medium lead on the hook. I have also had success with black, brown, and light olive. And, while I have made them in various sizes from 12 to 6. It seems that the size 10 produce the best for me.

So, next time when you have the need to try something different get out the woolly buggers with “Chrome fenders” and hang on. They are easy to tie, available at local fly shops, and releasing fish is a breeze thanks to the long shank.

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