Project Description

Wooly Bugger

Pattern Description:

The Wooly Bugger was invented by Russell Blessing long enough ago that most folks don’t know who he is. Mr. Blessing, perhaps inadvertently, developed what is now the single most popular streamer in the world. The Bugger is a slight variation of the ubiquitous Wooly Worm, which sports a body and hackle much like the Buggers’ but either no tail at all or a short stub of brightly colored yarn. The addition of a soft, breathing marabou tail has made all the difference in this pattern, creating a lifelike imitation of anything from a leech to a small fish.

Materials Needed:

Hook: TMC 5262, 5263 or Daiichi 2220 #2-12
Weight: lead wire sized to hook, 6-20 turns
Thread: Black 3/0 Monocord
Tail: Black Marabou
Flash: (optional) Black Holographic flashabou
Rib: Small wire, color of choice
Body: Medium olive chenille
Hackle: Black rooster saddle

Step 1

Place the hook in the vise and break off a ten inch long section of lead wire from the spool. Grasp one end of the wire in your material hand and hold it against the midpoint of the hook shank. Grab the other end of the wire and wrap the lead around the hook about twenty or so turns toward the hook eye. Of course, you can make fewer turns for a lighter weight fly or more for a heavier fly. Be sure to stop the lead wraps back about a fifth of a shank back from the eye so you still have plenty of room to finish off the fly later. Break the ends of the wire off with your thumbnail and fold any stub down flat with your scissor tips.

Step 2

Start the tying thread just in front of the lead wraps and build up a small thread dam against the front edge of the lead.

Step 3

Wrap the thread back over the lead wraps all the way to the bend of the hook. Once you reach the back edge of the lead, build another small thread dam bringing the diameter of the shank smoothly up to the diameter of the lead wraps and then continue back with the thread all the way to the bend forming a smooth thread base.

Step 4

Select a nice fluffy marabou feather from the clump and pinch the feather into a single clump as shown here. Measure this clump against the hook so it is equal to one shank length long.
Pinch the feather in your material hand just behind the hook eye and bring the base of the feather back to the bend of the hook.

Step 5

Pinch the base of the marabou feather directly above the hook barb and make a couple loose wraps over the base of the feather. Tighten these turns to anchor the feather down at the bend of the hook. Make sure the tail is now centered on top of the hook shank.

Step 6

Check the tail for length as well. It should be one shank length long.

Step 7

Lift the butt end of the marabou feather up and back with your material hand and bring the thread forward over the hook shank to just behind the front edge of the lead wraps.

Step 8

Lay the marabou feather down on the shank again and bind the front end down with several tight turns of thread. Clip the remaining marabou as close to the hook as you can in front of your thread wraps. We have just used the marabou butts to form an underbody for the Bugger, creating a bit of bulk and smoothing off the underbody shape at the same time.

Step 9

Tightly spiral wrap the thread back to just in front of the hook point.

Step 10

Tie in a length of copper wire at the hook point using the Right Angle Technique and wrap back over the wire to the base of the tail. Leave a bit of wire sticking out to the front so we can be sure to anchor the wire down tightly. Wrap forward over the stub end of the wire to secure it tightly to the shank. Return the thread to the bend of the hook.

Step 11

Clip an eight inch length of chenille from the card and peel a few fibers from one end, exposing the bare core. Tie the core to the hook with a pinch wrap right at the base of the tail. I tie this in by the core like this to eliminate the lump that would result if we just tied the thick chenille to the shank. Bring the thread forward with spiraling wraps all the way to the back edge of the index point.

Step 12

Wrap the chenille forward, much like you would with the wire on a Brassie. I find it helps to pack the wraps tightly together by tilting the chenille back a bit as I wrap. This results in a much denser chenille body that both looks better and is more durable than a loosely spiraled wrap.

Step 13

Tie the chenille off at the back edge of the hook eye by holding it in your thread hand and crossing the thread over it with a couple tight turns in your material hand. Clip the excess chenille as close to the hook shank as you can.

Step 14

Select and pull a soft rooster saddle feather from the skin. Measure the feather against the hook gap to check that it is from one and a half to two hook gaps wide. Saddle feathers tend to be more tapered than neck feathers and will generally be much wider at their base than they are at their tip. This taper is desirable on a bugger and is something I try to seek out. This taper will make the hackle a bit bigger at the front end of the fly, creating a slightly larger appearing head and taper down toward the bend, mimicking the natural taper of many real critters like small fish and leeches. Prepare this feather by cutting the fluff from the base, leaving just soft wide hackle fibers. Strip a few of the fibers from the base of the feather exposing the stem for about an eye length or two. I strip the inside of the feather just a bit more to alleviate trapping the fibers on this first turn. By inside, I mean the inside of the turn or far side of the feather.  This side is what will touch the body on that first turn and stripping these fibers will leave a nice clean base for the feather to perch on with that first turn.

Step 15

Tie the prepared feather in by the stripped stem just behind the hook eye and wrap back over it to the front of the body. Make sure to anchor the feather down tightly and also be sure that the inside/concave of the feather is facing the body of the fly.

Step 16

Make two turns with the hackle feather right at the front edge of the chenille body. These turns should be butted right next to each other. These two turns create a collar at the front and give a finished look to the fly.

Step 17

Now, palmer the feather back to the bend of the hook with five or six even spiraling turns.    Hold the tip of the feather in your material hand above the bend of the hook for the time being.

Step 18

Grab the wire we tied in earlier and bring it up over the tip of the hackle feather, binding it down tightly to the chenille body. Once you have made this first complete turn, you can let go of the tip of the feather, but hang onto the wire.

Step 19

Spiral wrap the wire forward through the hackle over the chenille body. The trick to wrapping the wire through the hackle without trapping the fibers is to just wrap like there are no hackle fibers in the way. Just evenly spiral the wire forward through the hackle with the same amount of turns as you wrapped the hackle. You want the wire to travel at the opposite angle that the hackle did, forming a an X with the hackle stem as it travels forward. If you bind a few fibers down along the way we can go back later and pick them out, but try to miss as many as you can.

Step 20

Continue wrapping the wire forward all the way to the back edge of the index point.

Step 21

Grasp the end of the wire in your thread hand and make a couple tight turns of thread over it at the point where it intersects the hook shank to anchor it down.

Step 22

Break off the excess wire and build a small smooth thread head to cover the stub. Whip finish and clip the thread and then add a shot of Gloss Coat to the thread head.