Tying hair bodied bass bugs is an area of mystery to most fly tyers. We are all enamored with a tightly packed, beautifully trimmed hair bug but unlike most trout flies, it often takes more than a casual glance to figure out the details of the tying process.
Hair bugs are great fun and very satisfying to tie and tend to be addictive once you figure out the process. What I intend to convey here are the core techniques to create multi-colored hair bugs as well as tips on trimming and shaping.
Let me discuss some of the parts used here on this generic bass popper. We’ll start with the weed guard. I use Mason Hard Mono in a 20-pound test for all my weed guards. This stiff mono is just the right diameter to fend of sticks and weeds yet collapses when the hook is set letting the angler drive the hook home. I attach the weed guards using 140 denier UTC thread to keep a smooth, durable layer of thread in place.
Tails on flies like this can range from Super Floss to feathers, to rabbit strips to Flashabou and any combination of the above. Over the years I have come to prefer mixed color strands of Super Floss as it is tough and doesn’t break off or dry rot with use. Feather tails, while very pretty, tend to be less durable and a fly with a missing tail is, well…no longer a fly.
While some tyers use dyed cow elk hair for their bugs, I prefer deer hair, whether in dyed over natural colors that give a more muted appearance or dyed over white deer belly hair, which is quite vibrant and brightly colored. I look for patches of hair that are long, straight and thick, as hair like this will flare much better and make for a tighter bug. The tip shape of the hair does come into play on bugs like this because I often use the tips of the hair to form the collar at the back of the bug, so I also search out hair with unbroken, straight tips.
As far as hooks go, I tie my hair bugs on stainless saltwater hooks for durability. The life of a well-tied hair bug is quite long, and I have found that freshwater hooks will start to rust long before the fly is worn out. I fish all my hair bugs on heavy tippet and have yet to lose one in a fish, so the risk of leaving a fly stuck in a broken off fish is quite small.
Trimming hair bugs requires a couple of commonly available yet more specialized tools. Use double-edged razor blades, carefully broken or snipped in half, to trim all hair flies. These blades are much sharper than the single edge paint scraping blades found in hardware stores and as a bonus, can be bent and flexed to aid in the shaping of the bug.
A standard tea kettle, like the one sitting on your stove right now, is another requirement for tying hair bugs. After a preliminary rough shaping with the razor blade, hold the bug in a pair of forceps over the boiling kettle, allowing the steam to permeate the bug and open up the hair. The process of flaring and handling the hair flattens it, and the steaming process will bring each hair back to its original thickness, packing it tighter on the hook while at the same time stiffening the hair. Steamed hair will stand up better to the razor blade allowing perfect shaping and a bug that won’t change shape when fished.