The Best Danged Stillwater Woolly Bugger

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by GAT, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    Well, okay, again, that's up for debate. And, of course, a story goes along with the pattern.

    For many years, this WB was my pattern of choice when it came to stillwater with a Woolly Bugger. Everyone in our group used them so if someone was catching fish and indicated what they were using, they'd call it a variegated black and olive Woolly Bugger. For years, I thought everyone was tying it the same.

    During one trip to an Oregon coastal lake, I forgot to bring the box that included the pattern. John was catching trout with a variegated black and olive so I asked if he could loan me a few. He did. What he gave me was WBs with grizzly instead of black saddle hackle. I told him that wasn't the pattern and he said that's how he always tied them. So for years and years and years, John and I were catching trout believing we were using the same pattern and weren't!

    Sheeesh. Just to be on the safe side, I now also tied the pattern with a grizz hackle and carry both styles.

    The only time the pattern worked great for me in a river was during one trip to Yellowstone. On a whim, I tried using it with a sink-tip on The Fire Hole. The browns loved it.

    With that in mind, I thought I give the pattern a try at The Barn Holes. I was fishing it downstream, streamer style when SNAP! Something broke off the pattern. Weird. I tied on another, made a cast and again SNAP! What the heck was going on? I was using my normal 5lb tippet and usually that would handle the trout in the YNP area.

    This was a Sept trip and later that evening I was talking to one of the guys at a shop in West Yellowstone and they told me the giant fish from Hebgen had already started moving up the Madison in the park. (I wondered why anglers were fishing the Barn Holes with spey rods) I told him my story and showed him the pattern.

    A year later, I couldn't help but notice that the shop was selling the variegated black and olive Woolly Buggers... hmmmmm.

    Over the last few years, the trout in the coastal lakes don't seem to like it as well as they once did. I have no idea why. Maybe this year they'll decide to try and eat it again. I know I'll continue to use the pattern until I'm positive it no longer works.

  2. Here is the fly that has been my go-to WB for coastal cutts in lowland lakes. For a while it was so effective for large cutts that I called it the "Coastal Cutt Killer."


  3. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    It's odd how patterns cycle... especially in stillwaters. Medium olive colored leech patterns with gold bead heads also work well for me... during some years. I've never really figured out why a pattern will be hot for years and then taper off. Then, a few years later, it's hot again.
    troutpocket likes this.
  4. Thomas Williams

    Thomas Williams Habitual Line Stepper

    The best bugger for me is the olive bugger with dark or a kind of burnt orange hackle wrapped on the body. Usually with a gold bead. I tend to fish smaller ones as I seem to attract more fish than the big guys. This is my go to fly on Pass Lake.

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  5. Jim Wallace

    Jim Wallace Smells like low tide

    A simple Halloween Leech tied with Halloween New Age Chenille with black hackle and black marabou tail has worked well for me in nearly every W WA lake I've tried it in.
    I also fish an olive bugger with a red thread head...but I recently scored some red glass beads that I'm going to use on the head end...I usually use brown hackle with the olive body, but I'll tie some up with black hackle for this Spring..
    Black body with grizzly hackle and black marabou tail has always ben a good one for me, too.

    The one I called the NSC in the Winter Lake swap is originally a gold beadhead brown/black variegated bugger, using Chocolate Mint New Age Chenille for the body. I mixed black and red in with brown marabou on the tail, and used Furnace hackle on the original, with a couple wraps of opalescent olive petite estaz just behind the bead, in front of the hackle, which is intended to better create the appearance of a head transitioning to a body, on this fly. It could represent a sculpin or a stickleback.

    Hell, I'll bet a plain black wooly bugger would work just as well as all these fancy looking ones we dream up.
  6. troutpocket

    troutpocket Active Member

    I'm partial to Rickards' seal bugger for a bugger pattern for stillwaters. The olive body and tail with burnt orange hackle is about as consistent a producer as I've found . . .when they want a bugger pattern.


    I have also experienced the "cycling" on and off of particular ties. I was fishing an olive mini leech tied on a #10 scud hook for a couple years (very similar to your Turbo Leech) that was just wrecking shop on stillwaters around Spokane. I carried a dozen in my box and tied up lots of spares because I was running through several per outing as they got chewed up. A couple years ago I pulled them all out of my box because it didn't produce and I quit fishing it. Now the same pattern on a #12 in rusty red is one of my best flies . . .
  7. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    When it comes to the Seal Bugger style, Virginia and I do quite well in specific lakes with this guy.

    Man! What a ratty look'n fly !!! Guess I won't be making a shadow box for this dude:


    It's only been within the last few years that I started tying the Seal Buggers. In addition to trout, the bass like them in different colors. Oddly enough, I'm tying Seal Buggers today in olive.
  8. Thomas Williams

    Thomas Williams Habitual Line Stepper

    That's almost identical to the first bugger I ever tied

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  9. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    Well if it looked that ratty looking... you did something wrong :)

    None of my fishing buddies tie Seal Buggers... probably because they don't know I'm using them.

    I've tried a Seal Bugger in a black and olive dubbing mix for the body to see if it worked better than the WB with the variegated black and olive chenille body and the black hackle -- it doesn't. In fact, I have yet to catch a single fish on the sucker. So, I'll always try the variegated WB before much else when I fish a stillwater I've never fished before. As I almost always use two flies, I'll leave the variegated WB tied on and change the secondary fly.

    When fishing a lake for the first time, I'll tie on the variegated black and olive WB and a medium olive Turbo Leech. If neither works, I'll replace the Turbo Leech with different patterns.

    John and I first discovered how well the variegated black and olive WB worked while fishing a private lake with steelhead size trout. We had never tried the pattern before. We would cast along the vegetation around the edges of the lake and would hook up at a constant rate. I noticed there were a lot of dragonfly nymphs crawling up the vegetation so I figured the pattern may have represented the nymphs.

    From that day forward, the fly has has worked at many, many different lakes... but like I mentioned, has recently fallen from grace.
  10. Thomas Williams

    Thomas Williams Habitual Line Stepper

    Haha well yours looks a bit better and I've yet to fish mine. Who knows maybe its a magical creature waiting to be unleashed.

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  11. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    I'm like old man Ford. You can have your wolly bugger in any color you want, as long as it's black :D

    Gold bead heads are always included on mine.
  12. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Holy multi-post Batman!
  13. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    One thing I don't do with my leeches or WBs is add flash to the tail. I tried that a few times and it made absolutely no difference... if anything, the patterns tied with the flash didn't work as well as the patterns tied without it.

    I think it's another one of those additions to a pattern to catch fly buyers more than fish.

    The thing about flash is that it only adds flash on sunny days and when fished shallow. As I primarily fish lakes and usually at medium to deep zones, flash in the tail is useless for me. ..
    plus, the sun isn't always around in the NW. Gold beads, however, do seem to add something to the WBs. Sometimes I'll use black or silver beads but gold seems to work best. I have no idea why.

    I also carry WBs with no beads. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the trout prefer the pattern without a bead of any color. But again, I primarily use WBs in stillwaters so things maybe different in rivers.
  14. troutpocket

    troutpocket Active Member

    I added a pic of my standby seal bugger. There is some flash in the tail . . .but I prefer to fish shallow and yes, I keep my damn rod tip in the water!!

    Bert and GAT like this.
  15. GAT

    GAT Active Member

  16. Great looking ties men. I love the wb. I always use them when i cant seem to figure it out