From the Vice: Back to Basics

Wooly Buggers

Revisiting the basic patterns that you first learned is a good exercise. Maybe there are some new techniques you’ve learned to tie the pattern quickly, or maybe you just want to remind yourself that no matter how many new patterns come out there are some old standbys that are always worth having in the box.

Last week I was tying some streamers in the 2.5-3.5 inch range: some non-articulated Chowtime Sculpins, Feather Game Changers, and Galloup’s Flank-Backed Creatures (which was a new one for me). Modern streamers, ones that are in the most recent era of fly-design evolution.

Once I had finished tying those patterns, I decided to do something I haven’t done in awhile: tie a black woolly bugger. Plain and simple, nothing complicated, no rubber legs or articulation, no lead eyes. Back a few years in the evolutionary cycle. Back to basics.

Last summer I caught a two-foot long catfish on a very plain, black beadhead woolly bugger from a pond, which might have been one of the best fights I’ve had on a fly rod. So I grabbed a size 8, 3x long hook and challenged myself to not get too fancy. The only “fancy” things I allowed myself were a two-tone tail, crystal flash, and micro polar chenille for the body. I added a few wraps of .025 lead-free wire for a small bit of weight, and went from there.


Three experiments in “basics.”

The next morning I decided to try it again, but this time with a size 6, 3x long hook and a little bit of flair: the leftovers of an EP Foxy Brush (1.5 inches wide) and a Fish Skull Fish Mask. The weight was a small conehead and a few wraps of .025 lead-free wire, with the conehead being hidden by the Foxy Brush.

This morning I decided to do one more (mainly because I had some leftover materials on the desk). The hook was a 1xl, size 6 wet fly hook, along with a small conehead and some lead-free wire. The tail was the fluffy part of a brown schlappen feather that was lying on my desk. There was a small piece of regular-sized polar chenille that I used as some extra flash on an over wing, and I added a collar of grizzly hen hackle.

It was a good exercise in relative simplicity, since the Woolly Bugger is one of the most versatile patterns that we have as fly fishers. The other fun thing about it was seeing how little tweaks here and there change the original, simple pattern – and those changes increase until you end up with these bad boys pictured below:


Flank-Backed Creatures, ready for action.

One thought on “From the Vice: Back to Basics

  1. Pingback: From the Vice: October 2017 | Oak Hall Outfitters

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