The Lowly Woolybogger
by: Lloyd Tackitt 9/26/2012
The lowly woolybooger. A JONAH (Junk On A Hook). Little better than fishing with a live worm, sneered at and shunned. Embarrasing to be seen with, never bragged upon. Yet the all time best fly ever invented.
This one fly will catch fish anywhere, under any conditions. It catches fish of every species and works when nothing else will. It catches a lof of fish. But, because of its name, it is often the last choice of the fisherman.
It's a genius of a fly, the mainstay of my fly box. When I first started fly fishing I asked the salesman what he would recommend for flys. He named off four and then said "Oh yeah, and a woolybooger. They'll catch anything." It was an after thought on his part to include it, he sort of tossed it off with a sneer; and I have been grateful ever since for that after thought.
This much maligned fly is the top of my list, based on actual results. I have caught (and lots of them not just the odd catch) bass of every kind, sunfish of every kind, catfish of every kind, gar, drum, buffalo and whatever else I am forgetting at the moment. I fish it on the bottom, or in the middle, and with enough floatant even on the top for a while.
There's something about it that drives fish crazy. Apparently fish see it the way I see a T-Bone steak with a glass of ice cold beer next to it. It doesn't resemble anything in particular, but it kind of resembles several fish delicacies. It kind of looks like a hellgrammite, a minnow, a leech, a beetle, a tasty treat; but it doesn't look like any one thing specifically. That is its genius.
Personally I think it has found so much disfavor just because of its name. Many fishermen would just as soon say they caught that big fish on a "brown turd" as to say "woolybooger". It doesn't have cache, aplomb. It doesn't sound suave to say "woolybooger". It connotes blue collar, unsophistication, crassness. A proper gentleman will not allow it to cross his lips, and God forbid he should admit that he uses a bait with such a low pedigree. I think also that this fly is so easy to tie that any one, no matter how inexpert, can tie it. That alone knocks it down into the basement of disregard. One must use flys that are extremely difficult to tie, that require years of patient practice to master. Or cost a ton of money to buy which is just as good.
Had this fly been named something cool (and was also difficult to tie) and arrogant like "Royal Darter" or "Edinburgh's Pride" or maybe "Silver Metric" then it would be used by everyone. Proudly proclaimed as the fly that caught the big one, professed to the heavens as a genius of fly tying. Its inventor revered in story and song and paintings.
Yet, in spite of it's bad PR, in spite of its ease of tying - it is a genius of a fly. Actually because of its ease of tying and its almost resemblance to so many things that fish like to eat - it IS pure genius. PURE GENIUS. This is THE fly. If I had to surrender all flys but one, this is the one I would keep. If I had to fish the rest of my life with just one fly, this is it. It is the first one I tie on every fishing trip, it is the one I go to when nothing else is working. If the fish are biting, they'll bite this one. I can fish it in multiple ways, and never know what kind of fish I'll bring in.
Hell, I even caught a turtle on it once. Of course a proper fly fisherman doesn't brag about catching a turtle on a woolybooger. But then, my name and proper seldom occupy the same sentence.
Blog content © Lloyd Tackitt
Flyrodn, CO 9/27/2012 2:12:34 PM
I'm with you on this one. It is one heck of a fish catcher, regardless of how you view it. Used to me my go to pattern, until I started fishing mostly still waters for water water species with sinking lines (the dark side of fly fishing), and clousers have moved up to my first choice, Like woolly buggers, there is nothing that won't eat one.
Lakefinder, CO 9/27/2012 4:25:59 PM
Recalling my first Wooly Bugger experience: Salesman handed me one in response to my typical beginner question. I thought it was the ugliest thing I had ever seen, fly-wise. Next day at a clear high mountain scud lake nothing was working. Tied on the ugly bugger and a cutt followed it in but no take, so I stopped bringing in the line when it was a few feet out. Turned to my wife and said "I don't know how to fish this bugger thing". Then the trout came over and inhaled it off the bottom. Used the "sit-on-the-bottom" technique a few more times with success - go figure... (Since then I've learned the "proper" way to fish a bugger, but I'm not telling since I don't want to sound "suave".)
itchyreelfinger, CO 9/27/2012 4:36:28 PM
Not nearly so sophisticated as, say, a Bead Head Prince Nymph or a Pheasant Tail, The Triumph or Royal Wulff. How about the Blue Wing Olive? Nay. The GRIZZLY KING! Let us not forget the Clouser Minnow and the Durham Ranger. Maybe a Kauffman Stimulator? Or the Elk Hair Caddis....
Nevermind. Gimme a Wooly Booger!
Colorado Grown, CO 9/28/2012 12:55:06 AM
Gotta love the WoolyBugger...last week hooked up with a pike at Spinney on a Black Bugger. The action is fun to watch stripping them in. I will always have at least one in my box. Colorado Grown
TheFlyFishGuy.com, CO 9/28/2012 7:30:49 AM
LOL well written, sir! Though I have to disagree about its reputation - everyone I know asks, "what color bugger are you tiein' on...?" Maybe its the type of folks I associate with :)
Nonetheless there is nothing better than tieing on a big 'ol turkey and hangin on!
TroutByFly, CO 9/28/2012 5:23:43 PM
Haha "Brown Turd" that's awesome! The buggar is one of my favs as well.
Jim2007, CO 9/30/2012 9:01:07 AM
Hi All: Thanks for bring one of my favorite lures to the spotlight. I use it all the time to catch stocker trout at local lakes in NE. Colorado . If you add a spinner on the front end of it you get "Pistol Pete" which is also a favorit of mine when fishing for stocker trout in the public lakes in NE. Colorado. Jim2007
ŠTÎMŸ, CO 9/30/2012 2:38:56 PM
Aww the big bad bugger. Strip.. Strip... Bam. Sea run cuts all day. Love the infamous Wooley....!
JKaboom, CO 10/1/2012 3:00:17 PM
Thank you for putting a practical face on what seems an increasingly hoity toity sport :)
Lloyd Tackitt (Lloyd Tackitt), TX 10/1/2012 4:36:30 PM
I meet my share of "prestige" fly fishermen and like to give them wedgies now and then. I try to be rair though by giving myself plenty of wedgies so that I don't become a reverse snob. There are plenty of fly fishermen seeking a higher challenge, a more technical challenge, than I am. More power to them, so long as they can manage a conversation without dropping in the cost of their gear or latin words they know I don't know.