Wooly Bugger tied by Barry Ord Clarke

Wooly Bugger fly

Most fly fishermen have at one time or another fished with or a variant of the wooly bugger. This is without doubt one of the modern classics, that has only grown in popularity, and not without reason! The Wooly bugger is known as a fish catcher the world over. Its often named when a fishermen is asked, if you could fish with only one fly, what would it be ?

Right from when this pattern first saw the light of day its been changed, and modified at vices all over the world and is now to be found in an uncountable amount of colours and variants, some I may say better than others!

I myself use the pattern in only four colours, white, black, grizzle and a combination of the latter. More recently I have also began using more UV and Fluorescent materials especially in my salt water patterns. This has not only made the flies more attractive but has also increased catches in salt water markably. But try not to exaggerate these materials or their use, it can easily go into overkill. So remember less is more!

This is an extremely simple pattern to tie and requires a minimum of materials, but as I have mentioned many times before, its all about proportions! Spending time getting this right from the beginning will produce great looking flies only after you have tied a few. I am not saying that scruffy buggers won’t catch fish, quite the opposite, but there is more to fly tying than catching fish! What fly tyer doesn’t want his flies to look great?

Wooly bugger fly pattern recipe:

  • Hook: Mustad S74SNP-DT # 6-4
  • Head: Brass or Tungsten bead
  • Tying thread: Dyneema
  • Tail: UV2 White Marabu and Crystal hår
  • Body: White chenille
  • Hackle: White cock or saddle hackle

How to tie Wooly bugger streamer

Step by step wooly bugger fly:

Wooly Bugger step by step 1

Step 1
Its important to match the size of your bead head to the hook size being used, or to the swimming action required of the pattern. Slide the chosen bead onto the hook shank and secure the hook, horizontal in the vice.
Attach your tying thread and run all the way back to the hook bend. This will give a good foundation for the rest of the fly.


Step 2
For the tail I like to add another dimension by using UV2 marabou.

Wooly Bugger step by  step 2

Step 3
Select a nice bunch of marabou with fine tapered points for the tail. The tail should be approximately the same length as the hook. Tie in the marabou along the whole length of the hook shank tight into the bead head.

Wooly Bugger step by step 3

Step 4
Now you can tie in four or six strands of Crystal flash material around the tail. These should be a tad longer than the marabou tail. If you require even more weight, now is the time to add it.

Wooly Bugger step by step 3

Step 5
Cut a length of chenille and once again tie this in the whole length of the hook shank, keeping your tying thread behind the bead head. Make sure that the chenille is correctly secured at the marabou tail base, if not the chenille will slip when tightened and wrapped!

Wooly Bugger step by step 5
Step 6
Now wrap the chenille in tight even turns all the way forward to the bead head and tie off. Remove the excess chenille and make a couple of whip finishes to secure it correctly.

Wooly Bugger step by step 6

Step 7
Select an appropriate sized cock or saddle hackle with extra webby fibres and tie this in directly behind the bead head as shown. Make a whip finish. Now tightly wind your tying thread back towards the tail base making sure that each turn of thread falls in-between each segment of wound chenille.

Wooly Bugger step by step 6

Step 8
Attach a hackle plier to the point of the hackle and wrap the hackle palmer style in the opposite direction to the wrap of your tying thread. That means if you wind your tying thread clockwise, the hackle should be wound anti-clockwise. Again taking care to wrap precisely in each segment of chenille. Once the tail base is reached tie off the hackle with a few turns of tying thread.

Wooly Bugger step by step 7

Step 9
Now carefully wind your tying thread forward through each segment of chenille over the hackle, taking care not to tie down the fibres. Wrapping the tying thread and hackle in opposite directions will make the fly stronger and extend it’d fishing life. Make a couple of whip finishes.

Wooly Bugger step by step 8

Step 10
Remove the tying thread. Now place a large drop of varnish or head cement, whichever you prefer on the point of a dubbing needle. Now place the drop of varnish on the junction between the hook eye and the forward bead opening. You will see the varnish disappear into and under the bead head, repeat this two or three times until no more varnish is sucked into the bead. This will make a invisible finish and saturate the tying thread and materials under and behind the bead.

Wooly Bugger step by step 9

Step 11
Remove any excess varnish from the hook eye by pulling through a hackle.

Wooly Bugger step by step streamer

Step 12
The finished and correctly tied wooly bugger. If you would like to correct the palmered hackle into a perfect position, moisten it with a little water and slip a drinking straw over the body of the fly until dry. When its removed everything will be in place.

Fishing with a Wooly Bugger Fly

Now that you’ve tied your Wooly Bugger Fly, it’s time to fish with it. Here are some tips and techniques to help you catch more fish:

  • Cast your Wooly Bugger Fly upstream and let it drift downstream with the current.
  • Use a slow retrieve to mimic the movement of a swimming baitfish.
  • Vary your retrieve speed and pattern to find what works best.
  • Try fishing in different depths and areas of the water to see where the fish are biting.

Variations and Customizations

The Wooly Bugger Fly is highly customizable, and there are many variations you can try. Here are some ideas:

  • Change the color of the marabou, chenille, and hackle feathers to match the local baitfish.
  • Add weight to the fly to make it sink faster.
  • Tie a smaller or larger Wooly Bugger Fly depending on the size of the fish you’re targeting.

Order My new book

new book

3 thoughts on “Wooly Bugger fly

  1. I just use a wire tied at the rear to bind the hackle.
    This keeps the thread at the front and eliminates the need for tying the extra knots.
    The wire also strengthens the whole affair.
    And I prefer lead wire for weight, as I want the weight distributed evenly. This gives more of a “gliding” action than the jigging action of the bead weight.
    And dumbbell eyes? Oh yeah!
    A buncha ways to do it.

    I like your emphasis on proportion and keeping things tidy, though.
    Im going to fish more WBs this season.
    This came at a perfect time!

    1. Hi Flysocar, The extra knots are only used to make the fly more robust, I do it on just about all my fishing flies. As for wire, that was the original and old way, nothing wrong with that! But Dyneema is at least 10 times stronger than tensile steel weight for weight, salt water and UV resistant. Yeah I like to use a combo of bead and lead wire, for when you need to get down deep quick and acheive that gliding effect, which is great when you want to fish the bugger real slooooow. If you haven’t used Dyneema check out my article on the blog about the pro’s and con’s of using it!

Leave a Reply