Fly of The Month – Chris O’Byrne

Flies of the World

Bead Head Wooly Bugger


Trout, panfish, large and small mouth bass, even snook; the wooly bugger in its variations can catch them all. Then it goes on to fool even more species of fish. As Ian Whitelaw explains in his informative book The History of Fly-Fishing in Fifty Flies, the roots of this fly run back to 1600s England. Since then the basic palmered hackle fly has become an almost-everything answer to matching the hatch.

The stiff hackles standing out perpendicular from the chenille or dubbing body help the fly stay on top of the water even in rough streams. But, what if the fish are taking bait fish, leeches, crayfish or rising nymphs far below the surface?

Adding a bead to the front of a wooly bugger is a great upgrade which quickly gets the new invention down in the water column. On this variation of the simple hackle fly, the weight of a bead gives the angler opportunities to create different imitations of life. Brass or tungsten spheres at the front of the fly creates a jigging action that, when allowed to sink deep, then stripped up just a bit is attractive to crappie. With a gentle, erratic, rising strip, an emerging nymph is created. Or, when cast farther on the horizontal and stripped in sooner, the weight creates the struggling dip and rise of a sick bait fish.

Bass guide, Hunter Towery hands his clients rods with bead head wooly buggers in olive on our still and stained central Florida lakes any time the bite is neither on top nor deep. As easy to tie as it is to fish, the bead head wooly bugger is often the first fly an angler learns to tie. Simple to customize, they are great at sparking the imaginations of new anglers, so don’t let the following list limit your creations.


General Materials

Bead Head Wooly Bugger

Hook: Mustad Streamer Hook, R74-9672 in a size to match the active bait in the water

Thread: 8/0 to match the material colors

Bead: Hareline – Cyclops Bead Eye

Tail: Marabou to match color of body

Body: Ultra Chenille

Hackle: Saddle Hackle to compliment color of body