The development of the Wooly Bugger can be traced to anglers such as Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton, who presented flies with palmered chicken hackle to fish in the rivers of 17th century Britain. Izaak Walton specifically mentions the Soldier Palmer in his well known book The Complete Angler, published 1653. In the modern era, palmered wet flies such as the Wooly Worm became very popular. In the 1960's & 70's nearly every fly fisher had several wooly worms in their fly box. When we opened our store in 1981, we carried wooly worms in four colors. Now the Wooly Worm has been replaced by the Wooly Bugger.
The Wooly Bugger is attributed to Russell Blessing of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who's dressing of the fly was evolved from various smallmouth bass patterns, with the intention of representing the Dobsonfly larva. The date of origin is popularly recorded as 'early 1970s,' though Ed Dentry of the Rocky Mountain News suggests 1967 as the date.
In the 1980's, Umpqua Feather Merchants started marketing a variation of the Wooly Bugger called the Flash-A-Bugger. This fly had a lateral line of Flashabou tied along the sides of the body and extending down the sides of the marabou tail. The Flash-A-Bugger is now known simply as the Wooly Bugger and is tied in many colors and sizes.
The Wooly Bugger is one of the most popular streamers in use today and is used to represent a wide range of aquatic organisms such as leeches, baitfish, tadpoles, damselfly larvae, dragonfly larvae and crayfish. It has been used on a wide variety of fresh water fish such as trout, bass, panfish, pike, steelhead and salmon. It has also caught bonefish and tarpon.
Black Wooly Bugger
This is the number one early season fly for most lakes. It is proven productive for both trout and bass. It is also a very good option for summer steelhead, especially during low water periods.
Black/Olive Wooly Bugger
This may be the number two most proven lake fly and can be number one at times. It can be fished fast or slow. Vary your retrieve until you find the magic formula.
Brown Wooly Bugger
This color is very productive in both lakes and streams. Many alkaline lakes have dense populations of leeches that are this color. They seem to be most active as the water begins to warm in the spring. This fly is also productive is rivers where trout eat sculpins and crayfish.
Olive Wooly Bugger
A wise man once said that if you want to catch trout from alkaline lakes your best fly would be an inch long and green. In some lakes and rivers, an inch and a half long and green is an even better option. This is a must have fly no matter where you fish in fresh water.