How to Effectively Fish Woolly Buggers in Rivers

If you are new to fly fishing, odds are you will start with a 9′ 5 wt rod with a weight forward floating line and a 4x tapered leader. You will most likely start with a selection of the tried and true staple flies known for catching trout. One of those staple flies is the woolly bugger. This is a world renowned pattern and should be in every fly-anglers fly box. You may be asking yourself, how should I fish a woolly bugger? Buggers are universal in that they can be dead drifted, swung, or stripped like a streamer. They represent a lot of different things in fly fishing such as minnows, bait fish, leeches, stone fly nymphs, crayfish, dragonfly nymphs, and so much more. In this tips and tricks video of the week, Dave Jensen of Jensen Fly Fishing and the Orvis Company will break down the basic set-up and tactics on how to fish woolly buggers.

How to Rig a Woolly Bugger Set Up

  1. You will want to start out by tying a crane swivel to the end of your leader with a clinch knot.
  2. On the bottom portion of the swivel, tie 24 inches of 3x tippet off of that and leave 6 inches off the tag end of the clinch knot.
  3. Attach your first woolly bugger to the 6 inches of tag from your tippet addition.
  4. Attach your second woolly bugger to the bottom portion of your tippet addition.

Different Ways to Fish Woolly Buggers

  • The first option is to cast upstream, let the buggers sink for 2 seconds, then strip them back quickly. This will pick up the aggressive feeders.
  • Another option is to cast across the current, let the flies sink and swing in the downstream current. Then pulse your rod to provide movement to the buggers.
  • A very effective option would be to attach an indicator and dead drift the buggers. Adjust the indicator depending on the depth of the run. Dead drifting is essentially nymphing the woolly buggers to imitate dead bait fish.

Tips for Fishing Buggers

  • Apply movement to your flies. Avoid using short and small strips. Use fast and hard strips with pauses in between.
  • Use the current to your advantage. Allow your flies to swing in the current which can entice an eat.
  • When using an indicator, be sure to adjust the indicator based on the depth of the run you are fishing.
  • Remember, buggers are also streamers. It is okay to apply movement to a dead drift.
  • Pay attention to which fly the fish eats. It gives you an idea of how deep you need to be and what color the fish are targeting.

As mentioned previously, woolly buggers are world famous and have been known to catch fish for years. Having an arsenal of these in your fly box is essential needless to say. Take these tips and tricks to the river and test what you have learned on your home waters. Use versatility. If you notice something working better than others, try that method in various ways to try to dial in even more on the trout. Best of luck on the water and tight lines!

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