The Lowly Woolybugger

by | Dec 17, 2014 | 0 comments

This post is from contributing author, Pat Burke.

Today the Troutbitten members split ways and fished different parts of Central PA. My work schedule has been relentless as of late and I’ve been having trouble finding time to get out.  I decided to go for the home run today fishing one of our favorite big trout waters.  This river is notorious for being very difficult in the winter.  Hell, it can be extremely difficult any time of the year.

I arrived at first light and settled in to a favorite pool.  The game plan today was simple.  Fish my three highest confidence pools.  The water was a chilly 37 degrees and I felt my best bet was to methodically work my way through each one.  These aren’t your typical tightlining spots.  You could attempt it, but you’d be fighting the depth and slow water.  Use too much weight and you’re hanging up.  Use too little and you lose half of your drift while waiting for your flies to get down. The water is slow, deep, and uniform depth throughout the entire length.  The most productive method for these spots is to use an indicator and go for long drifts.  With a long leader (in excess of 25 feet), and some fancy casting, you can get an extremely long drift where you can maintain a tight connection from rod tip to indicator with very little mending needed.

The first fish of the day was a good one.   I was reaching the end of my drift well downstream of me.  I started losing my tight connection to the indicator and began feeding line and doing slight manipulations to my leader to keep the drift unimpeded.  The indicator dunked hard and I laid into the fish.  The fight was short.  The fish broke the calm surface a couple times before rolling over and coming right to the net.  Not a very good fight, but a decent fish regardless.


Throughout the day the fish came in spurts.  Where I found one, I’d find four or five.  Mostly small but every once in a while I’d hook into a good mid teens fish.  Most of my day was spent using eggs with a miniature unweighted bugger.  For how well known a woolybugger is, it’s amazing how few people use it anymore.  Yep, I know the lowly woolybugger is not anywhere near as hip as a big articulated, rubber legged monstrosity.  But there is just something about the bugger that works really well dead drifted through pools in the middle of winter.

The recipe I use is slightly different than the standard bugger.  I tie mine small, often on a size 12 2x long nymph hook.   I use laser dub rather than chenille for a little flash and a narrower body on the undersized hook.  I also tie the tail long in relation to the body.  Often a little over one and a half times the length of the body.  I tie this pattern strictly for drifting under an indicator and rely on microcurrents, in combination with the long marabou tail, to provide slight motion as it dead drifts near the bottom.


I picked up a few fish on the egg today, but most took the bugger.  I cycled flies every 15 minutes or so, but always ended up back with my original tandem.  The fish were mostly indifferent towards everything else.


The best fish of the day took the lowly bugger.  The fight was a good one with heavy surges followed by long runs.  Luckily the pool I got him out of had no obstacles.  I just stayed close to him, applied constant pressure, and let him tire out.


This fish definitely met the criteria of being a whiskey drinker!  And since I took the time to get the flask out, why not crack open an IPA to go along with it.


Early afternoon I was just about finishing up when I ran into Chase Howard, an acquaintance of mine on facebook.  We talked a bit and fished one of the runs together.  It was great to finally meet him in person.


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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