The leaves are starting to come in. The flowers are budding and trees are beginning to brighten. Fish are spawning, turkeys are gobbling, and the life is returning to nature.
Unless, you live in Missouri.
Water is high and stained and it snowed twice in the last 4 days. Temperatures fluctuate from 25 degrees for the youth turkey opener to mid 70s later this week. Nothing about this is spring. This is undoubtedly a confused, late blooming winter.
But in these dark, dreary cold times, trout are alive. Alive, thriving, and hungry for a large piece of meat after a winter of midges, nymphs, and small emergers. Thus, the Woolly Bugger. Bass, crappie, catfish, gar, salmon, char, and a variety of saltwater species have all fallen for the fly that imitates nothing, and everything. For my purposes in the next month, this fly is for trout. It’s a perfect streamer pattern that gives a large target, and entices big fish as a meal that will hold them over for a little longer than a scud.
Tying this fly, I used a size 4 hook. It’s maybe a little bigger than necessary, but I wanted a large fly for large rainbows during spring turkey camp. Starting with black thread and black chenille, I decided to tie the first one without a maribou tail. Smaller without the tail, I decided to add a rib of peacock hearl to add a bit of flash to the body. The second, third and fourth ties used a black maribou tail, and they turned out much better.
I realized very quickly that I haven’t tied a woolly bugger in a long time, but it was one of the first flies I ever tied. My grandparents gifted me a small fly tying box kit, and inside were all the ingredients for tying a woolly, a grasshopper, and a few other basic flies. Admittedly, I was terrible at it. My heads were terrible, my knots thick and garbage, and my wraps sloppy. In fact, I wasn’t too big of a fan.
Fast forward a couple 10 years, and here we are. I tied this fly completely from memory, and after the first two I really found the stride. Starting with the thread wraps along the body, I secured the maribou, hackle and chenille. Chenille wraps first, towards the bend in the shank and then back up to the hook eye. Creating the body first, residual gaps in the wraps leave perfect slots for the hackle to sit in as the wraps work forwards. By far, my favorite fly of the day was the only non-black one I made, and the body was different from the others as well. Instead of chenille, I decided to make the body out of rabbit dubbing, with a multi-color mix of orange, yellow, white, and grey.
With an olive maribou tail, this fly is non-conventional and perfect. In my mind, most flies will work, as long as you are confident in the fly itself.
I’ve got a fantastic trip coming up. A media camp running camera and hunting turkeys. Our cabin sits on pristine trophy trout waters, and Missouri doesn’t allow hunting after 1pm. You can be sure that as soon as the morning hunt ends, I’ll spend my evenings on the water slinging big flies at the fish of a lifetime.