PHWFF December 14, 2016 – The Low Water Woolly Bugger

At our Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing meeting on December 14th, 2016 we discussed some upcoming trips we have planned for the spring, we also ate an entire tray of cookies…

After one of our last trips where we found nothing but low water, I decided that having a fly that can stay off the rocks while still being fishable in almost any situation, was one that everyone needed to add to their arsenal.

Woolly buggers can be tied many different ways for various depths, cone heads, lead wire ect. but this one here, that we tied during class and (for those of you who took one home, the kits are of the same pattern) is specifically tied for low-water. 

It does not have any additional weight and stripping it on floating line works quite well to avoid being hung up on rocks.

The Low water woolly bugger

The Low Water Woolly Bugger

Hook: 3xl streamer hook

Thread: Black (Keep in mind your thread has to go back over your chenille, so if you are using a light color chenille, I suggest using a thread to match)

Tail: Olive Strung Marabou

Flash material: A few strands of your choice flash color

Body: Brown Chenille

Hackle: Whiting bugger pack or saddle hackle

(I am tying these on the same hooks we used in class as well so that this step by step will match with what is in your take home kits!)

Lets begin!

Start your thread behind the eye of the hook and take wraps down the hook shank, until you are across from the hook barb and then stop.

Now its time to select your tailing material.

Grab your bunch of strung marabou and look for a decent feather.

Every so often you will find a blood quill in there ( those are the long ones with an extremely hard stem) try to avoid those.What you are looking for are even tips, and by smoothing the fibers out you will quickly be able to tell which feather will work for this pattern.

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Tying in your tailing material

Measure your tail to be about a hook shank in length.

Once you have your tailing measured to about one hook shank in length, you can move the tie in point over your hanging bobbin and take a few wraps to secure it in place.

Tame that marabou!

Marabou can be a bit unruly so be sure to keep a small cup of water by your tying bench so you can wet it down a little bit with your fingers.

One more step before continuing: When tying marabou tails, they have a tendency to slide down the hook bend of not properly positioned.

A quick check to see where the material is tied in.
A quick check to see where the material is tied in.

So quickly lift up the tailing to see where you have it tied in, as it can be easily hidden and will give you trouble later on if it isn’t lined up. If anything is out of place, simply re-position it and continue. And remember! This woolly bugger variation isn’t being tied for deep water, which is why we have omit the lead wire. But that also means that we will not be cutting off all of the excess marabou!

So hold on before cutting that off!

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Instead of cutting it off, we will be using it to create a uniform underbody. Hold onto the marabou with one hand, and take evenly spaced wraps up towards the hook eye with your ‘tying hand’. Stop your thread and material about 1 1/2 eye lengths behind the eye, Take a few turns to secure it in, and cut off the excess. You can now bring your thread back to the base of the tail because we are going to tie in some flash!

Time to select some flash!

One type of flash was added to the take home kits that I put together for you in class, but feel free to use any kind you have at home.

Flash tower!
Flash tower!

IMG_2068.JPGSelect two strands of flash, fold them over and slide them up the thread.

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Then rotate your vise and repeat on the other side.

If you’re having trouble tying in your flash material please see this step-by-step here for using the “Slide Loop” Technique. It will open in a new window so that you can continue your pattern.

Now that you have the flash and marabou tail tied in, its time to create the body.

Prep your chenille and tie it in across from the hook point. Advance your thread to one hook length behind the eye and leave it there. Now you can take touching wraps forward up the hook shank. Stop your material where the bobbin is hanging, tie it off and cut the excess. Remember: Use the back of your scissors, as chenille will dull the blades.

Prepping that chenille like I taught in class will help create a uniform body.

If you do not know how to strip the end of your chenille and are acquiring a bump at the base of the hook, please see the step-by-step here on how to prep tying material that has a center cord. It will open in a new window so that you can continue your pattern while simultaneously learning how to avoid that problem.

Tie off your material and cut the excess chenille off.

Time for my favorite part!

Grab that saddle hackle! There are many ways it will be worded depending on who you purchase it from, -Neck Hackle, saddle hackle, bugger hackle ect. But in the end what you are looking for are long feathers with stiff but webby fibers.

So grab your favorite and lets go!

During group we went over, in detail, exactly how to select your feather, how to strip fibers off one side so that they lay flat on the hook, how to palmer the hackle, ect. I have added all that information here,  “How to palmer a hackle thats been tied in at the stem” so that if you need to brush up on those skills before continuing, clicking it will open in a new window so that you can have both open at the same time.


Once you have selected your feather and know which way you are going to be tying it in, strip a few fibers off of the side that is going to lay on the hook and tie it in, dull side down, one eye length behind the hook eye.


Before you do anything else…

  (This is a step that even I, sometimes forget to do.)

Bring that thread all the way back to the hook bend where you tied in the tail.

This means take about five wraps evenly spaced thread wraps towards the hook bend, this is where you will follow the groove when you wrap the hackle to the eye.

Palmering the hackle

First take two wraps behind the hook eye, ,then begin wrapping the hackle towards the bend. Use the indentations created by the thread as a guide line. Go on! Put that hackle right into them!

Once you have reached the base of the tail, hold the hackle steady; and take a wrap.
Once you have reached the base of the tail, hold the hackle steady; and take a wrap.

Once you have reached the base of the tail, hold the hackle steady; and take a wrap before cutting the excess hackle off.

Next you will bring that thread back through the hackle to lock it in, but be sure not to mat down the barbs; you want to wiggle the thread thought them like you are navigating a cactus.

Once you have reached the eye, create a thread head, add a couple whip finishes and a little head cement.

UV Finish on the head
UV Finish on the head

This non-weighted fly, when fished on floating line and stripped through small riffles or even rising fish, has produced some nice trout for me over the few years that I have been doing this, but its not limited to trout! Bass love it as well, so experiment with colors and sizes and just have fun.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Well done!!!!!!
    Thanks for sharing the step by step of one “great” fly pattern no matter what you are fishing for………


    1. Thank you, and you are very welcome and I’m glad you enjoyed it. It definitely is a great pattern to fish anywhere and everywhere, all you need is to change the colors and the weight to suit your fishing situation!


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