The Copper and Black Bugger- by Carl Sanders

featured, Fly Patterns, Step-by-Step Tutorials — By on June 2, 2011 9:21 am

Carl is an active memeber on our forum
There are about as many ways to spell “Wooly Bugger” as there are to tie them. I have tied a lot, and tied them in many different ways. This tutorial is how I now tie all my buggers. Funny, it is the initial way I was taught years ago. The steps just make sense to me and make a very durable nicely formed Bugger. The Copper and Black is the favorite in my box. A bugger can be just about anything a trout eats depending on the materials used, the color, size, and profile. My most used colors are Black, Olive and Rusty Orange with an occasional all white.

I am doing this in hopes it helps someone out. Lately, I have seen a lot of beginners struggling with tying buggers. Buggers are basic ties, but not the easiest fly out there as most assume. Buggers also carry the stigma of being “ugly” flies. Probably because there are a lot of beginners tying buggers, some are fishable, some honestly need to be stripped down to the bare hook and started over. This does not have to be, if some effort is put into material selection, preparation and tying them correctly.

To tie the basic bugger you need this list of materials.

1. Hook – generally at least a 3x long streamer/nymph hook in sizes #4-#12
2. Thread – any strong thread will do.
3. Saddle Hackle – take some time here and select a good quality hackle (see below)
4. Tail – good quality marabou
5. Rib – wire
6. Body – generally chenille sized to match pattern and hook size

For the Copper and Black Bugger I am tying in this tutorial the material list is:
Hook: 4x long streamer
Thread: Black
Hackle: well marked furnace saddle
Tail: black marabou
Rib: medium copper wire
Body: fine black chenille

First things first. Use quality hackle. The hackle should be rather long, clean, good color, have a nice sheen to it and be soft. There are a lot of different types of hackle that can be used. Saddle hackles are the most common. I prefer hackles that are soft over hackles that are stiff. Below are two hackles that could be used. The dyed purple one on the left is of poor quality in my opinion. The fibers are thin, stiff and the hackle is twisted. Don’t chose this type. The hackle on the right has a great sheen, is soft and webby, straight and is striking in color and contrast. I also like a little taper to my hackles but that is my preference. Once you have selected your hackle do an initial preparation and strip all the “fluff” off the lower stem. HINT: when you strip the fibers off of any stem, grasp a clump of fibers in one hand and pull the stem away as opposed to pulling the fibers away. This does help at times to keep from breaking a stem.


Correct sizing of your hackle is also important. Sizing your hackle allows the hackle to move like it is supposed to, to look alive and pleasing to both fish and fisher person. Aim for a your hackle at the front of the fly to be 2-2.5X the gape of the hook. Gape is the distance of the space from the shank to the point.

It is good to take control of the density of your hackle. Decide if the you want your hackle to be full, dense, sparse…etc. This will be determined often by what you want your fly to imitate. A baitfish might call for a full profile, a leech a thin profile, on a stonefly you may just want to imitate legs and show movement. In the picture below, the hackle I have chosen is dense and webby. It will be too dense if I kept all the hackle fibers on so I am going to strip half of the fibers off. If you decide to do the same, just don’t go at it. It is important to strip the correct side off. To find the correct side, turn the feather towards you so that the natural curvature has the concave side facing you. This will usually be a bit duller in color than the convex side. So, looking at the concave side proceed to strip off the fibers from the left side of the stem.

While you are preparing feathers to be used you might as well take a look at your marabou feather. Most marabou feathers are dyed. Good quality marabou has long fibers, is deep in color, is not brittle, and again has some shine to it. If the tip is on the feather as the one below, snap or cut the tip off as I have done down about an inch or two depending on the size of your pattern. This removes the stem and allows the marabou to really move freely in the water. You will only be using any fibers that, when pulled up, are above the stem. The other option is to grasp a clump of marabou fibers just before you tie them in and strip them off. This is fine, but usually very messy, and don’t be surprised when an escaped fiber is inhaled by accident.


Now that most of the prep work is done, let’s start tying. Begin by attaching your thread near the front of the fly then proceed to tie in your hackle. Tie the hackle in right behind the eye of the hook. Tie it in so that the concave side is facing up or away from you. I have the concave side facing away in the picture. Once snug, continue to tie in the bare stem as you work your way towards the rear of the hook.

Stop your thread usually (depends on the hook bend) between the hook point and barb. It is important not to go too far back as to get into the bend of the hook or your tail will either not be inline with your body or will slip over the bend. If you stop too short (in front of the hook point) there will be a good chance your tail will get twisted in the hook bend during casting.

Take your prepared marabou feather and gather the fibers up. Measure the length to be 1-1.5X the length of the hook from eye to back of bend. I have measured about 1.5X here.

Tie the tail in neatly moving the thread to the front of the hook and back again to the base of the tail while tying the marabou down. Make tight wraps and concentrate on keeping a smooth consistent underbody. If you want to add a little flash to the tail, now is the time. A couple pieces of Krystal Flash or Flashabou here along the sides or top is a great option. Just be careful to use only the amount of thread necessary and keep the underbody smooth.

At the base of the tail, tie in the wire rib, then the chenille. Keep the tie in point at the base of the tail and work the thread down and back to keep a smooth body. IMPORTANT: Finish with the thread just behind the eye of the hook. I’m using chenille in this pattern, but there are any number of materials that can be used here. Materials like peacock and ostrich herl, yarn, tinsel, vinyl tubing or dubbing can be used to create the body.

I know it seems like a lot of work to this point but we’ll be done before you know it. Tightly and evenly wrap your body material forward. Tie it down at the front of the hook.

Next, crease the stem of the hackle back until if forms a 90 degree angle to the shank of the hook. This sets the hackle in the right position to begin wrapping and decreases the chances of twisting. If you stripped half the stem, the bare stem should be facing away from you.

Before beginning to wrap the hackle back along the body, I like to take 2-3 turns of hackle at the front of the fly.

Then continue to evenly palmer (wind with open wraps) the hackle to the base of the tail. Once you reach the base of the tail continue holding the hackle tip in the upright position.

While holding the hackle tip, reach under the fly and grab the wire rib. Make 3 tight turns with the wire rib, securing the hackle down. You can add a drop of cement here if you wish.

After making the 3 wraps to secure the hackle, continue to wind the rib forward in open wraps to the head of the fly. Once at the head, secure the wire with thread. It helps to wiggle the wire around a bit as you are wrapping it forward to keep from tying down hackle fibers.

Snip off the extra tag of wire and the tip of the hackle. Make a nice well formed head while pushing the front hackle wraps back slightly.

A whip finish and there you have it….a Wooly Bugger or a Woolly Bugger or a Whoolly Bugger or Whooly Bugger or Woolley Bugger or Wooley Booger…………

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Rating: +16 (from 18 votes)
The Copper and Black Bugger- by Carl Sanders, 9.3 out of 10 based on 20 ratings


  1. Albert says:

    great job of explaining how to tie, this will get a lot of us tying better flies!

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  2. Brian says:

    I never realized I should strip half the saddle hackle. That is the tip I was missing. Great tutorial!! Thanks

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    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  3. Lago Sergio says:

    Its a different form to tie a bugger , thanks a lot .

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  4. mhengel says:

    I thought this to be the best set of instructions or recipe I have ever encountered on the net.
    Thabnks alot

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  5. beachfly says:

    Excellent instructions!
    Myself, I tend to use at least twice as much marabou. A sparse tail tends not to pulse as much as a fuller one.

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  6. Manny says:

    Great tutorial.. very detailed how to on the hackle prep & maribou prep. Outstanding & thank you so much.

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  7. Orly says:

    To Hatches: Mr. Sanders should be one of your permanent tying demonstrators. Among the best instruction i have ever seen done in any book or dvd by the “pros”. I suggest you hire this guy for your magazine before he becomes famous.

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  8. Steven says:

    I’d just like to reiterate what everyone else has said. Great Job, and I agree with Orly.

    I’d also like to add though that White buggers, although often over looked, can make an awesome easy to tie general minnow imitation. I tie them in a variety of sizes ranging from #12’s for Panfish and small stream Trout, all the way up to #2’s for Salmon, Pike, BIG Bass, and Steelhead. Although the most common size I use is #6’s for Smallmouth’s on the Thames, and Brown’s on the Grand River.

    Also I’d just like to add that Purple is a deadly colour for dirty or muddy water, for all species but especially Brown Trout, and Steelhead.

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  9. A very good article. It has a lot of very useful basic tying techniques. Good straight forward fly, but a real killer as the old timers used to say.

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