The Woolly Bugger Isn’t all that, Or is it?

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This isn’t Montana, Your Not Norman Maclean, and the Woolly Bugger isn’t all that.
This was a bumper sticker a guide buddy of mine had printed up a few years back. It was prominently displayed for his clients to read when they pulled up to greet him. That’s one hell of an ice breaker for checking fishing egos at the boat ramp, let me tell you. I give my boy J.E.B. Hall props for his comedic humor and gutsy style. For those of you who don’t know J.E.B., he’s a veteran Western North Carolina guide, Author of Southern Appalachian Fly Guide, and has spent multiple seasons guiding at Alaska West. Meet him one time and you’ll say to yourself, “this guy is the Johnny Knoxville of fishing”.

Most anglers fall into one of two categories when it comes to their perception of woolly buggers. They either love them or despise them. I love the fly pattern for two reasons. First, for its impressionistic design that’s capable of mimicking many different trout foods, and second, for its versatility in how the pattern can be fished. It’s rare for me to not break out a woolly bugger at some point during the day. When trout aren’t biting, I almost always can find fish willing to snack on them. The only time I keep woolly buggers out of the game and sitting on the bench, is when I’m fishing water where dry flies are the only thing required.

I believe in the woolly bugger so much, If I only had one pattern that I could take with me fishing, that would be it. Why the woolly bugger, you ask? Because it has probably caught more species of fish on this planet than any other fly pattern created since fly fishing was born. Now if I asked Jim Teeny, he would probably argue with me on this one, but what can I say, 90% of the time Jim strictly fishes his signature Teeny Nymph. And why shouldn’t he, the man has caught everything from steelhead to 100lb. tarpon on that fly. But if the tables were turned, and Jim Teeny would have invented the woolly bugger, I’d lay out a strong bet that’s what he’d be fishing instead. I meant no disrespect towards Jim Teeny, the man is a fish catching machine and a pioneer of the sport. He was just the perfect person to make my point on how effective woolly buggers are at catching fish, and I honestly couldn’t help myself.

The Design and Theory behind the Woolly Bugger
The Woolly bugger looks very simplistic at a quick glance, but look at it a little longer, and you’ll see its not your average, run of the mill, fly pattern. When you take the time to break apart the woolly bugger and study its design closer, you’ll notice each

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Tarpon On The Clock

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A Photo Essay By Joel Dickey

It’s 5:30 a.m. and my alarm pierces that beautiful thing, called sleep, which all guides miss so much this time of year. I jump out of bed and I’m quickly reminded I’m not 25 anymore.

My joints pop and crack and muscles, that I didn’t know I had, ache. However it’s calm and my adrenaline soothes my body better than Advil ever would.

I jump into my clothes, give my sleeping wife a kiss and head to the fridge for my morning Mountain Dew, hoping that the caffeine will clear the fog, left from only 5 hours sleep.

Off to the dock. I only have another 100 consecutive days left until my next day off. Why do I book so many consecutive days?

I guide for the greatest gamefish in the world. I guide for tarpon and I don’t want to miss a single second of it.

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Bonefish Don’t Dance

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I had the pleasure of doing a little bonefishing with a good friend the other day. We were poling the flats on the west side of South Andros and the wind was howling. The sky was full of popcorn clouds and their shadows were moving quickly across the flats. My buddy was getting a lot of shots at big westside bones but they all spooked before his fly landed.

We had fished to spooky fish for the last few days and were getting used to the sight of fleeing bonefish. My buddy assumed that he was spooking fish by lining them or landing them too hard. That might have been the case on one of the flat calm days we’d seen earlier in the week, but today the problem was one of footwork.

Like I said, the wind was howling. Thirty to thirty-five miles per hour. In an effort to turn over his fly my friend was casting like a warrior Hun. His casting was so violent that his left foot would come off the deck with each cast. He wasn’t even aware of it but every time that foot landed the bonefish would vanish.

Wind is frustrating but it can be your friend. The broken surface of the water will hide a lot of mistakes. Fish can’t see the shadow of your fly line or hear your fly hit the water but the sound of anything contacting the hull of the boat is instantly telegraphed, alerting them of danger. Fish don’t know how hard it is to cast a fly rod in the wind but they know an unnatural sound when they hear it and it doesn’t make them happy. Even the sound of feet pivoting on the deck can cause them to spook.

Fortunately, dancing on the bow is not part of a good fly cast.

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DIY Bonefishing – It’s All About The Short Game

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By Rod Hamilton


Whether you are wading in eighteen inches of water, weaving through the mangroves or doing the Flamingo Slide over a mucky flat, there is no such thing as a seventy-foot cast. For DIY fisherman, it’s all about the Short Game.

Leave your driver, fairway woods and long irons in the bag. DIY success is about accuracy with your wedges and putter. It calls for short precise shots, minimal false casting and one chance to make a pinpoint presentation. There are no Gimmies at thirty feet.

I have had the good fortune to fish with some great anglers and casters this year. I’m still awestruck by the elegance of them laying out an eighty-foot line. But I’ve come to realize that the skills required to be successful from the front of a skiff don’t necessarily translate to being successful in the “hand to hand” combat experienced by the DIY guy.

I’m talking about soft presentations at 20 – 40 feet in 25 m.p.h. winds with one false cast. Then dropping the fly not in a Hula Hoop, but on a Frisbee.

Let me tell you I have seen more than one FFF Certified Casting Instructor brought to tears after his tenth blown shot at under forty feet. It’s the difference between being a great driver of a golf ball and a great putter, both are wonderful skills to posses, but different.

Setting the stage for a DIY day; you just got out of your car or off your bicycle. The fish you will be encountering have seen a “Charlie” before; in fact they probably bolted from one yesterday. And the direction you walk has more to do with “where can I go” then the sun, wind and tide.

And, 90% of your casts will be forty feet or less.


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Bruce Chard’s Double Haul Drill

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3 Great Videos!

Today begins a special five part video tutorial on building blinding line speed.

Line speed is the most important component in successful salt water fly fishing. There’s plenty of finesse involved but line speed is the cost of admission. If you can’t build the speed you need, you can’t catch the fish you want.

My good friend Bruce Chard is a certified master casting instructor and a truly inspiring caster. The first time, hell the first hundred times, I saw Bruce unload my jaw dropped. It’s humbling to watch what this guy can do with a fly rod. Bruce has a rare blend of skills. The technical know how of an engineer and the physical prowess of an athlete. With that in mind I asked him to help me create a set of videos that can take you from beginner to rock star. We’re calling it the Ultimate Line Speed Series. There’s a lot to cover but we’re starting here with everything you need to know about line speed.

We’re going to start slow, with the double haul. The basic building block of a dynamic cast. By day five we will be into some seriously advanced technique that is going to

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Snap Your Wrist For Line Speed

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Watch The Video!

Today Bruce is going to get a little closer to that fly rod and talk about the roll your wrist plays in fly casting.

Watch closely. Bruce has great mussel memory from thousands of hours of casting. Watch the subtlety of his wrist movement. The snap and push that happens. Don’t forget that, as in all fly casting, this requires a smooth application of power to be successful. This will take some practice to master and in the next two videos Bruce will build on this technique so get out in the yard and give it a try.

heck out the video!

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Technical tips from Southern NZ

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By Chris Dore
Whilst I enjoy chasing big fish in the backcountry here in New Zealand, there isn’t actually much to it: Find a fish. Put your fly in front of him, and strike.

It’s the smaller, hatch-driven streams that offer the challenge for me, the technical presentations their finicky trout require and often ‘outside of the box’ thinking. Straight line presentations rarely succeed and so slack line casts, chosen to beat drag and deliver your fly naturally (or not) are mandatory.

Today, Simon Chu and I visited a rather technical stream in the deep south known for its wary browns. It was a fun day shared with a good mate but we certainly needed to bring our A game. In the end we hooked 2 dozen fish between us on a range of lightweight nymphs and film flies.


– Make every presentation count. Each cast needs to be

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The Video Doesn’t Lie

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Watch the Video!

By Bob Reece

Over the numerous years that I played football, I watched countless hours of practice and game film. One truth always reigned. Your performance was never as good or as bad as you believed it would be.

After a recent back packing trip I sat down at my computer to review some of my footage. One of the clips was a side shot of me casting. While the rear portion of my casting range was sound, the forward portion of that particular cast was flat out sloppy. My forward plane of motion traveled down instead of parallel to the water. In addition to this, my stopping point prevented my rod from effectively loading into my back cast. Having seen video of myself casting on numerous occasions, I was a little surprised and disappointed. However, it was helpful to be reminded that when I lose focus on the water, my cast is not always what I assume it to be.

You may not carry camera gear with you on your fishing journeys. Chances are though, that you have a cell phone with you at home and on the road. Taking a moment to record a few minutes of your casting motion can provide valuable feedback. While it’s no substitute for

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12 Tips For Epic Fly Fishing Trips On The Cheap

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You may be poor, but you don’t have to fish like it.

Some of the greatest fly fishing adventures I’ve taken have cost me the least. I love fishing in exotic locations and spending time at great fishing lodges. Who wouldn’t? But that’s a fairly recent thing for me and primarily funded by my Nikon. Working for my fishing days has paid off for me, but that’s not an option for everyone.

I have never let a lack of funds get between me and great fly fishing. I’ve always figured out a way to get on the water and create some kind of epic adventure. Over the years I’ve figured out one or two tricks that make for great fly bum trips on the cheap. I’m going to share a few of them so you can do the same.


There’s nothing more helpful than a good fishing buddy, or two. Having good friends to share both costs and experience with will make your fishing trips a hundred times better. A buddy can do more than split the cost of gas. He might lend you a rod or take turns rowing the boat. He may have knowledge about water that you don’t. He may just tell a good story or be a good listener. Finding good, compatible friends to travel and fish with is the most important step you can take in having a truly epic trip.


Hotels cost money and do very little to enhance the fishing experience. Camping saves you a bundle and makes the trip a whole lot more special. Waking up on the river beats the hell out of a continental breakfast. Get your camping gear in order and go as light as possible. Less time messing with gear means more time fishing. I have gone so far as to buy an extra tent, sleeping bag and a few necessities which I keep at a friend’s house in Denver. If I find a cheap ticket I don’t even have to pay the baggage fees.


I drive to Idaho and Wyoming from Georgia on a regular basis. I don’t do it because I enjoy the scenery of western Kansas. I do it because it saves me a bundle. Gas is not cheap but it’s often at least as cheap as an airplane ticket. Driving allows me to take advantage of a whole host of cost-cutting measures.

I can carry all of my camping gear and even sleep in the truck sometimes. I tow my Adipose skiff which saves me renting a boat. I don’t have the expense of a rental car. It saves a fortune. I even have a power inverter in the truck to charge batteries or run small electronics. I’m pretty self-sufficient when I’m on the road.

I will frequently coordinate the drive with buddies who choose to fly. They help out with the gas money and I pick them up at the airport and we all save the cost of a rental car. Driving to your fishing destination just gives you a lot more options.

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Fly Fishing: Searching for That Needle in a Haystack

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I really enjoy catching big wild trout on a fly rod. Even more though, I enjoy the challenges that come with having to hunt them down in places where they are few and far between. I’m talking about trout streams where there’s not supposed to be any truly big trout living there. The places where catching a 12-incher normally gets you tickled to death, and where most fly anglers, if asked, would tell you point blank, “I guarantee you there’s nothing swimming in that trout stream large enough for a grip and grin.” These are the places I like to visit on my days off from guiding. I get deep satisfaction searching for that extra special fish. The fish that’s 99% confident no fly angler thinks he or she even exists.

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