The latest subject in my series of easy-to-tie flies is a pattern called the Bass Buggerer.
This fly is actually a modified version of one of the oldest and most successful patterns around, the Woolly Bugger. The Woolly Bugger was originally used on trout and salmon but it quickly established itself as a very useful fly for a host of freshwater species, including bass, saratoga and cod. Although originally tied from mostly natural materials, the Woolly Bugger is now often tied almost solely from synthetics, although there is still no satisfactory substitute for marabou, which is used in the tail.
The Bass Buggerer will catch most freshwater species and is especially effective when fished around structure such as weed beds and drowned timber. With the addition of the bead chain eye, the Bass Buggerer sinks a little faster than a Woolly Bugger, with a head-down, slow-sinking action between strips.
The traditional rayon chenille, or vernille chenille, which was once used for the body, is now replaced with crystal chenille or super-salt chenille, materials with a higher degree of flash.
If you prefer a bushy fly, try some Estaz Chenille, as the longer fibres move more in the water and make the fly appear bigger than it actually is. Because the Estaz variation pushes a little more water, it is especially effective for saratoga, which can detect it easily.
The tail material is marabou, which moves enticingly in the water. There is no satisfactory synthetic substitute for this as yet.
A weed guard can easily be added to this fly, increasing its ability to be worked through heavy cover without fouling.
The traditional Woolly Bugger was tied on a standard long shank hook with a turned-in eye. The best hook for the bass Buggerer is a stinger pattern, which has an extra-wide gape, fine wire construction and small barb. This allows it to set securely in the jaw of large-mouthed fish such as bass, and hard-mouthed fish such as saratoga.
Most fly hook makers have a stinger pattern, but sizing varies between manufacturers. Tiemco 8089B size 10, Gamakatsu B10S size 2, Mustad 80300NPBR (old pattern number) size 8 and Mustad C52S BLN size 2 are all roughly the same sized stinger hooks and all can be used for this fly pattern.
You can upgrade the entire size of this fly, including the hook, if you want to use it for Murray cod, or even billabong barra.
The Bass Buggerer can be fished in a variety of ways and all will work, depending on the mood of the fish at the time. A quick, long strip with a pause in between is my favourite when targeting bass around the weed beds. Several short strips with a pause also works well at times.
When targeting saratoga, I like to use a long and very slow strip with a small pause between strips. In the middle of the day, especially in areas where there’s shade from overhanging bushes or standing timber, the Bass Buggerer can work a treat on these fish, as ‘togas often rest in these shaded areas.
Using a floating line and a leader of around 2.7m, cast the Bass Buggerer so that it lands in the shaded area. Allow the fly to sink, but watch the end of the floating line carefully. If it starts to move to one side, or go down quicker than normal, strike. The saratoga will lazily swim over to the Bass Buggerer, engulf it as it sinks and then just swim off. These fish are used to feeding on creatures which fall into the water, so this is a very natural presentation for them. Locally, this technique is referred to as the ‘Borumba drift’.
Step 1. Put your stinger hook in the vice and secure the black flat-waxed thread at the point on the shank where the bend starts. Cut some marabou (preferably the soft part of the feather only, and not the quills). Tie it in at this point along with a few strands of pearl or olive Krystal Flash. The marabou should be almost as long as the shank of the hook. Remember that long, wispy, soft fibres move around a lot more enticingly in the water than short fibres do.
Step 2. Advance the thread along the hook shank until it is a few millimetres short of the eye of the hook. Cut some medium sized bead chain (or large if you want the fly to sink faster) and tie it in at this point with a series of figure eights until it is firm.
Step 3. Tie in your chenille (Super Salt, Crystal or Estaz), directly behind the bead chain eye. Whip finish (or half hitch) the thread at that point, but don’t cut the rest of the thread off. We are just securing it to avoid a mishap, which could see it unravel as we are palmering the chenille. Advance the thread past the eye so that it hangs in front of it.
Step 4. Palmer (wrap) the chenille along the shank of the hook until you just cover the tie-in point of the marabou. The wraps should be at least close enough to totally cover the hook shank, and can be almost overlapping if you want a bulkier fly. Now wrap the chenille back up the hook shank until you’re behind the bead chain eye.
Step 5. Pass the chenille over the gap between the two balls of the bead chain eye, and tie it off between the eye of the hook and the eye of the fly with a whip finish or series of half hitches. Cut off the remaining thread and use some headset, vinyl cement or flexcement to seal the tie-off point. Your Bass Buggerer is now finished and ready to catch you some great fish.
This pattern is open to a lot of variations, such as the type of chenille, combinations of colour and the size of eye, all of which affect the fly’s action and fish-catching appeal. I usually tie the Bass Buggerer in the above size for fishing the local impoundments, but have tied larger ones for Murray cod in the southern rivers, and for barra and saratoga in the northern billabongs. Using two different colours of marabou in the tail also enhances its appeal in the water. A weed guard can be added if you want to work this fly around thick cover.
I mainly tie the Bass Buggerer in darker colours such as black, olive, brown and claret. Lighter colours, such as white and chartreuse, have even proven their worth on tarpon and trevally.
As you can see, the Bass Buggerer is a very simple fly to tie and it’s a great fish producer for a host of species. Tie a few up, tie one on and get out and give it a go.
Hook - Gamakatsu B10S Size 2
Thread - Flat-waxed, black
Eye - Bead chain, medium gold
Tail - Marabou, black
Flash - Krystal Flash, pearl
Body - Super Salt Chenille, black