It's a worm... It's a fly... It's Dynamite!
Maybe that's another reason the fly can't get no respect. It defies easy classification. It won't hold still. It is all things to all people. It is a Big Mac oozing savory juices on a silver serving platter designed for coq au vin.
The woolly worm is so effective that some trout anglers are reluctant to use one. It is treated by fly fishing purists as barely more acceptable than a nightcrawler as a lure. Why? It is a pattern that dates to Izaak Walton, 300 years ago.
Yet English fly dressing books don't mention it, and there are no English flies in books I've seen that even remotely suggest the woolly worm.
The woolly worm catches fish from pike to panfish, from tench to trout, and is so simple to use that even a mistake is correct. Fishing a woolly worm requires no more finesse than mud wrestling. It takes no real skill, and I suppose that's why so many slick fly casters feel that fishing a woolly worm is like Michael Jordan going one-on-one with Mister Rogers.
Where's the challenge?
In my opinion, the perfect fly wallet for someone who wants to catch fish would contain nothing but woolly worms in various sizes and colors.
It's even easy to tie. The most hamfisted fly tier, who might break down in tears trying to fashion a No. 20 Adams, can whip up a woolly worm that will catch fish.
Woolly buggers are woolly worms with chrome fenders. They also have tails, sometimes of a glitter material. A friend ties one with a couple of shiny strips that flash in the water.
You could catch dead fish out of a supermarket meat display with that thing. It is dangerous to carry in your fly wallet. Voracious bluegills will leap from the water and chew through your waders to get at it.
The woolly worm/bugger has become popular on Western trout streams where large flies are so frequently effective. Western angling guru Bud Lilly says woolly worms and their kin are especially effective fished on the bottom in early spring. "I know this isn't a lot of people's idea of graceful fly fishing," he says in his Guide to Western Fly Fishing, "and it does seem a lot like bait fishing with a fly, but it's deadly when the timing is right."
There it is again-that apologetic, abashed, left-handed compliment, as if the angler is ashamed to be caught using a woolly