The Seal Bugger was made popular by Denny Rickards in the 90s. It’s similar to the woolly bugger but is tied for movement and allows for great color combinations. This fly will catch anything from white bass to steelhead when tied in the right manner for a particular species and just looks alive in the water. By far and away the most productive colors for me have been purple/black, brown, and bright orange/olive or bright orange/black (at ice-out).
The main way to think about the seal bugger is to think of it as a woolly bugger with specific benefits. With a seal bugger, you can mix and match any color combination of dubbing to come up with subtle color changes and combinations. You don’t have to use a specific color of chenille and can use substitutes for dubbing colors if you’re out of a particular color or style of dubbing.
The pattern is also tied with a very sparse and lifelike tail. This is critical to making your pattern move and undulated in the water. Don’t use a full clump of marabou, just take off a nice bunch without the stem. Also, you need to add weight. I prefer wrapped lead in almost every case for this pattern because it’s difficult to find a bead head that will fit around a large hook gap but that will not be too heavy as to sink the fly at rocket speed. You’ll be taking vegetation off of your seal bugger all day if you have a lot of weight on your fly. You do want weight so that your fly will kick and bounce if you need it to do so. Finally, you can really adjust the amount of material you use with your dubbing to control the sink rate. This is important because it works perfectly with the weight. You can see how it works in conjunction with your leaders and tippet in this post and video. You balance them out so that the fly just hovers so that you can control your sink rate with your sinking lines but you can have a fly that will just hover with clear intermediates. These is probably the main reason I tie the seal bugger over standard buggers. Although I still tie sparkle buggers with chenille, I prefer the seal bugger for my all-round lake pattern in most cases. See how it works for you.
- Hook: Tiemco 5262 #4 (#2 – #6)
- Thread: UTC 140
- Weight: Lead wire (.20 or .25)
- Tail: Marabou
- Flash: Opal Mirage Lateral Scale 1/69”
- Hackle: Webby saddle hackle or schlappen
- Body: Dubbing mix (example: Angora goat/Pseudo Seal Lightnin’ Dubbing/Lite-Brite Dubbing)
- Lacquer: Zap-a-Gap (Brushable)
- Dubbing Loop Tool: Dubbit dubbing loop tool (standard)