Jig head shape dictates how you want to fish the Mega Bugger. A cone-shaped head is idea for swimming. Round-ball heads are versatile, but excel when vertically jigging. You can experiment with other jig head shapes depending on how you expect to fish.

Mega Buggers exhibit all the fish-catching qualities of a Woolly Bugger, but can be fished deep without weight or a sinking fly line. 


The Woolly Bugger is one of the most recognizable and productive fly patterns of all time. It’s easy to tie, imitates a number of different things, and can be made from readily available, inexpensive materials. The Woolly Bugger doesn’t look like anything in particular, but can be mistaken for a crayfish, minnow, leech, damsel fly nymph or just about anything else. If you were to compile a list of the all-time favorite flies I would have to think that a Woolly Bugger would be on that list.

I make a little variation of the Woolly Bugger that I call a Mega Bugger. It’s like a Woolly Bugger except I tie them on lead head jigs so you can cast them with a spinning rod. I make a couple of changes from the original pattern by adding some Krystal Flash to the tail and I wrap the webby part of the saddle hackle directly behind the jig head to simulate gills. Mega Buggers are inexpensive to make and easy to tie. I’ve caught trout, walleye, smallmouth, and other species on it.



The jig head you use to tie Mega Buggers on can influence how you want to fish it. Round ball-head jigs work. The type that don’t have a collar work best, but they can be hard to find. Jig heads that have a collar, and even a bait holding barb, will suffice because you can build up the body with chenille to make it tapered and more uniform. I tie the Mega Bugger using jigs from 1/8 to ½ ounce to cover a variety of depths. Best colors include olive, black and brown.

Jig head shape dictates how you want to fish the Mega Bugger. A cone-shaped head is idea for swimming. Round-ball heads are versatile, but excel when vertically jigging. You can experiment with other jig head shapes depending on how you expect to fish.

The Mega Bugger came about when I was living in Cheyenne, WY. I use to tell people Cheyenne was the perfect place for an outdoor writer. I’d share that when in Cheyenne I was three hour from everywhere. I was three hours from fishing the Black Hills in South Dakota. I was three hours from pheasant hunting in Kansas. I could be elk hunting in Colorado in the same amount of time. The common denominator was that I caught fish on the Mega Bugger everywhere I went.



I was a regular visitor to the Delaney Butte lakes in Colorado. The lakes were only an hour and a half drive from Cheyenne. I’d read and heard about the lakes before I decided I needed to sample them. I knew in doing so I was driving by a number of quality trout waters, but the lure of Delaney Buttes was strong.

Delaney Butte is comprised of three bodies of water—North, South and East Delaney Butte. The lakes are on the small to modest size, easily accessible and loaded with trout. North Delaney Butte is the sole source of brown trout spawn for the state of Colorado so the CPW makes sure there are plenty of hefty browns in it.


Jim Balzer with a Colorado rainbow caught on a Mega Bugger. 


Fly fishers flock to Delaney Butte, but there are a fair number of anglers who troll and cast artificial lures. A lot of angling is done from pontoons or float tubes. There are some periodic hatches on the lakes, but the majority of fishing is done subsurface. I’m not sure what Delaney Butte has in it in the way of minnows. There’s a burgeoning white sucker population that has to be knocked down occasionally. One two-foot long cutthroat I caught had more than a dozen small crayfish in it. That’s one reason the Mega Bugger works so well at Delaney Butte. The Mega Bugger can be fished right on bottom and nose-down attitude of the jig and the pulsating marabou tail do a good job of imitating the defense posture of an escaping crawdad.

The maximum depth in the Delaney Butte lakes is right around 25 feet. One problem with fly-fishing is that to get a fly that deep and keep it there is difficult. Heavy sinking-tip lines are required and casting a rig like that can be tiresome. Most angler resort to letting the line out to achieve the desired depth and then drift or use a trolling motor to move them slowly along. Not really fly fishing in my book.



Another problem fly fishers have in Colorado is wind. Mornings are usually relatively calm, but by 11:00 am you can almost count on the wind building sometimes to gale force intensity on the lee side of the mountains. Fly-fishing is hard in conditions like that.

I was fishing on South Delaney Butte Lake with my friend Jim Balzer. As usual the wind was howling from the northwest, but we decided to brave the elements. We decided to anchor so we could cast down wind. With the wind at my back, 6-pound test and a 3/8-ounce Mega Bugger I could cast 75 yards or farther when I got it up in the jet stream. You needed your hood up to keep you cap on. No place for a cowboy hat unless you had a chin strap!

I let the jig sink to bottom and then began a slow, hopping retrieve. My jigs didn’t go far before I felt a solid jolt. I was fast to a good rainbow that turned out to be too big to keep for dinner. Delaney Butte has a slot limit that prevents harvest of rainbow between 14 and 22 inches. I caught a couple more ‘bows that were in the slot before catching a couple we could keep for dinner. By then the wind had picked up even more in intensity.



A long, long cast was rewarded with an arm-wrenching strike and I announced, “This is a big fish!” The fish stayed deep shacking his head before streaking off on a couple of line-peeling runs. The battle lasted close to 15 minutes before I was able to steer the 26-inch cutthroat to Jim’s waiting net.

A strong point of the Mega Bugger is its versatility and universal appeal. I’m not sure I know of a species of fish that won’t eat it. Last September I was able to join a group of writers at the annual Michigan Outdoor Writers Association in Manistique, Michigan. As part of the festivities I signed up to fish Indian Lake. Indian Lake has a reputation of being a great fishery for perch, smallmouth, walleye and out-sided crappies. I’d writ-ten about the lake on occasion, but never fished it so I was excited to join our guide Mike Henry.


Mega Buggers allow anglers to fish deep without the aid of a sinking line or trolling. 


Mike announced that we were going to fish for smallmouth on some shallow reefs in the middle of the lake. John Cleveland, who is marketing manager for the folks at Dardevle lures, but is an ardent fly fisher and Tod Poirier who works for the Marquette PBS station joined us. On the ride out I was telling John about my Mega Bugger and how successful I’d been with it. He agreed that it sound like a winner.

We just got nicely set up to make a drift across a rocky reef in the middle of the lake. The weather wasn’t idea. It was flat calm, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the temperature was going to be in the mid-70’s and an incredible Indian summer day appropriately on Indian Lake. The folks at Pure Michigan had to be smiling. Our guide was actually hoping for a little cloud cover and wind to conceal our approach from the spooky smallmouths, but none of us were complaining.



Mike got us set up on a drift on his pontoon boat. You could see the boulders and rocks as we drifted over them in no more then 5 feet of water. I already had a 1/8-ounce olive Mega Bugger tied on my line so I figured I’d try it. I cast the Mega Bugger as far as I could, let it sink for just a second and gave it a hop. Bang!

“I got one!” I announced.

“Already?” queried John Cleveland.

“Yep,” I said. “And I bet you’ll never guess what it’s on.”

“I have no idea,” said Cleveland. “Oh wait! Your Mega Bugger.”


I caught a couple more smallies on the Mega Bugger before switching to a Ned Rig I wanted to try. The smallies found the Ned Rig to their liking, but I think I could have caught just as many on the Mega Bugger.

Walleyes tend to be bottom orientated, which is exactly where a Mega Bugger works best. You can swim it, hop it, drag it, snap it or anything in between and it looks like a lot of things walleyes eat.


The most effective colors for Mega Buggers seem to be olive, brown and black. 


At the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writer meeting in Gaylord, MI last summer I had chance to slip away one evening to fish the Sturgeon River. I fish the Sturgeon a few times in the spring for steelhead, but rarely in the summer. The Sturgeon River is unique in a couple of ways. It the source for Michigan’s brood stock for brown trout and it gets a summer-run of walleyes and brown trout from Burt Lake. It also has some dandy resident browns in it.

Access to the Sturgeon River is good. You can pull off just about anywhere Old US-27 where it parallels the highway be-tween Wolverine and Indian River. There’s a stretch called The Meadows just north of Wolverine that has some deep holes and undercut banks that hold fish. I parked the truck and walked the rail trail and cut over to the river. There was a deep under-cut there that look like a trout haven.



I already had a brown Mega Bugger on my rod so I figured I’d give it try. It seemed a good a bet as any. I cast the Mega Bugger to the far side in the shallows and allowed it to swing over under the bank and then worked it back upstream in a series of hops and skips. On about the third cast I felt a solid thump and when I set the hook there was solid resistance. The fish didn’t take off or jump like a brown trout might, but stayed deep and bored for bottom. Soon I saw the gold-en sides and white edged fins. The walleye was probably 22 inches. I didn’t have a net, but I figured I could lift a two-pound fish on 6-pound test line if I was careful. I waited until the walleye wasn’t thrashing and lifted it up on the grassy bank. My Lab, Samson, immediately pounced on it.

I know many survival kits include a jig because it’s one of the simplest most effective lures ever created. I have no quarrels with that except I might make it a Mega Bugger.





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