The story of the dry bugger began on the opening day of last NSW trout season. Myself and Perrin had headed out to a stream to hopefully christen the season opener with a few trout. After a relatively fruitless morning, Perrin spotted a decent trout. He was gracious enough to give me first shot. I slowly and meticulously stalked to within casting distance. I stripped enough line and made the cast. However, I had overlooked the fact that I had just tied on a new fly, an unweighted black wooly bugger. Instead of sinking it was floating like a cork. BUGGER. The fish in this stream are rarely forgiving of such mistakes. Busy cursing at myself internally, Perrin’s words only barely registered “its seen it, its moving”. Only when the hook jaw broke the water did I realise what was going on. The fish was eating MY FLY. Thus, the seed of the “dry bugger” had been planted. It wouldn’t be until the afternoon that we would realise the important lessons we had both just learnt and the true potential of the “dry bugger”.
Over the rest of the morning we caught some more fish, all sight-fished, all on unweighted black wooly buggers, sunken this time. After the stream went completely dead during the middle of the day we retired to have a few beers in the shade, waiting for the evening hatch. It didn’t disappoint, the afternoon brought with it one of the most epic hatches I have had the pleasure of witnessing. Insects blanketed the surface of the water, at least half a dozen different species of insects all emerging with a fury that needed to be seen to be believed. At least three different species of mayfly, a few different species of midge and a couple of different species of caddis. The emergence of such a monumental number insects awoke the trout from their midday slumber. The stream was suddenly alive, rippling with life. Trout were rising in every direction. So we set about trying to match the hatch, which is what fly fishing dogma says to do in situation such as this. Various mayfly patterns, midge patterns and caddis patterns were tried. No fish were fooled. Having worked our way through a vast variety of dry flys trying to apply the classicist rule “when fish are rising, match the hatch, throw them a pattern that resembles what they are eating. You will catch them”, Perrin decided to move away from the textbook. Harking back to that first fish of the day, he tied on an unweighted black wooly bugger.
It’s fair to say I was a little skeptical, none of the emerging insects looked anything like a size 10 black wooly bugger. Not even close. However, given that we had run out of ideas and realistic flys to try, this was as good an idea as any. Desperation required a change in tactic and dogma wasn’t getting us anywhere. I dutifully spotted while Perrin presented the “dry bugger” to a rising trout. Low and behold, it worked. First time. After casting the most realistic patterns we could find at dozens of trout in the preceding hours, the “dry bugger” had worked FIRST time. My scepticism was quickly a long distant memory and I dutifully tied on my last unweighted black wooly bugger and presented it to the next rising fish. Low and behold, the dry bugger worked again.
In the last hour of the hatch, before the flurry of activity abruptly stopped, we landed three fish and dropped three more, all on the dry bugger. A damned sight better than the zero fish we had tempted in the two hours leading up to this desperation induced change in tactics. The dry bugger had saved the day. While the classic mantra “match the hatch” generally still holds, it shouldn’t be treated as dogma. If you cant seem to match the hatch, throw them something juicy. It just might work.