Mud Bugs & Buzzers
Flies With a Story

The Flytier:

Flies Tied By: Gary Soucie
Recipes By: Gary
Story By: Gary
Gary's Home: Williamstown, MA
Gary's E-mail:

A retired editor -- Contemporary Surgery, American Angler, National Geographic, and Audubon -- Gary stays busy watching birds (he's vice president of the Hoffman Bird Club) and writing (he is currently finishing a book -- his 8th -- on tying and fishing Woolly Worms and Woolly Buggers, which will be published by Frank Amato Publications, perhaps late in 2004), as well as tying and fishing as the heavy burdens of retired life permit.  He also does volunteer work for the Trustees of Reservations and the Chamber Music Festival of the East.

The Flies:

mud bugs and buzzer.jpg
Three of Gary's Mud Bugs and one Bloody Buzzer.  With a grin, Gary cautions the sharp-eyed observer that he ties his flies for fishing, not show-and-tell.

Near-Nothing Mud Bug:

Hook: 3XL or 4XL streamer, size 10
Thread: Brown 6/0
Tail: Pink or tan hackle fluff, blood feather, Chickabou, etc., a gap-width long
Body: (A) 3 or 4 fibers from a cock ring-necked pheasant tail feather, wrapped together; repeated, as necessary; (B) copper metallic thread over an underbody of brown or tan punch yarn or similar
Head: Bronze peacock herl

Nota bene: I suppose you could try other coppery materials for the body. But I haven’t tried it, so won’t promise results.


Bloody Buzzer Nymph:

Hook: 2XL or 3XL nymph, wet-fly, or streamer, sizes 8 to 16, usually size 10
Thread: Black 6/0
Tail: Tan or pink hackle fluff, blood feather, Chickabou, etc., a gap-width long
Body: Red floss (optionally, ribbed with red metallic thread) or red metallic thread (I use DMC, readily available in sewing departments)
Head: Peacock herl, green or bronze to suit.

The Story:

Mug Bugs & Buzzers: Keeping It Simple but Mysterious

My wife and I had dashed up to northern Vermont for a nice, long, romantic weekend at a country inn on the banks of the Lamoille River—and a bit of fly fishing, too, of course. To make a long story short, the Golden Maple Inn was all it was cracked up to be, but the fishing was uncharacteristically tough for the Lamoille. (Perhaps it was the plunging barometer. We were quite literally flooded out on what should have been our last day—kicked out of the inn before breakfast, road closures, washouts, the whole nine yards.)

Late in our second day of fishing, I was standing in mid river behind the inn, staring into my fly boxes, wondering what to try next. I had noticed some empty bits of crayfish carapace along the bottom, but foolishly had no crayfish patterns or Woolly Buggers in my vest. And I was too lazy to slog back to the car in the gathering gloom. Then I noticed a homely little nameless thing with a pheasant tail body and pink hackle-fluff tail.

I wonder if that might suggest a baby crayfish? What the heck, I figured, nothing else is working.

So I tied it on, cast directly across the stream and let it drift down. Nothing. I lifted it into a back cast, placed it across the current again and let it drift downstream. This time, at the end of the drift, I let it swing as I swept the rod tip slowly back and forth. Then I twitched on the line a few times. Instead of lifting the line smartly from the water, I made a long, slow pull with my line hand to slow-start my back cast. Bang! Twelve-inch rainbow.

A couple casts later, I lost that unnamed fly to a snag, so I tied on the nearest thing to it: a coppery-bodied version with a tan tail. Same result: another rainbow, about the same size. Hey, I thought. I think I may be onto something here. Then it started pouring. 

Let me explain how those two little flies came about. A few days earlier, as is my wont, I ended a session at the vise by messing around with some scraps on the bench. I had already mounted a 3XL hook, size 10, in the vise, and had tied on with brown 6/0 thread. Next, I tied in a gap-length tail of pink hackle fluff that was blowing around. I must have been tying Pheasant Tail or Teeny Nymphs, because I found myself wrapping a body of fibers from a cock pheasant tail. I didn’t bother with the Teeny Nymph’s legs. I added a thorax or head of bronze peacock herl clippings that were lying on the table. The result looked like the start of some unfinished fly.

I put another hook in the vise and started off the same, this time using tan hackle fluff for the tail. Tired of wrapping pheasant tail fibers (pinching the darn things is tough on fingers beginning to suffer from osteoarthritis), I picked up a bobbin holder loaded with Coats & Clark copper metallic thread and wrapped a body with that. This is fairly thin thread, so I had to wrap up and back several times to produce a fairly thin body. I had an appointment to keep, so I "finished" with the same bronze peacock herl head. Days later, when I was grabbing some flies I had tied for the Lamoille trip—flies that had been hanging to dry by the vise—I unthinkingly grabbed the two nameless little things and popped them into the nymph box.

When I got back home from that weekend trip, I started tying more of those little devils, which now had a name: Near-Nothing Mud Bugs. ("Mud bug" is slang in certain parts of the country for crayfish, especially baby crayfish.) Now, when I use the copper thread for the body, I sometimes wrap a thin underbody of tan or brown yarn, so it doesn’t take as many layers of thread to give the fly a little "beef."

An odd thing about these Mud Bugs: So far, they haven’t caught anything but rainbow trout. Admittedly, I haven’t made a real effort to prove this point. Closest I have come to an experiment was one day on a certain river I’d just as soon keep to myself, thank you. The fishing was pretty decent on a certain stretch, particularly in one deep pool that had a pretty good current sweeping one side and a tributary entering on the other. I stationed myself just below the tributary’s inflow, where I could reach all parts of the pool. Because of the pool’s depths and the mixing of the currents, the trout were not easily spooked. For the same reasons, as well as the dense forest canopy, they couldn’t easily see me, either. Easy, close-in fishing.

I was able to catch and release fish in that pool for a good 30 to 45 minutes before the fish stopped cooperating. During that time, I fished a Near-Nothing Mud Bug, on which I caught nothing but rainbow trout, and three other mostly brownish nymphs and streamers, on which I caught nothing but brown trout. Hardly scientific, but interesting. Elsewhere, I have had similar experiences with ’bows and brookies.

I don’t know what it is about this pattern, but, in these hands, Near-Nothing Mud Bugs take nearly nothing but rainbows.

A little background music

The Near-Nothing Mud Bugs didn’t come out of nowhere. In effect, they were refinements of an earlier pattern. I can’t recall when I first started tying the earlier fly, but I do know what inspired it. I had long been fascinated by chironomid (midge) pupal patterns, but I don’t much care for tying or fishing tiny nymphs. For one thing, I’m not a big fan of strike indicators. For another, I’m all thumbs at the vise. Then I noticed that British midge pupal patterns, usually called Buzzers, aren’t all that tiny—often tied on curved, short-shank hooks as large as size 12 or even 10. Finally, one day, while perusing Taff Price’s Fly Tying—An International Guide to Over 400 Fly Patterns, I saw the Bloodworm—a midge nymph even I could tie well.

The Bloodworm is tied on a size 12 or 14 long-shank hook and has a large, Bugger-like, red marabou tail, a red floss body "with distinct undulations" ribbed with fluorescent-red floss, and a bronze peacock herl head.

Over time, the Bloodworm devolved into an even simpler pattern, which I decided to call the Bloody Buzzer. The tail became much smaller—just a wisp of hackle fluff or blood feather, and usually tan or pink rather than red. I kept the red body, but use two variations. When I use red floss, I use red metallic thread for the rib, if I use a rib at all. Sometimes, I just use the red metallic thread for the body. (I’ve tried red tying thread for the body, but it doesn’t work as well for me.) For the head, I usually use green rather than bronze peacock herl. I sometimes use hooks as short as 1XL or as long as 4XL, but 2XL and 3XL are my usual choices. Although I tie the Bloody Buzzer as small as size 16, I find that size 10 will usually suffice for everything from bluegills to bass, including trout.

bloody buzzer.jpg

I fish the Bloody Buzzer every which way: up and across, on the swing, dead drift, twitched, stripped fast, crawled along the bottom, and everything in between. About the only way I don’t fish it is below a floating strike indicator. As I said, I don’t much care for fly-rod bobber fishing.

To date, the Bloody Buzzer has caught pretty much everything I have cast it to: rainbows, brookies, browns, tiger trout; small- and largemouth bass; bluegills, pumpkinseeds, and other sunfish; fallfish; baby jacks, snappers, and other saltwater panfish. Everything except yellow perch. (One spring day at the mouth of a creek on Silvermine Lake in New York’s Harriman State Park, I tried my darnedest to get perch to take a Bloody Buzzer, but they simply would not. I came back a few days later with "Bloodless" Buzzers tied with yellow and light-olive bodies and the perch could be coaxed into taking them, but not as avidly as they would take several other flies in my panfish box.)

So there you have it, two really simple, effective, and essentially similar fly patterns. One of them will apparently take nothing but rainbow trout, while the other will take almost anything but yellow perch. I just love fishing’s mysteries!

--Gary Soucie



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