|Conehead Rubber Bugger|
The Conehead Rubber Bugger: Rubber Material Gives An Old Favorite Streamer New Life
Nothing is really new these days they say. Well I guess that’s true for the most part. All the new flies out there really are a variation on something else. It’s really the materials that limit everything. And recently I found a new material that makes one of the best flies in your box–new or old–even better.
I’m the founder and president of a fly tying company so I get to experiment with and develop new materials all the time. A few years ago I started looking at a new material that our partner, and Hot Glue Guru, Doug Brewer found. We now call it “Tentacles.”
It’s basically a fine diameter spandex material, like Super Floss, but much finer. Doug Swisher and I started playing with it to find new applications and hopefully some “new” flies. Doug Swisher has been experimenting with dubbing brushes for a while and decided to put the Tentacles in a wire dubbing brush. He sent me some samples of his new Tentacle dubbing brush creation and called it “Rubber Hackle.” I immediately starting thinking about all the new possibilities this application created, and of course my first thought was “Wooly Bugger”.
I guided all over Montana for ten years before starting my fly company. I quickly learned that streamer fishing is the most productive way to regularly catch large trout. I found that the more alive you can make the fly appear in the water the better the results. Of course a lot has to do with how you make the fly “swim” in the water, much like a puppeteer, but you can’t overlook the materials and how they move and breathe when the fly is swimming.
Recalling all this from the days before I was a desk jockey, I got excited about the streamer applications for Tentacles used in a dubbing brush or dubbing loop.
One of my favorite streamers has always been a Conehead Crystal Bugger, which is one of the first variations on a Wooly Bugger. It adds just the right amount of flash and weight to make the old-stand-by even better. I didn’t think there was much more you could do to it, until I saw Swisher’s use of tentacles in rubber hackle. I then substituted the tentacles for the saddle hackle in the Conehead Crystal Bugger and coined the name “Rubber Bugger.” I wanted to get a good mottling effect so I put several different colors of tentacles in the first dubbing brush. My favorite color combination is black and yellow, which I incorporated in the Black Rubber Bugger. Other good color combinations are brown, orange/yellow/brown (Halloween Rubber Bugger), and Brown and Olive (Olive Rubber Bugger). Since Tentacles are a fine diameter and are a flexible material, they move and react with even the slightest wiggle of your rod or strip of your line. Every time you stop your line to grab the next strip they spring out. Every time you make your next strip they suck back into the body. This pulsating movement has proven to really turn the fish on.
My first real test of the effectiveness of this new fly was last year on Norman Maclean’s famed Blackfoot River outside Missoula, Montana. There were Salmon Flies in the air, but the fish had not keyed on them yet. The water was just coming down from spring runoff and starting to clear – a perfect streamer opportunity.
I tied on the new creation, a black version, and was ready to try it out. An old guide buddy of mine was at the oars rowing feverishly to hold water, which would enable me to get a good swing with the new streamer. My third cast was downstream from the boat and tight to the bank, inside a seam in a slow pocket caused by a big boulder. No sooner than I twitched the fly after my first strip when the line tightened and a large boil appeared. I set the hook and the fish took me out into the swift current and started running... upstream.
My guide buddy rowed me over to the bank as quickly as he could so I could get out of the boat and chase the fish upstream. After a good battle against the fish, and the current, I landed the 5-pound brown and had to wonder if there was something to this new creation, or if it was just a fluke. That fish was the largest I landed that day, but my friend and I ended up with more then 2 dozen large Browns and Rainbows that afternoon, none of them smaller than 16 inches.
Feedback on this fly has been remarkable. Guides and fishermen from Vermont to Colorado and of course, Montana, have had the same results I had, proving this pattern to be a long time winner, until the next new wave of materials comes about... which may be a while.
-by Adam Trina