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Fly Tying The Zug Bug

Updated on December 25, 2015

A Time Tested Fly

The Zug bug is named after Cliff Zug of West Lawn, Pennsylvania. He tied it to imitate a caddis larvae. My web search found the date of its origin in the 1930s or 1940s. It was first popular in the Catskill mountains for trout fishing and spread to the West. Its popularity never ended. Nearly every fly shop and mail order store carries it. I found that it transferred fairly well to fly fishing for bluegills, albeit adding a brass beadhead to it. Like many trout fly fishers, this one is a staple in my fly box.

You Have Got To Love The Materials

Typical of older, traditional flies, the materials are all natural. Peacock is a favorite material of mine. The natural iridescent green/blue/brown of the herl and sword material has just not been reproduced with artificial materials. Plus, herl is fun and easy to tie with. Fished in clear water on a sunny day, this fly has a unique combination of natural coloration and flash that is hard to beat.

Tying The Zug Bug

The accompanied video shows tying the fly in detail. I've departed slightly from the traditional fly. Most fly tiers use silver oval tinsel for ribbing the body. I chose to use brass wire. Why? My target species with this fly are bluegills and I found that using brass wire weighed the fly more. Later, I determined the fly still too light and added a gold beadhead. This gave the fly a better sink rate and since the head was gold, I retained the brass wire ribbing to match the beadhead. By all means, you can easily tie the traditional fly without the beadhead and use silver ribbing, but I would add some round lead-free weight to the hook shank to increase the sink rate of the nymph. Some things to note in the video:

  1. I go heavy on the peacock sword tail and tie the tail in two separate clumps. It is easier to get the ends more aligned.
  2. Many fly tiers will wrap ribbing, especially wire ribbing, in the opposite direction of the body material it overlays. The thought is that should the body material, and sometimes the palmered hackle, get loose, the counter wrapped wire will help hold the material in place. My experience has been that if the body material or hackle gets loose, counter wrapping does little to hold the material in place - the material unravels from the hook shank just the same. Also, I have found that wrapping the wire ribbing in the same direction as the body materials helps to cinch down the body material on the hook shank. I guess I am offering a disclaimer - either direction for wrapping the wire body material is acceptable.
  3. In this video I omitted applying nail polish to the thread wraps, while in the still photo the nymph has polish on the thread wraps. Either is fine. In the video I used a small diameter thread (8/0) and felt the wraps and whip finish secure enough to forego nail polish.

Fishing the Zug Bug

As noted earlier, I fly fish for warmwater species, bluegills in particular. I like to fish this fly in clear water (three feet or more depth of clarity) with a floating fly line and long leader - around nine feet in length. Fish the fly fairly deep by allowing the fly to sink a long time before beginning the retrieve. Once fairly deep, give an aggressive strip or two, then allow another long pause. As usual, the fish tend to strike on the pause and given a long pause, there can be slack in the line making strikes difficult to detect. Concentrate on the slightest movement and tug on the line during the pause. You really do not fish this fly close to the surface, rather close to the bottom and about midway up the water column. A sunny day really helps illuminate this fly. The fly is tied on a size 14 hook which can lead to hooking smaller bluegills, especially in shallower water or water with a lot of escape cover. You can move up to a size ten hook to deter the smaller bluegills.

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