Bow River Bugger

Published Nov 30th 2005

Al Grombacher has shared with us one of the most effective patterns for the Bow River in Alberta, Canada, famed for its excellent fishing for rainbow trout.


I tye up 5 dozen Bow River Buggers (BRBs) for my own use every year. According to Jim McClennan, in his book - "Flyfishing Western Trout Streams", a Mr. Peter Chenier developed this fly in the 1980s. This fly melds the best of the wooly bugger and muddler together, to form the classic Bow River Bugger streamer pattern.

The fly will fish better if you don't pack the deer hair for the head too tightly.

Remember to not pack the muddler-style head as tight as a Tim England bassbug. A loosely packed head will aid the BRB in staying on the bottom. Tight packed heads are eye catchers, but loosely packed heads fish better.

The white headed Bow River Bugger is commonly sold in Calgary fly shops. Jim McClennan notes that black, olive, and white are the best colors. The black/olive/natural deer hair combination has proven to be the best performer for me.

The Bow River Bugger is heavily weighted and fishes best along the bottom of the river. I use three basic rigs to keep my BRB along the bottom of the rivers as I fish it. My most common rig is a floating line with a 9 to 10 foot leader in 1X or 2X. In fast water, I'll place some split shot 8 to 10 inches above the BRB. In deep water situations, I'll break out my Teeny 300 with a 4 foot leader. The Teeny 300 rig works well in the fast deep sections of the BOW and in several Frenchman's Creeks. The BRB is also a great night fishing fly, as it pushes a lot of water with its muddler head.

Tying Recipes

Tail: Black Marabou
Body: Olive Chenille
Rib: Copper Wire

Palmered Hackle: Black Saddle
Head: Muddle style head of deer, elk, or bighorn sheep
Collar: Hair tips left untrimmed
Weight: 20 to 25 wraps of lead or lead substitute wire
Hook: Varies, but normally Mustad 39841 or 79580, #2-#8.

Recipe same as above, but with some blue krystal flash along the sides of the tail.

User comments
From: Brad · bradkittle·at·  Link
Submitted July 29th 2014

Try wiggle dubbing for heads

From: George Meyer · grmeyer114·at·  Link
Submitted December 17th 2013

Deadly, enough said, have had the joy of catching 12 species of fish on BRBs, never fails to get itvdone great sesrching cold water
pattern here in Maine, Rapid Rivers legendary brookies love the olive, black, natural deer hair version.Ive personally landed multiple 5 and 6 lb fish with this fly.

From: Rene Paul · arpee0734·at·  Link
Submitted March 12th 2012

How do you tie sculpin wool for the head? Would appreciate some help. Rene

From: dubmon · dsdubmon1·at·  Link
Submitted October 18th 2009

a wonderful fly!! i can tie a few and the way i do it they stay together well. --- thak you very much.

From: Everett theise · elvis372·at·  Link
Submitted September 5th 2009

I like this fly its my go to fly.I tye it with a coachman red body its deadly.

From: David A Swart · davidaswart·at·  Link
Submitted March 4th 2009

When small bait fish are present try a all white version works great on trout,and bass,for a change of pase add rubber legs works great on smallies.

From: Xavier Bernard · xbernard·at·  Link
Submitted July 21st 2008

This fly has enabled me to catch rainbows in our lake when the fishing slows down in July & August. Best results with a size 8 and coarse deer hair left uneven when spinning the head. giving an uneven collar with a couple of longer hairs spiking out that pulsate in the water.

From: Kimbal Markwardt · jack_flash75234·at·  Link
Submitted June 19th 2008

I to am trying to find Peter. I fished with him in BC and knew that her had moved west. I want to fish with him again. If you have info or could forward my info I would appriciate it.

Kimbal Markwardt

From: David Denoon · lpayne·at·  Link
Submitted March 6th 2008

Trying to locate Peter Chenier - I see his post, but not an email. If anyone can direct me I would appreciate it. Thank you.

From: HaLster · halster·at·  Link
Submitted January 11th 2007

This is truly a magic fly. I tie it in different color schemes but always unwiegthed as I use it in the sea, fishing sea trout (european sea trout that is) with very slow retrieves in the winter.
I've caught 8 pounds sea trouts on this fly tied: black deer, black hackle and black chenille and hot orange tail with silver crystal, 2X the body lenght. A super fly!

From: Anonymous  Link
Submitted December 5th 2006

Hey Ryan, Ed, Brian, and RB,

I've caught rainbows, browns, cuttthroats, dollies, bulls, brookies, pike, walleye, whitefish, and eelpout (bowfins in Canada) with the BRB. The trout most caught on it would be mostly rainbows cuttthoats, and browns. Sculpin wool makes a good head. A buddy of mine only likes to tie them with sculpin wool, because he hates spinning deer hair. He mixes the olive and brown together - makes a good looking version that is effective. And as Brian noted, hen works well too. Give the BRB a try, and tie it with what you have. You'll like it.



From: Peter Chenier  Link
Submitted December 4th 2006

Just googled my name and was surprised to find my Bow River Bugger on the net. Steelhead guys: Try it. Has worked well for me on the Bulkley and Vancouver Is.

From: yves · yguy·at·  Link
Submitted June 4th 2006

I fly fish for trout in Nova scotia and i am having pretty good luck with the exact same recipe.
I'm going to tie a bunch with varying chenille colors.Although the olive works well,.

From: Alberta Al Grombacher · Alan.Grombacher·at·  Link
Submitted February 27th 2006

Hey Guys,

Here are my replies:
Ryan: The BRB is one of my better fish catching patterns. It is one of my go-to patterns. Species caught are Rainbows, Browns, Cutties, Searun Cutties, Bulls, and Lakers. Species caught most often would be either Rainbows or Browns (probably due to water I fish most often). Other species caught include LM bass, SM bass, Bowfins, Perch, Walleye, and Pike.
Ed: Sculpin wool works great. My friend, Mike Dell likes sculpin wool. The lead eyes work well too. It is easier to use wool than deer hair if you decide to use lead eyes.
Brian: Hen works well too. I've always used saddle, because I tie lots of feather wing streamers and steelhead patterns. I also like saddle on my wooly buggers.


Alberta Al

From: Ranger Bob · lance·at·  Link
Submitted February 11th 2006

Nice tyes Alberta Al!

From: ryan mccarter · slimie73·at·  Link
Submitted February 5th 2006

i really like that fly. how many fish have u caught, and what species of trout have u caught the most, off the fly?

From: ed madan · emadan·at·  Link
Submitted December 5th 2005

how about using sculpin wool instead of deer hair with lead tying the bow river bugger.

From: Brian Larson · blarson·at·  Link
Submitted November 30th 2005

I'd try one other thing, hen hackle instead of rooster.

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