Featured Fly: Cactus Bugger

Cactus Bugger

Click image to enlarge.

This fly has a bright, flashy cactus chenille body, moderately weighted with lead wire, and a rabbit-strip tail. It might not seem elaborate or particularly exotic, but the Cactus Bugger is a genuine workhorse of a pattern.

> It’s easy to retrieve effectively
> The fly can be fished fast or slow
> It works well in current
> It’s a great lake fly, too

Every Gamefish that Swims

Jerry and Tim with a 40-inch pike.

Jerry with a giant pike on the chartreuse cactus bugger.

And oh yes, besides smallmouth, this pattern is also a killer for nearly every gamefish that swims.

My friend Jerry Limmer is a big fan of the Cactus Bugger, it’s his favorite fly and he uses it for a wide variety of species. In just the past 3 years he’s caught 40-inch pike, big largemouth, numerous lake trout, walleyes, giant brook trout and lunker smallies, all on the Cactus Bugger. I, too, have caught about everything with fins on the fly.

Searching and Twitching

One of my favorite ways of using the Cactus Bugger is as a search pattern. Since it tracks well with even a fast retrieve, I can cover a lot of water quickly with it. And because its body is so bright, fish spot it from long distances. Then when they get closer, they see the pulsating undulating rabbit strip tail, and that “seals the deal” and gets them to strike.

Tim in the rain with smallmouth on a white cactus bugger.

Cold rain didn’t stop Tim and a white cactus bugger.

The Cactus Bugger is also deadly when worked in place, using the “Twitch ‘n’ Tease” technique. With very short rod tip twitches and slight pauses, you can keep the fly darting and fluttering in the same spot and tease fish into striking. To see this technique in action, check out the new DVD “Smallmouth Fly Fishing– REVEALED.”

White or Chartreuse?

The all-white Cactus Bugger certainly produces a lot of fish, but don’t assume it will always be superior to the chartreuse-tailed one. In murkier water the chartreuse is often best, and sometimes even in very clear conditions it can be better than white. I always try both colors, giving each a 30-minute trial. If you’ve never used either color, perhaps this season it’s time to give this hard-working pattern a try.

If you would like to add the Cactus Bugger to your fly box,
they are available in the Smallmouth Fly Angler online fly shop.

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