A Bighorn Guide’s Top 7 Sowbug Patterns

Written by: Steve Galletta, Bighorn Angler Fly Shop & Lodge


On tailwaters and spring creeks, you can’t go wrong with a sowbug pattern.
Photos by Steve Galletta

In tailwater rivers and spring creeks, crustaceans such as sowbugs provide a consistent source of protein throughout the year. On famous tailwater rivers such as the Bighorn and Missouri Rivers in Montana, you will find anglers taking fish on these patterns every day of the year. Not only are these patterns highly effective, but they are all reasonably easy to tie, as well. Here are seven of my favorite sowbug imitations.

1. Ray Charles (sizes 12-18)
The Ray Charles was created on the Bighorn River and is a staple sowbug imitation that produces for anglers everyday of the year. Simple to tie and durable, the Ray Charles should be found in every tailwater fly box. It can be tied with or without soft hackle, in gray, tan, and pink.

2. Pete’s Carpet Bug (sizes 12-18)
This is one of the most effective dubbed-body sowbugs. The dark back imitates the natural insect very well.

3. UV Eddie Vedder (sizes 14-18)
Incorporating uv dubbing into the body, along with ostrich herl, the UV Eddie Vedder offers trout a new-age variation on the Ray Charles. The Thin Skin back adds to this pattern’s realism, as well. Our favorite colors are tan and pink.

4. Firebead Ray Charles Soft Hackle (sizes 14-18)
Anglers are not quite exactly sure why trout take Firebead Sowbug patterns so readily throughout the year. Maybe as an egg in the spring? Possibly the orange bead is an attractive color to the trout? Who really knows. The bottom line is that firebead patterns produce.

5. Killer Bug (sizes 14 and 16)
A modern twist of Frank Sawyer’s Killer Bug, this pattern has become a favorite pattern of Bighorn River trout and beyond. The body of this fly gets darker when wet and becomes even better-looking in the water. Try it tied with or without soft hackle.

6. Pink Crush (sizes 14-18)
This fly is simple to tie and highly effective. The pink tungsten bead catches the eye of the trout and gets this sowbug pattern down quickly.

7. Pink Soft Hackle Sowbug (sizes 14-18)
This simple pattern–tied with either pink or tan dubbing for the body, along with dun hen neck for a collar–has been terrorizing trout on the Bighorn for years. We fish this pattern with or without a firebead.

Steve Galletta owns and operates Bighorn Angler Fly Shop & Lodge in Fort Smith, Montana.

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