The Yuk Bug is a stonefly nymph pattern I first discovered on one of my annual trips to Montana. It is a generic looking pattern with a chenille body, rubber legs and hackle wound through the body. Usually heavily weighted, we would fish these flies and other similar patterns like the Girdle Bug, in the fast-moving waters of the Madison, Gallatin and other rivers of the West Yellowstone area. They were very productive patterns when big stoneflies were present, especially the massive Salmon Fly that makes an appearance on these rivers every year in late June/early July.
I have used numerous versions of Yuk Bugs tied in a variety of ways and have enjoyed success with all of them. A few years back my good friend Rick Dooley and I enjoyed some fantastic fishing on the Madison River, during the Salmon Fly hatch, using a version of the fly called the Pepperoni Yuk Bug. Rick had two of these flies in his box and shared one with me. We fished them until we wore them out and caught a ton of fish on them. Ever since that trip, they have been a staple in my stone fly box.
I’m not entirely sure how one of these flies ended up in a panfish box, but at some point one did. From the very first time I fished one in warm water, it has been a constant producer of big bluegills. In addition to big panfish, it has taken some good sized crappie and a respectable number of largemouth bass up to 18” in length.
It is often said that bluegills and other panfish are not picky and just about any fly will work for them. At times it may seem like that is the case, but panfish will often show a preference for a particular fly. In the last few weeks, this has been that fly. I have fished it side by side with some of my other productive subsurface flies, and it has outperformed all of them by a considerable margin. Why that is the case is anyone’s guess, I cannot say that it is imitating a particular food source that the fish are feeding on.
I tie these flies in sizes 8-4 to imitate the big Salmon Fly nymphs. The fly they ended up in my panfish box was a size 8 which proved to be a perfect size for large panfish. Small enough to be easily taken by large bluegill but a little too big for the pesky smaller fish.
The Pepperoni Yuk bug I am currently fishing is tied a little differently from a standard Yuk Bug. The original Yuk Bug had hackle wound through the entire length of the body, this fly only has it wound through the thorax area. The original pattern was also tied with round rubber legs and little in the way reinforcements to protect the hackle. Since it is possible to catch dozens of fish on a single fly, I made some slight changes to make the fly more durable. Bluegills are especially found of flies with rubber legs and have a tendency to nip off standard round rubber legs, I have found that silicon is a much more durable material. Removing the fly from the tight confines of a bluegill mouth with a pair of forceps can also reduce the lifespan of a fly. You are often forced to grab any part of the fly you can reach, damaging it in the process so the addition of some counter wrapped wire over the hackle provides some protection from the teeth of fish as well as a pair of forceps. I add a little weight to the fly in the form of lead wire under wraps but not as much as I do when I tie the fly for trout. In the fast-moving water of a trout stream, I am looking for a fly that will reach the bottom quickly. In a warm water environment, I want the fly to sink slowly, so less weight is needed. A few turns of .020 lead-free wire under the thorax area will do the trick.
This is a great pattern to use around bedding areas in the spring. Nesting fish attack this fly with a vengeance. I also like fishing it suspended under a buoyant popper as part as a popper/dropper rig. As summer progresses many of my local lakes are becoming weed-choked. Suspending a large nymph under a big surface fly is a great way to fish the pockets and coax those large bluegills out of hiding.
The Pepperoni Yuk Bug is easy to tie and is an excellent fly for beginner and advanced tiers alike. Whip a few up the next time you are behind the vise and give them a try on your local bluegill pond. Be sure to tie up a few extra for your stone fly box as well!
Pattern Recipe: Pepperoni Yuk Bug
Thread: Uni 6/0 black
Hook: 4x streamer hook size 8
Underbody: 10 turns of .020 lead wire in the thorax area
Tail: Fox squirrel tail fibers
Body: Black chenille
Thorax: Orange chenille
Rib: Medium or fine copper wire counter wrapped over hackle in the thorax area
Legs: White mini flexi floss