The Big Ugly
A very easy fly to tie, similar to a myriad of other
flies particularly caddis pupae and Whitlock's squirrel
nymph. I have been fishing versions of this fly since
I started fly fishing for smallmouth in 1983. Easy to tie,
durable and inexpensive. It does work for trout as well.
By Matt Doll
Photographs by James Birkholm
This fly is fished as a streamer, and represents creek chubs, and
other fry common in rivers. Though the hackle is quite large and
full, it trains down along the body when fished. The long rubber
legs trail behind the fly when stripped, so they should be left
long at the vise.
Materials List: The Big Ugly
Hook: 3X streamer hook, such as the Mustad 9672 or equivalent, sizes 6-10.
Thread: Gray 6/0.
Tail/Hackle: Mottled hen hackle.
Body: Rust/brown coarse dubbing (I prefer SLF craw dubbing).
Legs: Pumpkinseed-barred sili legs, 2 on each side.
Head: Tungsten, 3/32 to 3/16, with 4 additional wraps of
.02 lead inside.
Collar: Fox squirrel with guard hairs.
Tying the Big Ugly
1. After securing the beaded hookin the vise, wrap 4
tight turns of .02 lead on the shank, and then "screw"
them up as far as they will go inside the bead. Now
secure your thread and anchor the lead and bead with a
thread bump immediately after. Cement.
2. Select three of the largest mottled hen saddled
for the tail and hackle. With one of the feathers,
use the longest fibers for the tail.
3. Dub the body with a traditional "cigar" tager towards
the head. Traditional dubbing is suitable, but I prefer
dubbing loops for added durability. Dub all the way to
4. Dress the other two feathers and secure to the shank,
on the dubbing just behind the bead. With larger feathers
you should get 3-4 wraps from each. If not, you may need
an additional feather. Because hen fibers are extremely
soft and 'webby' you must wrap slowly and tease the fibers
loose continuously as you wrap. Failure to do so usually
results in a poorly proportioned hackle.
5. For better looking rubber legs, you need tension
on the rubber as you secure it. This is easy enough
to do. To attach legs on the near side, simply hold
the bobbin out to the side, and lay the rubber leg over
the thread, pulling down on the ends while holding the
bobbin with the other hand. Now, wrap the bobbin over
to the other side, positioning the legs 45 degrees between
the near side and top. For the far side, wrap the rubber
strand around the thread as it hangs below the fly and
pull the ends away from yourself to the other side as
you give tension by holding the bobbin in place with the
other hand. Move the legs to the corresponding position
on the other side and let go. It's that simple.
6. Loosely dub a generous amount of squirrel fur with
guard hairs, and wrap just behind the head. Whip finish and
cement. To trim the rubber legs to the correct length, hold
them down alongside the body (with no tension on the legs)
and trim at an angle 1/4" behind the tail. Tease guard
hairs out of the collar, and you are done.
More about the Big Ugly
I have a lot of fun with this fly. You can dub different
colors, dye the hackle, etc. Hen saddle patches are
inexpensive, but usually small, so you may want to
substitute another soft material (hen pheasant, etc)
for the tail.
As I mentioned earlier, I hesitate to offer this pattern
publicly because it closely resembles so many other flies.
Perhsps what makes it somewhat unique is the way in which
it is fished. This is a heavily weighted streamed, well suited
for the pocket-water fishing we find in eastern rivers. I
have also caught largemouth, brown trout, and a variety of
panfish with this fly - once while trolling my fly line
behind a good friend's boat as we moved from spot to spot
at a local reservoir! I wish you the same success.
~ Matt Doll