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The Big Ugly
By Matt Doll
Photographs by James Birkholm

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.

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.

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.

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 the bead.

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

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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