The uglies: 9 flies that aren’t pretty, but catch a whole lot of fish

The uglies

These flies may not be easy on the eyes, but they sure do a beautiful job of catching fish

Fly anglers have always been drawn to beautiful flies. That’s no surprise, since fishing with attractive, delicate flies fits perfectly into the fly world’s overall aesthetic of long, slender fishing rods, and casting graceful loops of line into pastoral rivers. This genteel tradition has been handed down to us from fly fishing’s historic roots in the United Kingdom. It doesn’t always translate, however, to the Canadian rivers and lakes that many of us fish, which are often bigger, deeper, murkier, weedier, faster and wilder than those of the old country. That’s why many of the first flies I reach for tend to be more modern and, often, downright ugly.


Classically beautiful flies are tasteful, elegant and well-proportioned—think tiny works of art, crafted from fur and feathers. By comparison, some of my top flies look like they’ve been chewed by a goat, while others are garish, overloaded, scrawny, dull, unkempt or austere. But they’re all easy to use, and they all catch fish—and to me, that makes them beautiful. Here are some of my favourite ugly flies, along with tips on tying and fishing them…

Looking for more new flies? See our 2020 story on the best 8 flies most Canadian anglers have never heard of at


And you can see all of Outdoor Canada’s fly tying tips, including hot new patterns, classics and even oddballs, plus skills and tying tips at

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