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


A great fly name is original and memorable, and it lets you know what the fly is all about (with bonus points if it’s also a little quirky). Before learning about this unconventional fly, I’d never heard the words “meat” and “whistle” together, but when I finally saw the Meat Whistle, it was exactly as I pictured it: a dense, succulent, vaguely obscene rib-eye of a fly.


Designed for bass, this pattern is basically a jig-and-pig for the fly rod, although any fish that likes a mouthful, including big trout, will eat it. The jig hook helps the fly ride with the point up, making it snag resistant, so originator John Barr suggests letting the Meat Whistle sink right to bottom, and stay there a moment, since the fly’s liberal use of rabbit fur and soft feathers make it look alive, even at rest. Then retrieve it with a slow lift-drop to suggest the darting movement of a bottom-dwelling sculpin or crayfish. Predators tend to pin these critters against the bottom, then slurp them in, so hits often come on the pause—as with a jig-and-pig or soft-plastic worm—and they can be surprisingly subtle.

  • HOOK: Long-shank jig, sizes 2 to 1/0
  • HEAD: Tungsten cone TAIL/BODY: Rabbit zonker strip
  • UNDERBODY: Sparkle Braid or similar
  • FLASH: Flashabou
  • LEGS: Sili Legs or similar
  • COLLAR: Webby saddle feather, schlappen or marabou
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