Published Jan 25th 2009

A truly classical, generic coastal fly


The Magnus

If one particular fly was to be celebrated as the Mother or Father of all the typical Danish, gray, nondescript hackle flies it would have to be The Magnus. OK, we have The Grey Fred, Nullermanden, Sandhesten and a wealth of other similar flies, but the Magnus is the real classic if you ask me. It might look like it has its legacy in the Woolly Bugger, but it was more inspired by traditional palmer hackled wet flies such as the Chilimps and the Red Tag Palmer.

It is originated by Magnus Ting Mortensen from Funen back in 1973 and was first made popular by a local shop, which took it up as a stable fly and since by magazines and books, which mentioned this excellent all round, Danish coastal fly and spread its name.
And I need not put emphasis on "Danish", because the fly is so universal that it would be able to catch almost any salt- and freshwater species that eats shrimps, small fry and other small, grayish food items. The fly has caught sea trout, steelhead, salmon, bonefish, tarpon and a number of other species - and these are just the ones that I have direct knowledge of.


Not an imitation
According to the originator, the fly wasn't conceived as an imitation of anything special, but more like a generic, living thing. Access to hares - Magnus Ting Mortensen also hunts - and Plymouth Rock feathers - a friend raised chickens - dictated the two main ingredients of the fly: hare's wool and grizzly hackle. So a simple body hackled fly saw the day of light in the spring of '73.
The eyes add weight and a jigging motion to the fly, and red color over the eyes of the original was more like an ornament than a deliberate effect as such, but have become one of the hallmarks of the really classical version of the fly. The specimen that you see here, tied by Ken Bonde Larsen, just uses red tying thread to give the red accent on the fly. The original is smothered in red nail polish over the bead chain eyes and head.

The originator actually caught his first fly caught sea trout on the fly after having been skunked on the spinning gear by fish very close to the shore, which weren't tempted by the lures.

Red as a signature

1-2-4 hackles
As you will see in the tying steps, the fly shown here is just tied with one hackle, while the original used two: a body hackle and a front hackle. The length and nature of modern hackles makes this unnecessary. You simply start the hackle in the front of the fly behind the eyes, and take a few extra turns with the larger part of the feather to form a front hackle before doing the body hackle.
One reason for the two feathers of the original fly, might have been the use of two hackle tips for the tail. That left you with two feathers for hackling. We recommend using separate feathers for the tail and the hackle. Most necks have lots of small feathers, which are perfect for the tail on a fly like this. Having the full feather makes it a lot easier to position them correctly. Tie them in curving away from each other to form the Magnus' typical splayed tail.

If you want to paint the eyes, do it before you tie any hair or feathers on the fly. Simply tie the eyes on the hook, whip finish, cover with nail polish and let dry. Prepare a bunch, and when they are dry, tie on the rest of the materials. Magnus Ting Mortensen ties his eyes under the hook shank, but the fly is seen with the eyes on top of the hook just as often.

The popularity of the fly has led to numerous variations of which the Blood Nosed Magnus, The Polar Magnus and the Disco Magnus are probably the best known. The first variation is tied with a red front hackle and bright pearl dubbing, the second with a pink front hackle, while the last one uses a bit of blue flash in the body and a kingfisher blue front hackle. The fly color can be varied endlessly as you can imagine, and orange, white, olive and black versions have been seen regularly.

Materials and Hybridized Magnuis

TypeCold saltwater fly
Magnus Ting Mortensen
Year of origin
Target species
Brown trout
Sea trout (sea run)
Steelhead (sea run)

HookSaltwarer streamer, size 6-2
TailTwo small grizzly hackle feathers
RibOval silver tinsel
BodyHare mask or body wool
EyesBead Chain - optionally varnished red

Tying instructions
See images below

Step 1 - thread and weight - Add a few turns of weighted wire. Start the tying thread in the front of the hook.
Step 1 - thread and weight
Step 2- eyes - Tie in the eyes - over or under the hook shank according to taste.
Step 2- eyes
Step 3 - varnish - Secure the eyes with varnish or nail polish. Use red nail polish to follow the classic pattern, set aside to dry
Step 3 - varnish
Step 4 - tail - Tie in two small hackle feather as a tail. Set them side-by-side curving out.
Step 4 - tail
Step 5 - tail done - The tail tips should splay in opposite directions
Step 5 - tail done
Step 6 - rib - Cover the feather butts all the way to behind the eyes, trim and tie in the ribbing
Step 6 - rib
Step 7 - dubbing - Cover the rib all the way to the tail and wind the thread forward again. Add dubbing sparsely and start dubbing the body
Step 7 - dubbing
Step 8 - dubbing - Dub to the rear of the fly and back again in thin layers. Leave just enough space behind the eyes for tying in the hackle
Step 8 - dubbing
Step 9 - body done - Dubbing in thin layers makes it easy to make an even and tight body
Step 9 - body done
Step 10 - hackle - Tie in the hackle feather, butt first, shiny side forward just behind the eyes
Step 10 - hackle
Step 11 - hackle done - Take a couple of turns of hackle behind the eyes, and work it towards the rear of the fly in 4-5 open turns. Catch the tip with the rib.
Step 11 - hackle done
Step 12 - rib done - Tie down the rib right behind the eyes
Step 12 - rib done
Step 13 - trim rib - Clip the surplus rib and the tip of the body hackle, which sits to the rear of the fly
Step 13 - trim rib
Step 14 - whip finish - Whip finish in front of the eyes
Step 14 - whip finish
Step 15 - tease - Tease out the dubbing with a velcro stick
Step 15 - tease

Step 16 - varnish - Varnish the tying thread. Use a clear or red varnish depending on what was used over the eyes
Step 16 - varnish

Polar Magnus

The Magnus has been covered on GFF many times before. All these are really old, so forgive the quality of the pictures:

User comments
From: Dean Moody  Link
Submitted June 10th 2009

Wow thanks for this. I'm from BC and I just happened upon this pattern, it looked buggy so I tied a couple up. Sure glad that I did as the trout around here seem to really like it.

From: Pike · pike007·at·  Link
Submitted February 2nd 2009

Ken Bonde, thanks for your answer. I will test it during my trip to Denmark in March together with Partridge CS11.
I used to tied all similar flies on Kamasan hooks but they seems to me too heavy.

From: Ken Bonde Larsen · Flyfair·at·  Link
Submitted February 2nd 2009


The hook I used for Magnus and Grey Fred is Tiemco`s TMC 777SP - a very nice shaped hook, and very SHARP:-) But any other "medium-length" streamerhook might do the work..

Ken Bonde

From: Pike · pike007·at·  Link
Submitted February 1st 2009

Martin, would you be so kind and could you tell me the type (brand) of hook you use for this fly? I have noticed, the same type is used for Grey Frede too and I really like it.

Thanks a lot.

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted January 27th 2009


Never tried tying a Magnus with copper eyes. I used to paint the eyes on my Magnuses, but these days I use unpainted silver beads and even black thread. I have kind of hybridized it with the Grey Frede, but it's still one of my most productive patterns.

But I'm sure it would catch equally well with copper eyes.


From: Helge Juergensen · Loctite1·at·  Link
Submitted January 26th 2009

Dear Martin,
beautiful always beautiful I like these butter and bread fly. Did you try copper eyes as well??

best regards


Comment to an image
From: Ken Robson · Ken_Robson·at·  Link
Submitted April 4th 2012

Many thanks for yet another excellent article.I will tie these before my annual trip to East Jutland.Both your fly tieing and your website presentation are terrific.

GFF staff comment
Comment to an image
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted January 27th 2009


You can do as you please. It makes little difference. Some argue that the fly will turn over when the eyes are on top of the shank, but I honestly think it matters very little. Personally I like the eyes under the shank, but mostly for the look of the fly more than anything else.


Comment to an image
From: Mark Wood · mark·at·  Link
Submitted January 27th 2009

Is the bead chain eye tied in above or below the hook shank? The examples look like they are tied both ways. Great looking fly.

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