Published Nov 15. 2007

The Ugliest Flies

Commercial flies can be fairly good - sometimes. This bunch is about as bad as they come.

I have just received the ugliest flies I have ever seen in my life. And no, don't worry they weren't from a potential GFF contributor or a well meaning friend, but commercially tied. They just confirmed what I have always said: home tied flies are best.

”My God, you're ugly!”

These famous words are John Cleese's and are uttered with the deepest contempt in a scene in Fawlty Towers where he eyes a nurse when waking up in a hospital after yet another of those hilarious but painfully embarrassing incidents – this one involving some Germans.

The words ran into my mind when I first saw these flies. I received them as a small compensation for a delayed reel I have been trying to acquire. (Ordered and paid months ago, never heard a word, and the reel appears to not even having been ordered yet. But that's a whole other story).
The flies are packed in a small plastic box. Four of them, labeled Laxflugor (salmon flies in Swedish) with each pattern named in the bottom: Blue Charm, Thunder & Lightning, Jack Scott (sic!) and Silver Doctor. Apart from Jack most likely being Jock, the names are of salmon flies alright, and the flies do to some extent resemble salmon flies. But just barely. And if you were to accept the fact that these flies were actually the salmon flies whose names are printed on the cardboard, the manufacturers have switched a couple of them around - just to kick you off balance again.

The precise words

Basil Fawlty: My God, you're ugly, aren't you?
Nurse: I'll... I'll get the doctor.
Basil Fawlty: It's a plastic surgeon you need, not a doctor.

Source: IMDB

Sowing thread

Each fly is a hair wing fly tied on a double hook. Salmon hooks were often referred to as “irons” back when such flies were full dressed, and these hooks are indeed irons. Huge eyes and heavy wire. Now, don't get me wrong. I like heavy hooks, and a fly tied on a heavy double hook can be a beauty, but not in this case. The hooks look clumsy and cheap.
That might of course be because the flies are extremely badly tied and very clumsy in all respects.
I will only just mention a few of their flaws, and let you judge the rest from the pictures.
The thread used is what appears to be sowing thread. Very rough and thick. As most fly tiers know that leads to thick bodied flies with large heads, which is exactly what we have here. And to make it worse the heads aren't varnished, so two of them have already started to unravel, and they are all bound to fall apart before even touching water.

My God, your're ugly! - It takes a 5-year old to make a head this bad.
Salmon flies... hardly - These flies will never ever wind up on my tippet
An alternative tag - This is one of the worst tags I have ever seen, helplessly spun around both hook bends - on a hook, which you can clearly see is very asymmetrical
About the ugliest flies I have seen.


The hair used for the flies is crude and curly, uneven and either broken or maybe even trimmed on one of the flies. The colors may have some resemblance with the colors from the original patterns, but not enough for it to shine through.
The bodies are worse and tags and tails are so oddly tied and positioned, that it's obvious that no one who ever saw a well (or just correctly) tied fly were involved in the process here. Nothing is symmetrical, in line or even correctly placed. One tinsel tag goes in between the two legs of the double hook, just to mention one oddity.
I have seen quite a few commercially tied flies in my times. Only very few are beautiful, a few more are just well tied but most are plain ordinary bordering on the ugly or clumsy. But none I have seen even get close to these. They take the prize.


I checked out these flies a bit closer, and the package is about 8 Euros or some 10 US$. This must be considered pure robbery! I will give each of these flies a lifespan of about 5-10 minutes on a two hand rod before the heads come unravelled - the two that aren't already, that is. After that the flies will probably just disintegrate. I wouldn't even strip off the materials and use the hooks. I can get about 8-12 good double hooks for that price.


These flies have once again confirmed why I tie my own flies: to get a good quality. I do not demand display quality flies, and God knows that most of my own flies are uneven and sometimes a bit out of proportion. I have never tied a full dressed salmon fly and small dry flies is also one of my weak spots. But I at least try to use the right materials, the right patterns and the right tying methods. And I try to finish my flies properly so that they can endure a little fishing.
Most home made flies I see are like that. Many are better and a few are world class. But all are orders of a magnitude better than these four salmon flies, which would go into my cabinet of horrors – if I had one.



Could it be that the world of modern art has finally reached the world of fly tying? These flies would hardly fall in the category of impressionist. The quality is certainly the most distressing trait, for while they might catch a fish (singular), it would have to be done quickly before they came apart.


at first glance i did beleive these flies to be a bit intriguing, ( may be my bad taste or the artist in me) after further inspection they do seee a bit hastily made and crude. (kinda like an oil painting) you gotta give them about fifteen feet to see the beauty, ha ha!!!

Opps - now that I'm on the home page I see where the Blue Charm fly came from.
I think the flies and names are correct, just not properly labeled.
Clockwise from then top left.
Jock Scott/Blue Charm/Silver Doctor/ Thunder & Lightning
All the best

Dear Martin, in fact fishes are most important ,even i you put them to the water.Most important is biting and draging. We still hunters. Best wishes

Fladen is know for the bad quality on all of the stuff they sell, but those flyes cost approximately 4 Euros here in Sweden, but regardless of the price i can't recommend anything from Fladen. Believe me, I worked at a place that sold Fladen and nothing worked as i should. needless to say that we didn't sell much :D

My buddy tied his first fly after consuming multiple beers in Alaska. A fugly orange wooly bugger bead chain eyed knot of fur and tinsel. He casted the fly one time and landed a 5 lb char. The fly now is inside the frame of a large fishing print with a brass plate inscribed: "One cast, one catch!" Spoken like a true Marine who used to go ugly early.

im just 14 years old and i come from Norway.
i got very interested in fly's.
hawe som of you some names on som flyes i could make ?

Been tying crappy looking flies for years! I guess I really have something! All kidding aside, I actually take a piece of Velcro and rub it against any fly that i'm about to use just to rough it up a bit -guaranteed 50% more hits and landed fish. I've always found that the flies that resemble what it is that they are supposed to imitate work much better than flies which look exactly like what they're imitating.
Cheers- Keep it up!

I laughed when I saw this page. Years ago a friend and I were tying what we called "Hammered Mess" flies - ones intended to be as ugly as possible and still be recognizeable. We concluded that you had to actually be a good tier to make them as bad as we did, because you had to know every mistake and intentionally make them. What a treat to see something similar years later online!

I've tied some ugly flies before. wow those are in an exeptional class ! your rite all they look good for is the hooks !!!!!!!!!!

these will catch a nice fish within a few casts on the right river so give it a try but you won't catch me fishin like that!

i have to agree these flies remind me of when i started tying them myself. but as my wife says, a fish don't know from ugly. as long as it works who are we to judge. we are trying to catch the fish not impress them with our tying ability.

Runarsson's picture

They would probably catch a fish... but considering the choice of thread, the odds of it coming up to two or even three seems poor.

Very nice article. Certainly nicer than those flies...

Martin Joergensen's picture


I actually never reach for the chewed up fly!

I tie the flies as they are supposed to look. If it's supposed to look chewed up, I tie it chewed up. Velcro and brushes can do that. I cannot expect fish to finish the job for me - what if I don't catch any? Then my fly will keep on looking new and inedible.
And I always prefer a newly and neatly tied fly the the one that's badly tied or banged up.

But that might just be me...


Rough they may be, will they catch fish? Certainly! Will they win awards for the tyer? NO way! How often do you reach for the fly that has been chewed up by many fish as you know it catches fish? I like nice clean lines on my flies too, but the fish arent trying to catch us on those flies, its the other way about.

My (late) grandfather had a friend who chewed on his (I am assuming wet) flies before using them. He swore by it, and he caught a lot of fish.

Martin Joergensen's picture

Tom and others,

I'm sure these flies could catch fish. I have seen fish caught on the strangest contraptions... even made a couple myself. One of my favorites is from the spinning world where an angler pulled his line through a carrot and tied a hook to it. He caught trout on that!

But these flies are so poorly made that I'm almost sure they would fall (more) apart within a few casts. Plus they're not nice to look at. The fish may not care, but I do.


Hi Martin:
I had to laugh when I read your article. You're right, of course.
However, under the right circumstances a salmon might actually take a nibble at one of these monsters.
I think that Lee Wulff in one of his articles wrote about some flies that his son had tied. They appeared to be rather crude in Wulff's eyes. Yet, they caught fish.
You never know !
Anyhow, thanks for this hilarious article.

Although they are hooks, they are pretty Pointless!

eh gads, it certainly would make a fellow think twice about a mail order bride.

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