In the modern era of overly complex, match-the-hatch fly patterns, adding a few simple, traditional flies to your fly box can be effective weapons in your fly-fishing arsenal.
Gray Ugly = Versatile and Effective
The Gray Ugly is a vintage fly that surpasses many of its modern-day brethren in its amazing ability to catch trout. An oldie but a goodie, I was first introduced to this pattern in the late 1970s by my grandfather who spent most of his life trout fishing in Colorado and Montana. The Gray Ugly was one of his favorite patterns because of its versatility and effectiveness. Over the years, I also saw my dad and uncle use this fly with great success, catching everything from small brook trout at Monarch Lake to bruiser brown trout at North Delaney Buttes.
The fly works especially well with a fly-and-bubble rig and a spinning rod, which is how my grandfather, dad and uncle fished this pattern. For fly-fishing purists, the Gray Ugly also performs just fine at the end of a 5-weight fly rod, fished either wet or dry.
Similar in design to the famous brown-and-white Renegade, the Grey Ugly’s anatomy of two grizzly hackles (front and rear) and peacock-herl body are an irresistible combination for trout. Tied in smaller sizes (#14-#18), the fly effectively imitates a cluster of midges. In larger sizes (#8-#12), the fly’s simple but “buggy” appearance makes it a superb all-around attractor pattern that tempts even the most finicky fish in stillwaters and rivers alike. The Gray Ugly is often my go-to fly on days when nothing else works or when I want to apply the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle to fly fishing.
The Gray Ugly can be difficult to find at local retailers, which is another excellent reason to tie your own flies — if you’re not doing so already. Fortunately, some online stores sell the Gray Ugly, Grey Ugly or a similar pattern called the “Mr. QT” (I’m pretty sure this isn’t a reference to 1980s actor “Mr. T,” however, I do pity the fool who doesn’t have at least one Mr. QT in his fly box).
No matter what you choose to call it, this “ugly” fly performs just beautifully on most Colorado waters and should be included in your fly box on your next outing.
How to Tie a Gray Ugly Fly Pattern
This time-lapse video shows how to tie this simple but effective old-school pattern.
Story and video by Jerry Neal. Neal is the editor for Colorado Outdoors Online and is a media specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He is also a fan of Mr. T, tying flies and trout fishing.
The renegade is one of my all time favorite flies along with another couple old school flies, Hornberg and Fravels Fancy!
Thanks for your comment. The Hornberg is anther excellent vintage pattern. It works great fished after dark.
In high mountain lakes, you only need gray hackle peacocks and deer/elk hair caddis.
Might want to try orange thread for the head it’s a great attractor,drives the trout crazy! !
My dad and uncles used this fly to catch monster fish from Lake Dillon. I am so glad to see the recipe so I can fish the same fly my dad did while I was a kid.
Ed, Thanks for your comment. As you saw in my article, this fly was a favorite of my dad and grandfather. It looks like we have the same tradition. Good luck to you on your next fishing outing.