The first time I threw a fly fishing crab pattern at a fish, I got denied. And so was the case for the second, third and so on times. I lost a lot of borrowed and non-existent faith in crab patterns and really relied far more on Charlie and smaller Clouser patterns for my flats fishing.

There were so many different patterns. The Crab-Apple, Velcro crab, Merkin Crab, Epoxy Crab, Deer-Hair crab and the list went on and on. I tied many and fished few. They just never inspired the confidence that, in the heat of flats stalking, leads to many tie-ons and casts.

fly fishing crab pattern Ugly Crabs

Ugly Crab in the scissors!

It was only moving out to the Seychelles two years ago that I once again started to take crabs seriously – and more out of a personal experiment than any actual belief that I may catch fish on them.

“A merkin-style crab tied using the strands from an old mop was my first success”

A merkin-style crab tied using the strands from an old mop was my first success. I think it was a sucker of a bonefish that fell to this horrible creation, but it did. Time went on and my enthusiasm for crabs went tidal.
A Titan that couldn’t resist the Ugly Crab

It was the Farquhar trip (which I still need to post about) that I took the tying of crabs more seriously. Using a combination of traditional merkin crabs and adding on features inspired by several clever flyfishermen – including Jono Shales and Peter Coetzee – I had my pattern. At this point I should also suggest that much of the Ugly Crab’s success does come from the fact that its basic design is based on Del Brown’s famous Merkin Crab.

They didn’t look like the crabs in the mags but they landed bones, triggers, snappers and even a fat bluefin!

fly fishing crab pattern - ugly crab

The two Ugly Crab variations parking cheesy

The Ugly Crabs checked all the boxes I like to be checked when tying flies, namely:

  • Fairly easy to tie
  • It’s not too neat
  • Rides hook up, and
  • When most fishermen look at it, they laugh
  • And, as it turns out, it catches fish.

There are now two variations and I swear I’ll be hard pressed to ever tie any other fly fishing crab pattern again.

The Ugly Crab pattern

  • #6 – #1 SL12s  Gamikatsu
  • Thread: Light pink or orange.
  • Body: Any stiff synthetic hair material that can be tied merkin style
  • Mouth: Orange marabou
  • Eyes: 50lb mono with red beads (or get fancy and use epoxy and glitter)
  • Pincers: Combo tan marabou and natural zonker strips.
  • Legs: Either thin elastic bands or long silly legs (like proper long – check the pic)
  • Weight: Keel style tungsten beads… amount dependant on depth you fishing.

spangled emporer fly fishing crab pattern

Bohar Snapper fly fishing crab pattern