The first time I threw a 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 fly patterns and really relied far more on Charlie and smaller Clouser patterns for my flats fishing.

There were so many different crab fly 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.

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.

Merkin crab fly

The first success I had was on a merkin-style crab tied using the strands from an old mop. 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 can only be described as 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!

The two Ugly Crab variations parking cheesy

And they checked all the boxes I like to be checked when tying flies.


  • Fairly easy to tie
  • It’s not too neat
  • Rides hook up, and
  • When most fishers 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 crab pattern again.

The crab fly 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.

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