Ok, I get it...
The last thing you want to do is get to a beautiful trout stream 2 hrs away from civilization only to find that you brought the wrong flies.
You'd never forgive yourself if you were sitting there without a bite while your buddies are high-fiving each other pulling in dozens of native cutthroat trout.
That's why I'm so stoked to share with you the 10 flies you need to have on hand to cover all the bases next time you hit the water.
Trout can be tricky...
So, it's best to come prepared when you're ready to dance with them.
No matter your level of skill, these flies can help you make the most of your fishing trips.
Let's dive into the 10 best trout flies you should always have on hand when going after trout.
10 Best Trout Flies
Best Dry Flies for Trout
Elk Hair Caddis
Have you ever thrown a beautiful dry fly into choppy water only to have to pull the sinking sloppy mess out like a Baywatch lifeguard because it just couldn’t hang?
I’ve been there and it’s annoying.
You’ve gotta take it out, dry it off like a wet puppy, add some floatant to it, and by that time the sun is going down and it’s too dark to fish.
No thank you!
That’s where the next fly comes into play.
It’s called the Elk Hair Caddis and it’s a BOSS at staying on top of the water and dry as a bone.
And it catches a lot of fish!
Anglers have successfully used this fly to catch all kinds of species of fish, but trout are some of the most eager to chomp down on these hairy wonders.
Even though from the top of the water this fly looks like an alien creature…
From below, it looks just like a caddis perched on top of the water.
To fish the elk hair caddis, use a standard dry fly presentation.
Target fast water seams, or slow pools adjacent to faster water to really see it in its element.
Try targeting spots near lots of vegetation, below overhanging trees, or next to overgrown banks.
The Griffith's Gnat was created by George Griffith, one of the co-founders of Trout Unlimited.
Not only was he a passionate angler, but he was also a lifelong conservationist.
He played a vital role in uniting the angling community around the common purpose of taking care of wild and native trout and salmon.
I've found the Griffith's Gnat to be a versatile fly that can imitate a midge cluster of mating flies or an adult single midge.
It works well as a second fly behind another dry in a dropper rig and I've found that the fish seem to like it in slower, flat water and riding low in the foam.
Next time you're out on the water and your go-to flies just aren't working, give the Griffith's Gnat a try.
If you asked most guides what their “desert island” dry fly would be, the Parachute Adams would be at the top of the list.
It was developed by Leonard Halladay in the 1920s, but it wasn't until the 1960s that it gained a following with fly fishers.
The fly's unique design, featuring a white hackle and a white wing, mimics the appearance of a wide range of insects and can be used in a variety of fishing conditions.
When fishing with a Parachute Adams, it's important to pay attention to the natural insects in the area you are fishing.
Match the color and size of the fly to the insects you see, and be sure to fish it at the same level as the natural insects.
Another tip is to fish the fly with a slow, steady retrieve.
This mimics the natural movement of an insect and can be more effective than a fast retrieve.
Finally, don't be afraid to experiment with different fishing techniques.
The Parachute Adams can be fished with a dry fly technique, as well as a wet fly technique, and even a nymphing technique.
It’s no secret that this fly catches a boatload of fish.
Make sure to always have one close by when fish start rising.
Ok, the next fly I’m going to cover is a chunky monkey that doesn’t really look like anything in particular…
But absolutely slays fish!
The Royal Wulff!
This fly was created by Lee Wulff in the 1930s.
The Royal Wulff was one of his most successful creations, and it quickly became a staple in the fly fishing community.
It’s unique because it has a combination of both deer hair and calf tail for the body, and a wing made of calf tail.
This combination of materials creates a fly that sits high in the water and mimics the natural movement of an insect.
This makes it irresistible to fish, especially trout.
So, when is the best time to use the Royal Wulff?
This fly is best used in the late spring and early summer when the fish are actively feeding on insects.
It's also great to use during a hatch, when the fish are rising to the surface to feed.
The Royal Wulff is versatile and can be fished in both still water and moving water, making it a great option for any angler.
Use the Royal Wulff between hatches and when there’s no activity on the water.
It is the perfect searching fly.
Have you ever eaten an ant?
They’re actually pretty tasty if prepared correctly.
Did you know that many Michelin star quality restaurants actually use them as a citrusy taste on top of certain plates of food?
Maybe that’s why trout like them so much!
Today, we’re going to talk a bit about the good ole’ Black Ant fly and why you need to be using this bad boy.
But before we dive into when and how to use this fly, let's take a step back and explore its backstory.
The Black Ant Fly, also known as the "Black Ant Imitation," was first created in the 1940s by a man named Vince Marinaro.
Marinaro was an avid fly fisherman and noticed that black ants were a common food source for trout in the streams he fished.
He decided to replicate this food source by creating a fly that mimicked the look and movement of a black ant.
And man, oh man, did it work...
The black ant fly is particularly effective during the summer months when ants are active and present in the streams and rivers.
It's also a great fly to use during a hatch of flying ants.
Trout and other fish will often key in on flying ants as a food source, making the black ant fly a top choice for anglers during these times.
When fishing with a black ant fly, it's important to remember that the key is in the presentation.
The fly should be cast upstream and allowed to drift naturally with the current.
As the fly drifts towards you, give it small twitches to mimic the movement of an actual ant.
This will often trigger a strike from a fish.
It's also important to note that the black ant fly can be used in both still water and moving water environments.
Whether you're fishing a lake or a stream, the black ant fly is sure to be a go-to fly in your box.
BWO (Blue Wing Olive)
If you asked a group of dry fly fishermen what their favorite dry was, you’d probably get a LOT of folks telling you about BWOs.
It’s known for its effectiveness in closely mimicking natural mayflies that trout love to snack on.
On top of that, the fact that its hatch is active in a wide range of temperature and weather conditions doesn’t hurt its case either.
BWO's are most active during the warmer parts of the day and in bad weather, and are most successful in alkaline waters with vegetation or shallow gravel runs.
When fishing a BWO dry fly, focus on slower moving water and fish it similar to how you would a Caddis or Adams.
The fish are likely going to be hiding in the slower pockets or eddies anyways.
The strike is likely to happen within the first few seconds of the fly being on the water, so don’t take your eyes off the prize.
This is one of the first flies I’d tie on if I was hiking up into a remote creek up in the mountains.
Those ravenous brook trout seem to love these things!
Best Wet Flies for Trout
If you’ve ever been out on the water and seen a cloud of mosquito-like insects that don’t seem interested in biting you, you likely saw a swarm of midges.
These non-biters make up a large percentage of a trout’s diet.
What’s cool about these things is that they are both found almost everywhere and they hatch all year round.
You might be skeptical about using these tiny little flies to fish for big honkin’ trout, but you shouldn’t be.
They absolutely crush it from anything from a brookie the size of your finger to a monster rainbow as long as your arm.
The Zebra Midge is designed primarily to imitate a midge pupa ascending to the surface to emerge.
That means when you see fish feeding close to the surface, you better pull this out of your box and tie it on.
There are numerous ways to fish a zebra midge, but I prefer one of two ways.
Both use an indicator with a two-fly rig.
Way one is with a dry fly on top and the Zebra Midge on the bottom.
The second way is with either a Pat’s Rubber Legs or something like a an egg fly with split shot that sits lower in the water column above the Zebra Midge.
Of course this is all going to change depending on what the fish are feeding on, but these are just a couple of suggestions for you to test out.
This is one of the first flies I often reach for when nymphing and it works incredibly well.
Don’t let the small size fool ya!
Pheasant Tail Nymph
The Pheasant Tail is, without a doubt, the best may fly nymph imitation ever designed.
It’s made to sink fast while looking as tasty as can be to an upstream trout.
Want to know the secret to catching a boatload of trout with this fly?
It’s all about the “lift.”
The way to get those trout into a frenzy is to add a slight “lift” to the fly as soon as it’s positioned a few inches in front of or beside them.
This method mimics the upward movement of an actual natural nymph rising to the surface and is a surefire way to get a tug on your line.
And how do you know if you’ve got a tug on the line if you have line out?
Use an indicator.
One of the most tried and true methods I’ve found to use a Pheasant Tail is to fish it about 3.5 feet behind a dry fly (to be used as an indicator).
If you’ve ever followed Yvon Chouinard, the CEO of Patagonia, you’ve likely heard him talk about fly fishing.
He’s been doing it his whole life and is a pretty accomplished angler.
Well, the reason I’m mentioning Yvonn is that a year or two ago, he decided to fish with only ONE fly the entire year.
Wanna guess what that fly was?
The Pheasant Tail Nymph!
He caught everything from rainbows, to steelhead, and even bonefish in the salt flats!
This fly is really an almost perfect fly for most situations.
Pat’s Rubber Legs
Ok, this next fly may look like a pipe cleaner with legs to the untrained eye, but to trout, it's a big, delicious meal floating down the river.
The rubber legs on this fly flail and jump, mimicking the movement of a displaced nymph trying to get back to the riverbed.
This action drives fish wild, making it one of the best trout flies in your arsenal.
Pat's Rubber Legs is particularly effective on freestone rivers.
However, don't be afraid to use it on tail waters as well, particularly in sections where crawfish are present.
To fish with this fly, try using it as a deep nymph off a strike indicator or drop it 1-2 feet off an attractor dry fly and fish it close to the bank when stoneflies are present.
Some guides even recommend using Pat's Rubber Legs as an anchor fly or in a 2-fly rig, with a zebra midge dropped off of it for your second fly.
Many anglers have a love-hate relationship with this fly, as it doesn't imitate any bug in the wild…
But you better believe they have some in their fly box and use it when the it’s the right option.
Don’t show up to the river without one of these in your box.
This stonefly imitation looks funky, but catches loads of fish!
Best Streamer Fly Pattern
If you’ve spent any time researching flies, you’ve probably come across this one.
The infamous Woolly Bugger!
This is one of the best flies for rainbow trout you'll find.
It’s one that should always be within arms reach and a fly you’ll likely find in any angler’s box if they’re worth their salt.
There are two main versions of this fly.
Weighted and non-weighted.
The weighted version is ideal for getting your fly down deeper in the water to reach those big hiding fish.
You would use the non-weighted version if you needed a bit more finesse or if fish are biting on emergers.
Emergers are aquatic insects that are transitioning from their subsurface lives to one brief adventure above the river.
So, how do you fish a Woolly Bugger?
Honestly, almost any way you can think of.
Here are some of the most popular:
As a Baitfish - Use the Woolly Bugger as a streamer. Use a stop-and-go retrieve to give the fly the darting motion of a nervous baitfish.
As a Nymph - Dead drift your smaller Buggers to get that “hellgrammite” vibe Russell Blessing was going for when he created this rad fly.
As a Crayfish - When crayfish aren’t being threatened, they crawl along very slowly. When threatened, they may rapidly scoot several yards to escape. Don’t be afraid to mix in both slow and steady retrieves and long, fast strips.
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What Fishing Flies Should You Use?
When selecting trout flies, some of the most important factors to consider include color, size, and texture.
Understanding what colors and sizes work best helps you narrow down your selection when selecting your flies.
Knowing which colors attract trout and how to present them correctly will make it easier to catch these feisty fish.
In addition to traditional dry and wet flies, there are many other types of flies that are proven trout magnets.
Streamers are effectively used by anglers because they imitate a wounded baitfish that is often believed by trout to be an easy meal.
Other presentations such as nymphs and emergers also work well on selective trout that have learned to recognize other more noticeable patterns.
Experimenting with different forms can yield excellent benefits when fly fishing for these wary targets!
How do You Fly Fish These Best Trout Flies?
Knowing the best flies for trout fishing is essential for any beginner angler looking to catch their first fish.
Different types of flies work better in different conditions and are made from various materials, so it's important to understand which fly is most effective in each situation.
Using dry flies is a popular method of trout fishing.
A dry fly pattern imitates an adult insect, so the trout bite reluctantly as they expect food not just a toy.
Dry flies are often lightly weighted and made from synthetic materials such as elk hair or deer hair, dubbed fur, and deer or elk hide with multiple hackles on them.
It pays to know about each type of fly stockings so you choose one more appropriate for your location's preferred habitat type, insect life-cycles, temperature levels, and season.
Once you have chosen your favorite pattern, keep in mind what size will be necessary to effectively match local insect activity by keeping an eye on the fish's feeding habits and choosing accordingly.
Doing so makes it easy to select which size flies will produce optimal results on any given day.
What Bugs Represent The Best Flies for Trout Fishing?
With the vast amount of fly options available, it can be overwhelming when deciding which types to choose for trout fishing.
That’s why it’s important to understand the bugs that your flies are designed to represent, so you know what type of flies work best in different waters and types of trout.
When selecting essential trout flies, you should examine not only their size and color but also how they mimic the bugs trout feed on.
Insects such as midges, mayflies, and caddisflies are commonly present in streams and rivers, so targeting these species with specific imitations ensures that your presentation is as realistic as possible – convincing a wary or finicky trout to strike at a bait.
Experienced fly anglers typically have multiple rods rigged up with various patterns based on what they may encounter on any given day when out fishing.
For those looking to land a ton of rainbow, brook, tiger, or brown trout, you should research what type of insects inhabit their natural environment before selecting specific patterns for your trip.
By understanding which bugs the fish feed on most often, you will be better prepared when selecting the appropriate flies on your next trip to the river.