Whether you're angling in Grayling, MI, sitting by the Frying Pan River, CO, or taking a trip to Redding, CA, you'll want to ensure you have the best trout flies if you're going to catch a big haul. With this ultimate list of the top 20 trout flies for Fall, you'll know exactly which flies to use to boost your catch.
What Flies Do You Need for Trout Fly Fishing in the Fall?
It might sound like fly fishing 101 but having the right selection of flies is critical to your success on the water. When you’re trout fishing the Fall in the U.S., you’ll want to choose flies that mimic insects and species which are naturally present during this time of year.
However, choosing the right selection of flies for trout fishing in the water doesn't stop there. You'll also need to decide whether to use:
- Emergers & Dry Flies
- A mix of all three
Some fly fishers use mainly one type of fly, but it's far more common to use a combination. By stocking your fly fishing flies assortment box with a mixture of nymphs, emergers, and streamers, you can ensure you always have a great selection of flies on hand when you're waiting for trout to pounce.
As any keen angler knows, there are endless flies' variations, so finding the best ones isn't always easy. From Zebra Midges and Lightning Bugs to PMD Spinners and Slump Busters, you'll need to know what makes the perfect fly for trout fishing in the Fall if you want to increase your catch.
When it comes to fly fishing, there's some essential equipment you'll need. You won't get far without a rod, reel, and line, for example! However, nothing is more critical than the flies you choose to use. By choosing flies that imitate natural prey throughout the Fall, you can tempt dozens of trout on to your hook.
Fortunately, our handy guide to the 20 Top Trout Flies for Fall makes it easy to find precisely what you need. No matter where you're going to fish – stream, river, reservoir, or freshwater – our essential guide will tell you everything you need to know about the top trout flies to use.
When trout are staying close to the riverbed, you’ll want to try nymphing so that you can attract them at lower depths. As well as rigging your nymph so that it’s the perfect height, you’ll need to ensure that you’re using the best flies for nymphing. For catching trout in the Fall, these include:
1. Flashback Pheasant Tail
The Flashback Pheasant Tail nymph is a deviation of the familiar Sawyer's Pheasant Tail. It's excellent for creating strong air bubbles. Many experienced fly fishers think that this particular fly is excellent at mimicking the mayfly's natural hatching process due to this very fact. It's smart to use a darker variant of the Flashback Pheasant at this time of year, which will better mimic the natural color of the insects during the fall season.
2. Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear
The Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear is a classic nymph fly that you’ll see experienced anglers using throughout Fall. It’s been around since the 1800s, which should give you an indication of just how good it is!
The glinting gold bead head will attract trout, while the Hare's Ear acts as the main bait. Mimicking a generic mayfly, it's perfect for fishing from September right through to November, when mayflies naturally hatch. However, one of the main benefits of this nymph is its versatility. Depending on how it's tied, you can mimic several natural nymphs, which means it's almost guaranteed to get trout on your hook.
3. Glo Bug Red Dot
Since eggs make up a significant part of a trout's diet in the Fall months from September to November, they're an ideal solution for trout fishing at the moment. The Glo Bug Red Dot is very popular with fly fishers due to its signature feature - the eponymous red blood dot that drives fish crazy and almost ensures you'll get a strike. It's available in a range of colors, but if you want to catch the most trout this Fall, go for white/cream/yellow shades for best results.
4. Zebra Midge
The Zebra Midge fly is an excellent trout fly to have in your armory, particularly if you're going to be trout fishing in the Fall. Depending on how you tie it, you can use a Zebra Midge fly to mimic either the midge pupa or larva, which means it's perfect for use throughout the entire season. In addition to this, the beaded head adds weight to the fly and allows it to drop quickly. This means it's ideal for nymphing, and you'll have no problems reaching trout at lower depths when you use this classic fly.
5. Rainbow Warrior
When trout's Fall and Winter diet consists mainly of midges, it makes sense to have a full complement of midge flies on hand. Lance Egan first tried the Rainbow Warrior, but it's been used the world over since then. Widely recognized as one of the best flies to use for trout fishing in the Fall, it's almost irresistible to the fish. Consisting of a shiny silver bead, red thread, and a pearl body, you'll be amazed at how many fish you can hook when you have these handy Rainbow Warriors in your fly fishing flies assortment.
6. Lightning Bug
If you've spent a few hours on the water without so much as a bite, it's time to bring out the big guns. The Lightning Bug is one of the best fly fishing flies for trout, particularly if you're having trouble attracting the fish. Many savvy fly fishers use the Lightning Bug fly because it mimics the mayfly. Mayfly typically hatch between September to late November in the U.S., so it should be a staple Fall fly. However, the Lightning Bug can represent several different natural nymphs, so it's good to fall back on one if you aren't sure what's hatching.
7. Sparkle Worm
The Sparkle Worm never fails to catch the attention of trout, so you'll want to make sure your fly box is well stocked with them. With excellent movement, it mimics the natural pattern of a worm, while the colors you use will ensure the trout are alerted to its presence. Use red Sparkle Worms from mid-September to mid-November, and you'll be impressed with your success rate.
8. Prince Nymph
The Prince Nymph is a must-have fly for trout fishing, particularly in the Fall in the U.S. It mimics both the caddis and mayfly, both of which are hatching at this time of year. Often used as a stonefly imitator in fast water, fish will gobble them up without a second thought. Whether you’re heading to your favorite fishing spot or trying out a new location, you’ll want to have multiple Prince Nymph flies in your fly box to ensure your time on the water is a success.
9. Nuke Egg
If you're new to fly fishing, you might not have come across the Nuke Egg fly just yet. It's generally considered one of the more advanced flies, but don't let this put you off using it. From mid-September to mid-November, when eggs are hatching, it's one of the best flies to use for trout fishing.
Using a Nuke Egg nymph at this time of year is always a good bet, mainly because brookies, whitefish, and spawning browns are hatching around now. The Nuke Egg fly is slightly different from other egg nymphs in that it has a veil of Egg Yarn encompassing the Egg itself. In nature, connective tissue holds the eggs together in a clump, and this Egg Yarm mimics it perfectly.
Once in place, the veil gives the fly an almost translucent appearance, which is why it stands out from other egg flies. However, don't forget that the colors you use are significant. Reds are famous for trout in the Fall, so look out for dusky pinks, chartreuse, and apricots.
Emergers can be both dry and wet flies, depending on how they’re used. Dry fly emerger patterns are used atop the water, while wet fly emergers are closer to standard nymph patterns. Emergers are a critical tool for any fly fisher because they imitate a range of insects as they’re emerging. Crucially, many dry fly emergers mimic mayfly, caddis, and midges, which makes them perfect for trout fishing in the Fall.
When you use a dry fly emerger, you want to mimic the insect as it's hatching for the first time. During this critical phase, the prey is most vulnerable, which is why they attract so many fish. By tempting the trout to the surface of the water, emergers can make the difference between a good day on the water and a great day!
10. Hare’s Ear
If you've had success with the Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear as a nymph fly, then you'll undoubtedly want to use the Guide's Choice Hare's Ear as a dry fly emerger pattern. You can fish this fly on the swing, and it will mimic a generic emerging insect pattern. This is ideal for Fall when midges, mayflies, caddis, eggs, and worms are beginning to hatch. Due to its ability to mimic so many generic emerging patterns, you can use the Guide's Choice Hare's Ear almost anywhere, which is why it should be a staple in every fly fishing flies assortment.
11. RS-2 Emerger
Developed by well-known fly fisher Rim Chung, the RS-2 Emerger is a fantastic addition to any fly box. Building upon the original RS-1 Emerger, the RS-2 features an emerging wing instead of a wing case. This typically attracts more fish and mimics an insect's emergence more accurately, which is precisely what you want.
Depending on the colors and ties you use, the RS-2 Emerger can mimic various insects. When used as standard, it's perfect as a faux mayfly, making it brilliant for trout fishing in the Fall. With a little adjustment, however, you can combine the RS-2 Emerger to mimic midge pupae too. As midges are hatching throughout the year in the U.S., you can rely on them to attract trout even in the colder Fall and Winter months.
12. Baetis Dun
Blue Winged Olive (BWO) mayflies are prevalent throughout Fall, and they're a top choice for trout, which is why the Baetis Dun fly is an excellent choice at this time of year. You'll want to try various sizes and colors if you're keen to mimic different types of mayflies, but, if in doubt, copying the BWO is an excellent tactic to use.
13. Spotlight Caddis Emerger
Trout find it practically impossible to ignore the Spotlight Caddis Emerger simply because it's so effective at mimicking its natural variant. As a dry emerger, it will sit gently atop the water, waiting for its prey to pounce. However, the butt end remains slightly submerged in the water, which makes it easier for trout to pinpoint their location. When the fly looks as though it's struggling to break through the surface, it becomes even more attractive prey, which is one of the reasons why the Spotlight Caddis Emerger is a must-have fly for any serious fly fisher.
Although Spotlight Caddis Emergers are great to use in September and October, they won’t perform particularly well from November onwards. As the caddis hatching season comes to an end at the start of November, you’ll want to kick off your Fall trout fishing with these gems tied in olive, black, or tan for the best results.
14. CDC Midge Emerger
Experienced fly fishers always have CDC Midge Emergers on hand, which tells you everything you need to know about how effective they are. At first glance, the CDC Midge Emerger is easy to miss. Small and seemingly simple, the devil is in the detail when it comes to this fly. The CDC soft hackle will give the fly movement and the air bubbles it traps do an excellent job of mimicking an emerging midge pupa. What's more, the CDC Midge Emerger is naturally buoyant so that it will sit nicely on the surface of the water without extra help from an artificial floatant. Used on streams, reservoirs, rivers, dams, and still water, the CDC Midge is essential when looking for fly fishing flies for trout.
The Pale Morning Dun is popular with trout at all stages, from nymphs and emergers to duns and spinners. A PMD Spinner fly imitates the egg-laying adults, which means you can capture trout, which will only feed when spinners 'fall' towards the water.
With transparent, opaque wings that lie on the surface of the water, a PMD Spinner will mimic an adult mayfly perfectly. In doing so, it presents the perfect opportunity for trout to go after their main Fall prey. While trout may find them easy to see on the water, many anglers find it hard to follow PMD Spinners when they're lying on the surface. If this is a problem, you can modify your PMD Spinner with brighter colors so that it's easy to keep track of. You won't need to do this with any luck as they'll be trout on your hook to alert you to its location!
16. Barr Emerger
Comprised of dubbing and feathers, Barr Emergers are a firm favorite with fly fishers. Although emergers tend to be used just below the water’s surface, a well-tied Barr Emerger will work well at most depths, which makes them utterly versatile.
A mixture of iron-grey thread, brown spade hackle, and olive-brown dubbing is ideal if you want to imitate the Blue Wing Olive (BWO), but there are plenty of color combinations to explore. No matter which colors you go for, make sure you have Barr Emergers in your fly fishing flies assortment!
A streamer fly tends to be bigger than either a nymph or an emerger fly. Used to imitate larger species, like baitfish, crayfish, and bigger aquatic insects, they can help you land the water's biggest trout. When trout are feeding more during Fall and Winter, they're more likely to feed on larger species, which makes streamers a popular fly choice during this time of year.
17. Muddler Minnow
There are numerous variations of the Muddle Minnow fly, but they all share one common feature: the clipped deer hair head. This adds buoyancy to the fly and allows it to be used at all levels while keeping it off the bottom of the lake, river, or stream.
When you strip a Muddler Minnow across the ripples of the water, it can attract trout in plentiful bounties. As Winter approaches, trout tend to become more carnivorous, allowing them to build up strength. That's why so many fly fishers used Muddle Minnow flies throughout Fall and why it should be a definite feature in your fly fishing flies assortment.
18. Muddy Buddy
The Muddy Buddy fly is excellent for trout fishing, but it's also suitable for use in warmer waters if you're bass fishing. Exceptional movement means the Muddy Buddy always attracts attention when it's in the water. Combining the benefits of the Muddler and the Zonker, it's a great option if you want to catch big fish without waiting for hours.
Created by John Barr, the Slumpbuster is the perfect fly to use when you're waiting around for a bite and haven't had much success. It will get you out of that slump (hence the name) and ensure your day on the water isn't wasted.
The Slumpbuster is more heavily weighted at the front end, which helps create natural movement when it's in the water. Olive, black, and rusty brown colors are perfect for trout fishing in the Fall. Adjust the speed and cadence when you retrieve, and you'll find that both slow, long strips and fast, erratic movements are equally enticing to trout when you're using a Slumpbuster fly.
20. Woolly Bugger
You'll find plenty of variations of the infamous Woolly Bugger fly as you gain more angling experience, so don't be afraid to try something new. You'll discover Woolly Bugger flies with and without beads, but the addition of a bead or nugget is typically a good idea for trout fishing in the Fall. When fish are lying deep, you'll want extra weight to help your streamer reach a good depth.
One of the reasons the Woolly Bugger is known as one of the best fly fishing flies for trout is its versatility. The pulsating motion it displays in the water allows it to mimic any species, including large nymphs, drowning insects, baitfish, and even crayfish. They're the perfect fly for catching predatory trout in fresh or still waters with a mixture of sizes and colors.
Choosing the Best Combination of Flies for Fall Fly Fishing for Trout
As you can see, there are plenty of options when it comes to flies for trout fishing in the Fall. It would be impossible to list all of the variations and combinations you can use. However, these top 20 trout flies for Fall fly fishing make it easy to find a great assortment of flies for a day on the water.
If you're not yet ready to tie your flies or you want to avoid the hassle, you'll find that our comprehensive fly fishing kits contain everything you need. With an incredible array of nymphs, emergers, and streamers, our assorted fly boxes make it easy to carry the flies you need with you, wherever you go.
Matthew Bernhardt, a third-generation Coloradan, grew up at the forefront of the state’s fly-fishing revolution, enjoying time on the water, side by side with experienced guides and lifelong anglers.
By combining his passion for fly-fishing with input from other experienced fly-fishers and guides and his fine arts degree from Colorado State University, Matthew spent five years carefully developing the Drifthook Fly Fishing System, built to help every angler catch more trout.
When he’s not spending time with his wonderful family, you’ll find him out on the water catching MONSTER trout, and he anxiously looks forward to the day when his kids are old enough to join him there.