With Fly Fishing, one of the best and most essential pieces of equipment is your flies. There are thousands to choose from, and finding the ones that work for you can be difficult. Flies come in all shapes, sizes, and colors; some cause vibrations while others stand out more. Knowing which type of flies to use when fishing different waters is essential.
As a general rule, nymphs, streamers, dry flies, and emergers will be the most successful types of fly patterns to catch trout. Some of the best flies to use will imitate different species like:
- Hoppers or Terrestrials
In addition to these species, an emerging trend is to use flies that imitate aquatic worms and larvae. In this article, we'll look at some of the various flies that imitate these species, when to use them and why.
Trout Fly Fishing in the U.S.
Trout are a popular species of fish to catch. In the U.S., they can be found in all 48 connecting states and in many rivers and lakes throughout each state. Because Trout are so widespread, you can find flies that imitate their prey just about anywhere.
In general, most Trout have yellow or white bellies with dark spots on their back from head to tail. They also have black spots on their backs and dorsal fins. When it comes to flies, there are thousands to choose from, but the best ones to use imitate these characteristics of Trout so you can increase your chances of catching one.
Mayflies are a widespread species in the U.S., including several different types of flies that imitate them. The most common ones are the Adams and the Blue Wing Olive (B.W.O.). These flies can be used all year round, but they're most effective when mayflies emerge in swarms around dusk, night, or early morning hours, where you can use their behavior to imitate them flying out of the water to become adults.
Midges can be found throughout the U.S. in most rivers, streams, and ponds. They're often found near waterfalls or riffles. To imitate these flies, you should use a small hook with a yarn wound around it to create what appears to be legs.
Midges are found in the bottom of the water, so when fly fishing with them you should use an indicator. Midge emergers are very tiny in size and are good food sources for trout.
Midges are typically very skinny and wormlike. When collecting them, they can be placed onto a wet cotton ball to keep them from floating everywhere. They don't have much visibility or movement, but when you see one it's easy to identify the pattern. Midge nymphs usually resemble little worms (hence the name).
Stoneflies are another common species of fly found throughout the U.S. They're most common near waterfalls and riffles where they lay their eggs, as well as mud puddles or rocks around these areas for the larvae to live in.
Stoneflies are huge and energy-rich snacks popular with large fish in fast-flowing, well-oxygenated rivers and streams. Some stonefly nymphs may be up to 2 inches long and provide a tempting chance for fish to have a larger meal.
Caddisflies are very common in different types of rivers, creeks, and streams throughout the U.S. They tend to lay their eggs on stones or grassy banks near water. Flies that imitate these should be tied with small tufts of rabbit fur for wings and barred rubber legs imitating Caddisfly's three pairs of legs.
Caddisflies actually start to flutter and flap more than mayflies while still on the surface, so I generally utilize a proactive presentation with dry flies. Mayflies will typically just sit on the water while caddisflies are more likely to flutter down and get into your fly line.
Hoppers or Terrestrials
Hoppers are another type of fly that can be found in many different types of rivers and creeks throughout the U.S. They lay their eggs on stones around water, and it's best to imitate them using flies tied with barred rubber legs as well as deer hair tufts for wings.
As you can see, there are many different types of flies to choose from. While it's impossible to cover all the species found throughout the U.S., there are many factors that can affect which one you should use. Most importantly is imitating the prey of Trout near waterfalls, riffles, mud puddles, and grassy banks where they lay their eggs.
Being able to imitate mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies that emerge from these areas can significantly increase your odds of catching one. Hoppers are common during the summer months when they're feeding on decaying vegetation in rivers near banks. Knowing which flies to use at different times of the year can give you a greater chance of catching a Trout during any season in the U.S.
The Best Flies for Trout Fishing in the U.S.
Today, there are thousands of different flies to choose from. Each one imitates a specific species that Trout like to eat. Here are some of the most common types of trout flies you can use for Fly Fishing this season.
Midge larvae are tiny (typically hook size 18-22). These flies should be fished deep because midges often dwell near the bottom, in and around the silt and mud. A little split shot about eight inches above the fly will assist you to get down into the water quickly.
C.D.C. Midge Pupa
The C.D.C. Midge Pupa is a midge pupa that may hatch at any time of year. To match them, they are an essential food source. This fly can be fished like an emerger, or dead drifted like a nymph in the surface film—a fantastic trout pattern.
The majority of midge larvae are brown, gray, or black in color. The average length of a midge larva is 3 to 10 millimeters—about the size of a size 16 to 22 long-shank hook. Many anglers overlook fishing larval imitations, which can be a costly mistake.
Mayflies are a significant hatch on streams and rivers all around the globe. One of their finest features is that they typically come out slowly, making them vulnerable and appealing to Trout. Emergers, duns, cripples, and spinners should be brought with an angler when fishing a mayfly hatch.
Adams Parachute Dry Fly is a versatile dry fly that has become popular on trout streams throughout the world. Extra-fine dry fly hooks are used to tie our Adams Parachute dry fishing flies. These flies are often fished on low-hanging branches, rocks, logs, and other snags.
The Pale Morning Dun (P.M.D.) comparaduns are one of the most popular dry fly patterns. The deer hair wing keeps the fly low in the water for picky fish, but it is easy to see and floats well. For a highly realistic appearance on the surface of the water, the comparadun tail is forked.
Caddisflies are insects that can be found in almost any high-quality water-quality stream or river across the world. Caddis fly larvae construct tiny cases of debris bound together with an adhesive secreted by the caddis fly larvae, which are composed of little pieces of wood, pebbles, and sand.
The pond caddis imitates a bullhead caddis by using a brown hackle from the thorax to the hook eye. It's a wonderful imitation to throw in fast current. Goddard Caddis has deer hair and a hackle to provide a sense of motion in the water.
Elk Hair Caddis
The Elk Hair Caddis is a dry fly that has been around for generations. The Elk Hair Caddis is cast upstream and allowed to drift naturally with the current.
Use standard dry fly presentations and target fast water seams or slow pools adjacent to faster water to fish the elk hair caddis patterns. Try targeting areas near overgrown banks, below overhanging trees, and in or around other bank vegetation if you're fishing in a part of the stream with a lot of vegetation.
Stoneflies are an essential component of the Trout's diet and that of every fly fisherman. Adult stoneflies are eaten by Trout even in late winter and early spring, long before mayflies begin to emerge.
The Kaufmann Stimulator series of flies has excellent visibility and superb buoyancy. The Kaufmann Royal Stimulator is a tie that utilizes the traditional peacock and red "Royal" colors scheme. It serves as an indicator fly, attractor pattern, or stonefly imitation due to its high floatation and white wing.
Hoppers are an excellent bait for Trout because they love to eat them and go into a feeding frenzy when they're readily accessible. This is typically mid-July to mid-August, depending on where you're fly fishing. This may be done by casting out hoppers and leaving them to float in the ripple as you would a dry fly.
For fly fishing, the Dave's Hopper is an imitation of adult grasshoppers and other Orthoptera species. It's a terrestrial dry fly pattern. Dave's Hopper is an excellent choice for fly fishing because it floats well, has great visibility, and holds up very well in fast currents.
The Chubby is a take on the standard Chernobyl Ant, but with an important improvement: a big poly yarn wing that aids in flotation and visibility. The Chubby Chernobyl is made up of plenty of flash to entice Trout from afar.
Can You Fly Fish with Real Flies?
Artificial fly fishing flies are temptations. A trout can spit it out in less than a tenth of a second, so you must hook the line fast. Real insects are delicious bait for Trout, often easy to swallow and high in protein.
Though you can use real flies for fly fishing, imitations work better. Artificial flies are available in every color, size, and shape. Some artificial flies are made of fur, while others are composed of feathers.
You should use a variety of artificial fly fishing flies on your line, as each has a different role to play in the water. There are dozens of types of dry fly patterns, and caddis fly imitation patterns available today.
How Do You Know What Fly to Use When Fly Fishing?
Flies that "match the hatch" resemble insects that were produced near a water body and survive around it, such as mayflies, midges, and mosquitoes. In the daytime or just above the surface, small dry flies or tiny nymphing imitations work well.
To choose the right fly when fly fishing, you must know what insects are prevalent in the area. Fish feed on various bugs and other organisms depending on the time of day, season, weather conditions, and location. This is known as "matching the hatch." Knowing which insects to imitate will make your catch more likely.
How Do You Choose a Fly for Trout?
Take the time to really inspect the water. If you spot feeding fish, use an imitation that resembles the most probable food source. Third, if there's no sign of feeding activity, try an attractor that depicts a typical insect or baitfish in the region.
Trout tend to feed selectively, and most often, they prefer larger prey. Some flies that Trout eat include mayflies, midges, caddisflies, stoneflies, terrestrials such as ants and grasshoppers.
What Flies to Use for Beginners?
As a beginning fly fisher, you should start out by using flies that are easy to see and to use. These include light-colored or white dry flies, nymphs, and terrestrials such as ants, beetles, grasshoppers, etc. If you're tying your own flies, some of the easiest to recreate include:
- Griffith's Gnat
- Rainbow Warrior
- San Juan Worm
- Zebra Midge
There are many imitations of a nymph or adult stages of aquatic insects, but for beginners, you'll want to have something that is easy to see. This means small & light-colored items such as ants, beetles, grasshoppers, etc.
Fly fishing is a great sport and can be very rewarding. One of the most important pieces of equipment you need to do it well, though, is your flies. Flies come in all shapes and sizes; some cause vibrations while others stand out more than others, depending on what type of water you’re trying to fish.
Knowing which types work best for different waters will help ensure that every time you go out to fly fishing, you're using the right ones for the job!
About the Author
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.