The Drifthook System

The Drifthook Fly Fishing System is built on the idea that the number of aquatic insects at any given time can determine the successful outcome of your fly fishing trip. In this lesson, we will go over the breakdown of your fly boxes and our DHFF Season Charts to give you the optimal success on the water at any given time.


Congratulations on your purchase of the Drifthook Fly Fishing System. If you are new to fly fishing, please go back to our beginner courses, where we will lead you step-by-step from gear to casting to catching your first fish. If you have fly fished before and are ready to work the magic of the DH System, then let’s continue.

The Drifthook Fly Fishing System is built on the idea that the number of aquatic insects at any given time can determine the successful outcome of your fly fishing trip. In this lesson, we will go over the breakdown of your fly boxes and our DHFF Season Charts to give you the optimal success on the water at any given time.

We will be learning two main things in this lesson:

1. What are the fish feeding on during any given day during the year?

2. What pattern will be most successful for that feeding?

Most reports or classes on this subject can be overly complicated and almost impossible to follow because of the endless possibilities and life cycles of the millions of species of insects on any given river or still water. What I want you to master is the major orders of insects that trout feed on and how the Drifthook Fly Fishing System utilizes these food sources to increase your chances at landing MONSTER TROUT.

In the Drifthook Fly Fishing System, we focus on 7 major groups of trout food that are most successful at catching MONSTER TROUT:

1. Midges
2. Mayflies
3. Caddis
4. Stoneflies
5. Worms and Eggs
6. Terrestrials or Hoppers
7. Streamers - Leaches, Sculpins and Baitfish

You will notice that the Drifthook Fly Fishing System has more of numbers 1-4 than any other sets of flies in the arsenal. The reason behind this is that trout consume these particular insects four times more than the others throughout the year.

Before we dive into the details of each of these groups, I want to give you a clear overview of the life cycle of a fly. Smaller insects that can become airborne go through four stages in their life cycle.

1. Nymph — This is when they come out of their egg and are still growing. They typically cling to the bottom of the river until the current sweeps them away from their home.

2. Emerger — This is when they start to come out of the water and get ready to fly and mate.

3. Adult or Dry — This is when they have reached adulthood and have the ability to fly around searching for food and an appropriate mate to continue the life cycle.

4. Spinner — This is when they have mated and passed on and are floating in the water.

Larger insects such as stoneflies go through the same life cycle, but the patterns that represent these cycles are typically limited to the nymph stage and the adult stage. The emerger stage for a stonefly happens above the surface, where they let the sun and air dry off their wings before flying.

We only mimic patterns of the adult stage on Terrestrials because most are born on land typically only make it to the water for fish during the adult stage.

Our Streamer package is not on the same cycle because these patterns represent small fish, leaches, and sculpins. But we will go into detail on these in later lessons.

Here you will see the seasonal breakdown of each group and its life cycle throughout the year. This is one of the most important tools a fly fisherman can keep on them when they hit the water. You can download or print this document in our FREE Downloads section in the Members Portal.

When developing our system, we first answered the question that was the most obvious, at least to us—“Where do trout spend the majority of their lives?” You guessed it; in the water. So the first set of flies that we provide with our system are Nymph flies. These flies will catch the majority of your fish on any given day.

As you can see from the chart, we have systematically built our fly boxes to load you from top to bottom and front to back with the most abundant food source that trout will be searching for in any given month of the year.

By following our chart and setting up your rig to match, you have a significant advantage when out on the water. We will go into further detail on the setups in further lessons, but I want to you to get comfortable with the chart and the Drifthook Fly Boxes.

On side one of your Drifthook Nymph Frenzy Box, we started up top with Midges. Throughout the year, midges are an abundant and widely found food source in any given trout environment. They are found in tail waters, freestones, lakes, streams, and your local convenient store mud puddle. They hatch year-round and are to trout like ramen noodles are to a college student.

As you go down the box, you will see that it correlates with the hatch chart.

Midge > Mayfly > Eggs & Worms >
Caddis > Caddis/Mayfly>Mayfly/Stonefly>Stonefly

The next group of flies that we have provided are in the Caddis group.

Caddis are abundant when you have a clean water source. So most likely if you find caddis you are guaranteed to find trout. The easiest way to find caddis is when you get to your water source, flip over a rock. It will be covered with caddis casings. The great thing about caddis is that when they hatch, it can be one of the most amazing hatches you see on the water. It will remind you of a 10 commandments movie as they make their way around the river.

But wait, you say… Why is there Caddis/Mayfly and Mayfly/Stonefly? Well that is a great question. The reason is because these patterns imitate both groups. Sounds ridiculous, but at the same time these patterns can be the most successful because they do just that—imitate both a caddis and a stonefly OR a mayfly and a stonefly. It’s like a bacon cheeseburger wrapped in pizza: Irresistible.

If you look back at our chart, the second most abundant source of food is the mayfly. The mayfly is one of the most diverse insects in the fly-fishing world. They vary in color and size and can be found around the world. If it weren’t for mayflies, choosing the correct fly to coincide with the hatch would be relatively easy. But the diversity in the species is why there are over 6,000 fly patterns on the market today.

At Drifthook, we have provided you with the most successful patterns on the market. When used according to our suggestions, these patterns are deadly and can land you abundant trout. The next group in your fly box is the Stonefly group.

Stoneflies are a very important food source for trout. But at the same time, these insects need the most pristine living conditions. The slightest bit of pollution and you will not find these species. The best areas to use them are environments farthest away from civilization where the water is clean.

The stonefly comes in Nymph and Dry Fly (adult) patterns. The reason behind this is because unlike other species, they crawl up on rocks to shed their casing like a snake would shed its skin before becoming an adult and setting off to mate.

One of the most amazing hatches that you can catch is the Stonefly Hatch (also known as the salmon fly hatch) on the upper Colorado River. It lasts about one to two weeks but when it happens the fish are stocking up on large amounts of protein and you cannot release a fish fast enough to get your fly back in the water for another.

The last group of insects in your DHFF System Nymph Frenzy kit is the worms and egg patterns.

These patterns are more seasonal but are a staple in any fly-fishing box. When trout spawn during the spring and fall (March through May for Rainbows and October through December for Browns), egg patterns can be deadly. And when the water is murky or the temps are not right for fly movement, then a worm pattern can be successful as well. Worms can be used year-round but are most successful during the summer months.

I once had a trip during runoff season where I knew I had little chance of success because of the high water. Luckily I was able to find a little bit of clear water along the banks where I nymphed a San Juan worm and had an amazing day. Because of all of the sedimentation in the water, it also pushes out annelids (worms) into the flow and can be extremely successful.

If you purchased the Emerger Swing Flybox, you are fortunate enough to have in your arsenal the emerger, adult, and spinner stages of the same group. The only difference in this setup is that we will be utilizing this box for both Nymphing and Dry Fly fishing.

An emerger pattern can be successful both underwater and above water where the adult patterns are great alone or in tandem with our hopper dropper sets. In later lessons we will go into detail with these combos to double and triple your success on the water.