Categories: Fly Tying

101 Proven Patterns – The Best Trout Flies




Do you want to increase your versatility and catch more trout?  To know when to switch out flies, which type to use, when, and how to fish them?  Tired of reviews that don’t explain why the “best flies” are recommended?  If so, then this comprehensive review of the best trout flies is for you.

Our Motto: Get You To Better Fishing! TM

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Overview

Here’s what’s coming up, with jump ahead links to our comprehensive overview of the best trout flies:

  1. Introduction

  2. Attractors

  3. Dry Flies

  4. Egg Patterns

  5. Emergers, Soft Hackles, & Other Wet Flies

  6. Nymphs – Standard

  7. Nymphs – Euro-Nymphing

  8. Streamers – Standard

  9. Streamers – Larger For Lunkers

  10. Terrestrials For Trout

  11. FAQs

Introduction

Grab yourself a good cup of coffee, mug of soup, or whatever you like while you read.

This comprehensive overview is a direct response to our readers comments.  Most want to improve their hook up rate, by knowing what to use, and when.  Some tell us they’re tired of “best trout flies” reviews that only cover flies for sale on that website.  Others tell us that even reading a review, they still aren’t sure how the list was thrown together, other than to claim they are the “Top #” flies.  Still others comment that fly reviews are often too specific to a location or type of fly and don’t apply to them.

In this article, we first get underneath different types of flies, before talking about specific fly selection.  For each category, we’ll review why trout take them, when to use, and how to fish them.

If you tend to dominate your fishing with a certain type of fly (most anglers do, how often have you heard “I’m a dry fly person” or “I just prefer nymphing”) this article is also for you.  Consider increasing your repertoire to know when to switch out to another type of fly, instead of stubbornly putting out there what the trout obviously don’t want in the moment.

We want you to be grounded in solid information that enables more success of your own accord, not just taking our word for it.  This foundation will serve you well for selecting specific flies.

Don’t get us wrong.  We know many of the flies in other reviews will work.  But many also won’t.  We want your time on the water to be productive (after all, our motto is “Get you to better fishing!TM).  Conversely, we don’t want you to take the bait so to speak, to buy and fish something that doesn’t really match what you need.

This article covers flies that have proven themselves to be consistent performers, over a long time, in many different places across the USA and Canada.

For very specific local hatches (e.g. the Green Drake hatch in Pennsylvania, or the October Caddis hatch in the northwest), we completely trust your local fly shop and guides who know the river the best.  This article does not cover these river- and more narrow regional-specific flies.

But if you’re looking for proven, universal “go to flies” to have in your box, that work universally across the USA, Canada, and beyond, and you want to know when and how to use them, then this article is for you.

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ATTRACTOR FLIES

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If you like the idea of really hard strikes on big dry flies, flashy nymphs, and outrageously big and bright streamers, then you’ll love fishing attractors.

Many anglers think of attractors as primarily large, highly-visible dry flies. However, any and all flies including nymphs and streamers, that may have bright and flashy characteristics – or otherwise don’t really resemble anything real at all – are attractors.

Put another way, attractors are designed to grab the attention of fish that wouldn’t otherwise strike. But as you’ll find out below, not all attractors are bright and flashy, some are generalized natural patterns.

Some attractor dry flies may emulate the fully erect wings of a mayfly, or swept wing of a caddis.  But other than that, they are not designed to try and duplicate insect taxonomy – just to emulate the general shape.

Collectively, we use attractors as “searching patterns,” designed to locate fish faster than you might otherwise.

Here’s a summary table overview of the attractor flies that we cover in more detail below, after we first discuss more about specifically why, when, and how to fish attractors.

Name Image Tie It Buy It
1. Amy’s Ant
2. Chubby Chernobyl
3. Copper John
4. Flashback Pheasant Tail
5 a. Prince Nymph
5 b. Psycho Prince
6. Purple Haze
7. Rainbow Warrior
8. Royal Coachman & Variations
9. Royal Wulff
10. Stimulator
11. Tinsel & Crystal Wooly Buggers
12. Yellow Humpy

Why Fish Attractors?

Because attractors fill in the gaps when there isn’t an insect hatch going on enough to captivate the trout you are after, you’ll want to make sure you carry plenty of them.  Attractors are some of the best flies for trout, because they give you more ways to entice a strike when your natural patterns aren’t working.

If you are an experienced angler, you know that attractors can work when nothing else does.  If you are a beginner angler, you’ll be glad to know that it’s not always necessary to “match the hatch,” exactly or even at all.

Unless you have an underwater crystal ball, and somehow can know not only what trout are feeding on exactly (including how they change throughout the day), then like all of us you’ve experienced slow days – or even been (the dreaded!) skunked.

More often than not, you’ll find water calmly flowing by, with few clues as to what fish are taking – or not.  All the media hype about huge hatches with fish feeding without abandon is a rare occurrence, not every day.

When a visible hatch is underway, that can really help you match the hatch.  But even then, figuring out which of several hatches, and which lifestage they are focusing on today – or in that hour before they change their minds or take a break – is still hard work.  Attractors make this process easier, and catch fish in of themselves.

When Fish Attractors?

Unless it’s immediately apparent what fish are feeding on, then starting with an attractor is a good idea.  This lets you not only test for fish activity, but also gives you a little time to observe the stream before committing to a natural imitation pattern.

The other time to use an attractor is when you’ve been trying natural patterns, and just aren’t getting any hits. Let’s face it, many times trout just aren’t focused on anything in particular, especially if there’s not a dominant hatch underway.  In this case, their decision is more along the lines of “what’s an easy meal?”

These are times you want to pull out attractor patterns. Think of them as additional arrows in your quiver, and don’t hesitate to change out your fly more frequently.

What can be counter-intuitive for some anglers is that while changing flies may seem like time not fishing, it actually increases your effectiveness if they aren’t hitting.

Sometimes you hear a mantra “if your fly isn’t in the water, then you’re not fishing” isn’t really true.  We’d suggest it should be more “if you’re not presenting a variety, then you’re not fishing.”

In any case, irrespective of what rules of thumb you like to follow, carrying attractor patterns and switching them out will increase your hook up rate.  This is because you can’t always predict or assess what fish are taking, even with reading recent fishing reports, till you try a few flies.

How To Fish Attractors?

Fishing attractor patterns entails basic fly fishing skills, just easier.  This is because you’re less often sight casting to fish, but in this case trying to find the fish.

So, start by reading the water to look for likely holding areas.  Then, as always, be stealthy and work to present your chosen attractor trout fly in a natural manner.  This is the same as if you were focused on sight casting to feeding fish, just be sure to cover more water with your searching patterns.

As always, try to position yourself to avoid a shadow falling on the water, minimize false casts and move slowly when you take steps.  Cast across but upstream to keep yourself out of trouts up-stream view frame.  Minimize drag on your fly, mend your fly line, and you’re in business.

Generally, but not always as we discuss below, larger is better for an attractor fly. If trout haven’t ordered from the menu (aren’t focused on a particular fly), it can take a larger meal (think sizes 10-12 dry fly, up to sizes 4-10 under water) to generate interest.

At the same time, don’t hesitate to switch out to sizes 14-18.  Again, don’t forget you are “searching,” which means vary the not only the type of fly, but also the size, and how high in the water column, until you get hits.  Carrying pre-wrapped tippets with rigs will help you cut down on changeout time.

Also remember, that when trout aren’t actively feeding on a specific hatch, they are in a lower energy, more passive (even lethargical) state.  So cover more water (because you are searching), but here’s the key – don’t let that compromise getting these flies to where the fish are hiding, and be sure to cover the water thoroughly.

In general, for attractor nymphs, it’s better to use a bead head, not only for weight, but also for more attraction brightness.  Of course, also carry versions without bead heads to fish higher in the water column when needed.

You don’t want trout to have to move very far to take them.  So even through you’ve already used your water reading skills, be sure to cast at different angles, distances, and depths.  When you do get hits, take careful of how you casted, and try to replicate it.

If fish are really dormant, then emphasize under water attractors, and work to keep your weighted attractor down near the bottom as long as possible. For more on this, be sure to read our related article on Euro-Nymphing, just apply it to your attractor flies.

Now let’s take a look at the most proven attractor flies you’ll want to have in your fly box.

Amy’s Ant

Perhaps no one knows why, but the Amy’s Ant just makes trout lose their inhibitions. You may be trying to carefully match the hatch, but the fish just aren’t buying it. If that’s the case, change gears and throw them an Amy’s Ant — they may not know what hit them.

Invented by industry legend Jack Dennis, Amy’s Ant won the Yellowstone Angler One Fly contest in 1999. As a result, the pattern has been carried by Umpqua ever since.  Like most of the best trout flies, many color variations have evolved since then. When using Amy’s Ant, be ready for quick, hard strikes!

Chubby Chernobyl

The Chubby is one of the original large foam “terrestials” that may not really represent anything living, but just works.  It comes in many colors and patterns (some of which might be a distant cousin of the grasshopper), will float all day long, and just brings fish to the surface for tail slapping strikes.

Because of it’s incredible buoyancy, the Chubby has also made dry/dropper fishing practically easy.  The combination of wing and foam body float so well, you can carry droppers under it up to even a size 6 – practically streamer sized, all day long.  For starters, be sure to carry not only black & chartreuse as shown, but also the tan, purple, golden stone, and royal versions.

Copper John

We can’t say it in enough ways – the Copper John is one of the best fall-back, tried-and-true, old-faithful attractor nymphs you can use.  In fact, it’s used so widely that most people thing of is as a standard nymph pattern, even though it was designed as an attractor.

We’ve actually never encountered someone who hasn’t fished them at some point, but we’ve encountered many people who wished they had brought more with them when they hadn’t.  Like most attractor flies, it’s hard to explain why, but they just plain work.

While the photo shows the traditional copper wire color, red, green, chartreuse, the CJ is tied in many variations.  While none match any particular insect, different wire colored bodies (some not even copper) serve as unique attractors, combined with the resin covered flashabou.

Flashback Pheasant Tail

Effective in small mountain streams and large rivers alike, be sure to stay well-supplied with a variety of sizes, both bead head and not.  This attractor variation on the pheasant tail nymph pattern is made with a strip of flashabou on its back.  You can reinforce the flash with a drop of resin for durability, but be careful to not get it on the body wrap or peacock herl.

Use mostly with a bead head for more attraction and weight, but use without a bead head as a dropper or to fish higher in the water column.  If you rig a double nymph, use a less noticeable fly behind this one (attractor used to bring trout closer to see a more natural pattern), on a slightly thinner tippet to avoid losing both including your flashback on a snag.

Prince Nymph

The Prince Nymph, especially the bead head prince, is one of the most-used attractor flies on the planet.  It has a  distinctive pattern with several attractor elements that at the same time seem natural – gold ribbing, bright white biots, soft-hackle-like appearance, and bright bead.  Together, this attractor is hard for trout to resist.  There’s really not much else to say, other than this one is also good to carry in multiple sizes, with and without bead head. It just works!

A close cousin, very effective variation on the Prince is the Electric Prince.  Just add purple, and “wha-la” you have the Electric Prince (also known as the Psycho Prince).  No one knows why purple works, but just like the Purple Haze and the Purple Adams, it just does.

The Electric Prince takes the attractor features of the regular prince to another level, by adding the intriguing purple color to the already attractive gold ribbing, bright white biots, bead head, and soft hackle like appearance.

Purple Haze

If fish could talk, perhaps the first question we’d ask them is why they seem to love purple.  Have you ever seen any hatching insect, in any stream, ever, that is purple?

In the same vein as the Electric Price nymph, but tied in many more variations, the Purple Haze can be found as a traditional dry, parachute, soft hackle / wet, emerger, nymph, streamer, trude/stimulator, and more.  Unlike most other attractor flies though, the Haze is always tied in purple, or at least other color variations are atypical.

Originating as a “purple Adams,” the Haze was invented on the Bitterroot River and has spread in popularity far beyond Montana.  Usually tied with brown or grizzle hackle, this fly has made its mark as one of the best trout flies.

Rainbow Warrior

If the Rainbow Warrior was a person, they would probably be wearing a dress full of brightly colored sequins, and loads of oversized, ostentatious jewelry.

It’s one of those flies that works so well – for large trout in spite of its usually tiny-to-mid-size – in spite of not looking like anything natural, across the entire country that it’s just downright hard to explain.

The Warrior stacks up many types of attraction, from its glass bead head, rainbow dubbing for the thorax, plus a fully wrapped body of tinsel such as Flashabou for its body.  That’s about as gaudy as it gets, and for trout, it’s turn-on!  Now tied in a variety of colors, but what you see is the original timeless version.

Royal Coachman & Variations

A versatile and effective attractor pattern, tied in many forms (dry, wet, nymph, streamer, stimulator, & more!). Used primarily for trout, grayling, and steelhead.  Actually does have a royal history starting in England, to modern day modifications made in the USA, this pattern must be in your fly box.  One key variation is the Royal Stimulator, which merges features of the regulator stimulator and Royal Wulff.  Read all about it at The Royal Coachman.

Royal Wulff

The Royal Wulff may have caught as many trout as any other attractor. First tied by Lee Wulff in the 1930’s, Wulff wanted a more buoyant version of the Royal Coachman pattern, with calf tail wings instead for feathers.

This dry attractor rides high on the surface, avoids being sucked under, and is nicely visible even in low light conditions.  The larger sizes work as attractors (good for carrying at least small droppers), while smaller sizes are known to work well during a trico or Blue Winged Olive hatch.  One of the best prospecting dry flies you can use.

Stimulator

There’s a lot to a name, especially for this fly.  One way to think of the Stimulator is like an Elk Hair Caddis on steroids.  When you fish the Stimulator, pay attention, because the strikes range from big slurps to tail slapping hits.  The most common variations are orange, yellow, olive, and tan.  The highly visible size and brightness of stimulators, especially when combined with a dropper, make it a great searching fly.  Some also tie Stimulators to simulate large mayflies, or October Caddis depending on the river you are fishing.

Tinsel & Crystal Wooly Buggers

Woolly Buggers are traditionally tied in black, brown, and olive.  These natural colors simulate a variety of prey, as we describe in our article More About The Woolly Bugger.  As an attractor though, Woolly’s are hugely versatile, tied in many increments from a few strands of tinsel (such as Flashabou) all the way up to the tinsel-dominated Crystal Bugger.  A bead head or bug-eyes don’t only help weight the bugger, but also provide additional attraction.  Common variations on the Crystal are white, orange, grey, and olive.  This is one fly to make sure you carry in multiple sizes, colors, and weight variations in your fly box.

Yellow Humpy

The Yellow Humpy may not have a flattering name, but it’s a very likable fly and is good at pulling tentative fish up to the surface.  The humpy is another searching pattern for a variety of large lighter-colored mayflies.  Because it floats like a life preserver, almost as if it was made out of foam, it’s especially useful in pocket water.  That makes it also good to carry a dropper, and act as a strike indicator for the dropper even while attracting fish to itself.

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BEST DRY FLIES FOR TROUT

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Overview Of Dry Flies Reviewed In This Section.


Name Image Tie It Buy It
(Parachute) Adams
Blue Wing Olive
Elk Hair Caddis
Sparkle Dun

Why Fish Dry Flies?

  • Few things beat watching a trout sip or smack your fly on the surface!
  • It’s an effective way to search for and locate trout (watch carefully for trout coming up to inspect your fly even if they don’t take it).
  • When trout are focused on a hatch, at times 1-2 dry patterns are all they will take.
  • Large, buoyant dry flies can be used as both indicators (easy to see) and allow a 2nd fly dropper to elicit strikes on emergers and nymphs.

Just remember, trout actually feed more under the surface than on top.  For them it’s a risk-reward equation, and unless the reward is great, they feel safer below the surface.  So if you are dry-fly-biased, and nothing is hitting consider switching out a little quicker to a wet fly or streamer pattern.

When Fish Dry Flies?

While you can certainly offer dry flies any time (and some people prefer to), dry fly fishing is usually most productive when aquatic bugs are in the process of hatching.  This is when young adults are emerging from the stream to become breeding adjust, and when breeding adults are returning to lay eggs on the water (often within 24 hours).

A “hatch” can also be described as the time when terrestrials, such as ants or grasshoppers  are so abundant they are continuously falling or even flying into the water, in enough numbers that fish start focusing on them.

The important thing is, when notice that fish are rising to the surface, or notice a hatch taking place, take your time to observe them closely.  Take a look to find out specifically what they are eating, size, color, type of bug etc.   From here you can select the best flies and start to craft a plan of attack.

Sometimes a hatch is sparse or it’s not easy to get close enough to the bugs to really figure out what type.  When that happens, at least try to get a general sense for the size and color of the flies, and start by using a couple flies that seem to resemble what’s coming off the water.

Some anglers even carry a small bug net, to help catch a few to more closely observe them.  Our favorite approach is to look under rocks to see what’s resident and likely to be hatching as the day progresses, and observe bugs floating on the surface even if they aren’t yet able to dry their wings enough to fly off.

Of course, while many anglers prefer to just observe when they get to the stream, it can often help to do advance research on the stream before you even hit river.  Look for a hatch guide so you know what is likely to be hatching that time of year, just know that actual hatches depend on weather, stream temperature, and other variables.

Of course, your local fly shop will provide a wealth of information about what’s hatching, along with specifically what flies are most likely to be productive, time of day when dry fly fishing tends to work best for that stream, and more

How To Fish Dry Flies?

Dry flies must be presented and drifted naturally, so they don’t drag or otherwise look unnatural.  There’s extensive material on dry fly fishing, we won’t have room to try and cover here, just remember to make sure you:

  • Wade with stealth
  • Cast across and upstream
  • Mend your line to avoid drag
  • Use fly floatant and false casts to keep your fly bouyant
  • Keep and eye out for strikes and set the hook quickly!

Parachute Adams

Most often used in parachute, but also super effective in traditional form, the Adams has a generally gray body with combined grizzly and brown hackle have made this staple fly since it’s invention over 90 years ago.

The jury is actually still out as to whether trout view it as a mayfly, caddis, or just a good meal of something.  Some people categorize the Adams as an attractor fly, we think of it more as a “searching realistic something.”  But it doesn’t matter, it catches fish.  Carry in sizes 10-18, and be sure to try the smaller sizes as much as the larger.

Blue Wing Olive

The BWO is widely used because doesn’t imitate just one insect, but rather a whole group of them (in the genus Baetis). It turns out there are quite a few mayflies out there with olive bodies and gray- or dun-colored wings.  Perhaps the most critical thing to get right during a Blue-Winged Olive hatch is get the size of you fly and hook.  Another key aspect of these little mayflies, is that they hatch moreso in the shoulder months and even through the winter.  This makes them a great way to beat the crowds and have more of the rivers to yourself.

Elk Hair Caddis

This fly has a heck of a lot going for it.  It’s universally used, because Caddis flies hatch much everywhere, and trout love them.  Also, they are nicely buoyant, which makes them easy to see – yes even at dusk – and a terrific strike indicator for a small dropper.  Some anglers think that size isn’t that important to match exactly with the caddis, but in our experience it can depend on the day and the stream.  Because there are so many different varieties of caddis (not to mention they mimic other species such as small moths), be sure to carry several different body colors.  The most popular are olive, tan, yellow (yes as in Sally), orange, grey, and brown).

Sparkle Dun

This fly has a heck of a lot going for it.  It’s universally used, because Caddis flies hatch much everywhere, and trout love them.  Also, they are nicely buoyant, which makes them easy to see – yes even at dusk – and a terrific strike indicator for a small dropper.  Some anglers think that size isn’t that important to match exactly with the caddis, but in our experience it can depend on the day and the stream.  Because there are so many different varieties of caddis (not to mention they mimic other species such as small moths), be sure to carry several different body colors.  The most popular are olive, tan, yellow (yes as in Sally), orange, grey, and brown).

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EGG PATTERNS

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Overview Of Egg Patterns

Eggs make up a good portion of any trout’s diet, as a healthy, easy meal during spawning season.  Trout will literally hang out below the nests of many types of fish.  So, egg patterns that look like an easy smorgasbord make for some of the best trout flies you can carry if you get the timing right.

As one example, one of our best fishing trips ever was catching Dolly Varden and trout that were slurping up eggs below the nests of spawning sockeye salmon, on Quartz Creek (a tributary to the Kenai) in Alaska.  In addition to having a blast catching so many fish, it was an awesome experience watching nature’s cycle in action.

This table gives you an overview of the egg patterns we’ll cover in more detail below, with links to yet further detail on how to tie them or options to buy them.

Name Image Tie It Buy It
Glo Bug
Nuke Egg
Plastic Bead Eggs
Rag Egg
Sucker Spawn

Why Fish Egg Patterns?

Let’s put it this way with a question.  If you were a trout, would you pass up an easy, delicious meal of eggs rolling down the stream bottom, ala whatever fish is spawning at the moment (including their own kind)?  We wouldn’t either.

The awesome thing about fishing egg patterns is, in some rivers you can fish multiple runs at once.  For example, in many Great Lakes tributaries, King Salmon run first in the fall and spawn out.  They are followed closely by large migratory brown trout, who scoop up eggs from the Kings, and then stay in the streams to spawn themselves.

To make it more exciting, early run steelhead make their way up, sometimes accompanied by Atlantic salmon.  To read about this incredible phenomenon, check out our article Great Lakes Fall Run Kings, Browns, and Steelhead.

Remember something very important – when fishing with eggs, you are targeting fish that are scooping up eggs downstream of the spawning beds other fish. So as to not disrupt the spawing fish, be very careful to not target them, and to not step on their beds which can destroy many eggs that would otherwise hatch.  As anglers the last thing we want to do is compromise the health of the very fishery we are enjoying.

When To Fish Egg Patterns

In most streams, spawning happens like clockwork, so consider the time of year to fly fish eggs and be ready with your patterns!

As cold weather and colder water drive down the aquatic insect activity, especially heading into the late fall and winter, is when egg patterns start to become more and more effective as an alternative food source.

In general, in the lower 48 with of course local stream variations you’ll want to be aware of:

  • Kings generally run as early as Sept into November, with some streams now having multiple runs
  • Steelhead generally run throughout the fall, and hold into the winter, also with some streams having multiple runs
  • Brown trout spawn from October through December
  • Rainbow trout spawn from February through May
  • Brook trout spawn from September into October
  • Carp spawn from April to June

Runs in British Columbia but especially Alaska tend to be earlier, for example many stream in Alaska, if you wait till Sept / Oct to fish for Kings, it’s too late as the run peaks in July.

How To Fish Egg Patterns

Fishing egg patterns effectively involves knowing how to select the best egg color, how to rig it up, and how to fish it realistically.  For rigging it up, check out our article 12 Tippet Tips.

For the rest, the most common question usually starts with “what’s the best color egg to use?”  To be downright honest, some of it is scientific, and some of it comes down to good old trial and error.

Early on in the spawning season, try using smaller sized #12-16, orange or pink egg patterns.  Also consider using some that not typically considered as egg patterns, such as scud patterns. These bugs look like smaller unfertilized eggs, with a bit of an insect look, and may pick up early opportunistic fish.

When spawning season gets into higher gear is when you’ll want to switch over to larger, more traditional patterns that emulate spawn.  When you hit the size and color right, you’ll have a lot of fun, because you’re going to tie into fish that are hungry for lack of insect activity and are fattening up on eggs to help get through the winter.

During these peak spawning periods, consider fishing glo-bug patterns in sizes 10-12, in mostly orange or yellow/orange or pink/orange. Don’t get too hung up on the color, but do change out if you aren’t getting hits after a while with one color.

Also as you get into peak spawning, is the time to simulate fertilized eggs, with a bit of white marabou, or a fluffier pattern such as the Ragg Egg or Nuke Egg.

Later in the spawn, whether fall for brown trout or spring for rainbows, use darker pink eggs, even chartreuse.

All that said, consider that even while you’re trying to “match the hatch” so to speak and get the size and color right, it’s also helpful to just experiment and see what works.  And don’t forget, it may be different the next day, next week, or next year, just be flexible!

Glo Bug

The Glo Bug egg pattern is the most simple and traditional, yet still highly effective.  It works well because its lightweight design easily tosses and turns n the water, just like a real loose egg floating downstream looking for a hungry trout to find it.  Of course, in order to get it down to the fish, you’ll need to add weight through the line, split shot, tippet ring, and/or other rig.  Don’t make the mistake of tying these with weight on the hook underneath the egg pattern, which will severely compromise the realistic action.

Nuke Egg

The Nuke egg is tied with the goal of giving it a super realistic egg when wet, even if it doesn’t look so when dry.  To accomplish this, it’s tied loosely around the hook, with the nucleus of the egg covered under yarn.  If you choose the right materials, it actually becomes translucent underwater, which is what makes it so realistic.  Of course, like any of the egg patterns, you can mix it up, trying the different materials such as chenille, braids, dubbing, or foam.  Many anglers consider this pattern to be an improvement on other more traditional designs such as the Glo Bug.

Plastic Bead Eggs

Bead eggs simply work!  Whether you love them as a convert, or despise them as a traditionalist who prefers to use natural materials, the verdict is in.  Also, the use of bead eggs has resulted in new ways of rigging that, by hooking fish on the outside of their mouths, actually help decrease mortality rates of released fish.  Give them a try! Be sure to read more detail about them in our Best Flies For Salmon article (same concepts as for trout), and our detailed description of how to rig them in our 12 Best Tippet Tips article.

Rag Egg

In some ways like the Nuke Egg, the Ragg Egg pattern is tied loosely to the hook.  In this case there’s more loose yarn around the egg.  The Ragg Egg pattern is also commonly in two egg flies, or two eggs in series, with a larger egg that is is brighter in color for attraction.  The second egg is often tied as a smaller, more realistic pattern. Together they do the job of attracting and enticing more fish.

Sucker Spawn

Trout don’t just eat salmon eggs and other trout eggs cannibalistic-ally, they also eat sucker spawn – why not if it’s an easy meal?  In this case, the looped yarn pattern imitates a clutch of fish eggs.  You can use whatever color you like, but just like Glo Bugs, the primary colors used are orange, peach, and yellow. Variations with even more brightly colored yarn, just as flourescent orange and pink, are effective fishing for steelhead too.

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EMERGERS, SOFT HACKLES, & OTHER WET FLIES

Would you be surprised to know that mostly wet flies and streamers were used in Old England and Scotland, in the early days of fly fishing?

Today, we hear more people identifying with dry fly fishing, or nymph fishing, than any other type.  “I’m a dry fly person” or “I prefer nymphing” is common, whereas streamers and wet flies tend to be used more for specific conditions or fish.

But there are times when emergers, soft hackles, and other wet flies will trump any other type of fly.  And they they remain perhaps the most under-recognized and under-utilized flies there are.  You may have not thought of wet flies as some of the best flies you can use for trout.  If not read on, we will change your mind on this point!

Overview Of Wet Flies

Here’s an overview of the flies we’ll cover in detail in this section:

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Name Image Tie It Buy It
Caddis Emerger – Bread & Butter
Caddis Soft Hackle Pupa
CDC Caddis Emerger
CDC Midge
Puff Daddy

Why Fish Wet Flies?

Wet flies, even when they are carried in the fly box, usually sit out the game on the bench.  But wets are actually a secret weapon that, when you know how to fish them, can make all the difference in a day’s fishing.  Sometimes they will even prevent you from getting skunked.

When To Fish Wet Flies?

Let’s put it this way.  You know from fishing dries and nymphs, that on some days the trout aren’t taking one or the other, right?  Sometimes when they are focused up, they are only looking up, and actually more often (as dedicated nymphers like to point out), they are feeding under the water instead of at the surface.

Here’s another way to think about it.  Have you ever been frustrated (or even skunked) because fish seemed to be feeding on the surface, but still wouldn’t touch your dry fly?  All the while you start doubting your casting, presentation, and mending skills?

If you’ve had that experience, you may have noticed trout that fed even aggressively near the surface – but did you realize they were actually chasing down emerging hatches, and potentially not taking flies off the surface at all?

What’s happening in this situation, is that trout are responding to extremely specific emerging hatch behaviors, that can’t be easily matched with a dry fly cast or nymph.  Even droppers won’t match the movement, because they float statically under the dry fly (which you are working hard to keep floating without any drag), not rising towards the surface as are the emerging insects.

However, what’s actually happening is just inches under the surface, emergers are doing their best to get up to the surface, of course before they get gobbled up.

When this is happening, trout can key in on the rising emergers, just as at other times they can focus exclusively on top- or bottom-feeding on dries or nymphs, respectively.  It’s actually less energy, and safer for them during a large hatch, to gobble up the rising emergers than to expose themselves to predators at the surface.

It goes without saying then, that if you can replicate the type of fly (e.g. a soft hackle with its wings starting to spread, preparing for drying off or even molting on the surface), and the way they move, then you’ve just met the trout with what they want – and may only want on that day.

How To Fish Wet Flies?

This is a different game than dry flies (avoiding drag) or nymphs (dead drifting at the right depth).  With wet flies, what you want to do is:

  • Swing them gently through pocket water and deeper pools, or
  • Drop them below an indicator dry fly.

In either case above, be sure to first swing these flies across and down.  Then, to get the right upward motion, strip them so they rise up just like an emerger swimming to the surface.

The awesome thing about fishing wets like this is it creates urgency in the fish, because they think they may lose their meal. It makes for some great strikes and fishing!

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Caddis Emerger – Break & Butter

Trout can really hone in on emerging caddis, at times ignoring everything else.  You’ll get a big hint this is happening, when trout sometimes actually leave of water jumping after caddis moving swiftly to the surface.  It’s like they don’t want to miss desert before it gets away.  When they do concentrate on the emergers, the difference between landing fish and not is to swing this pattern to imitate a rapidly rising caddis emerger that is swimming to the top.

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Caddis Soft Hackle Pupa

This fly does a great job imitating the movement of the emerging caddis pupa with uncanny realism.  One of the best-tied and best-looking caddis emergers we’ve seen.   You can either swing it through pocket water and deeper pools, for below an indicator dry fly.  In either case, be sure to first swing these flies across and down, and then to get the right motion,  and then strip them so they rise up just like an emerger swimming to the surface.

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CDC Caddis Emerger

Trout sense that emerging caddis flies are especially vulnerable prey, when they get to the point of breaking free from their casing and drying off their wings. At this point they are literally sitting ducks.  This pattern is especially effective because of how realistically it suspends in the water.  Not to mention, the CDC helps with just the right amount of buoyancy, to help the fly sit just right in the the top of the film.

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CDC Midge

The CDC Midge is a pattern that replicates small midges that emerge from the late fall over the shoulder and winter months to early spring.In some cases they are so small, that some fisherman tend to write them off.  However small, especially when the water is cold they become an important source of forage for trout. In fact, there are many times during the colder months when these tiny midges are the only thing hatching.  Be especially attentive to these on tailwaters.  This proven pattern is an excellent option if you want to increase the number of months you catch trout during the year, and to increase your flexibility and number of rivers you can fish.

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Puff Daddy

OK we get it, compared to many flies in this review, Puff Daddies don’t look like much, do they. But don’t be so quick to judge a book by its cover! Puff Daddies, also sometimes Puff Diddies or Puffies, imitate mayfly cripples, knockdowns, duns, and other aquatic insects.  In the right sizes and colors, you can use them effectively for many hatches ranging from BWOs to Green Drakes.  This pattern is a simple fly – looks like an emerger but actually sits in the film like a dry fly – tied with a thin dubbing body.  It is finished with a few sparse turns of a CDC feather (stemmed), and contrary to many patterns doesn’t have a tail, or wing, or any other features.  Its simplicity is not only great for fly tiers, but perhaps what makes it realistic at the same time.  This fly actually floats on its side, which helps conceal the hook as the point can actually float above the film.  It’s naturally water resistant which helps with flotation, though you’ll want to refresh it with a dry floatant after landing a fish.  Be sure to use a desiccant (such as Frog’s Fanny) and not silicone which will have the opposite effect you want on this and other CDC patterns.

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CONGRATULATIONS – you’ve found a very early version of this article, that is currently under construction.  Way to go, detective, and tune in soon for updates!

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BEST TROUT NYMPHS – STANDARD

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Overview Of Nymph Patterns

You’ve probably heard this mantra many times, but it’s not only true it’ll help you catch a lot more fish: trout spend more more time feeding under water, and deep than on the surface or higher in the water column.  This table gives you an overview of the nymph patterns we cover in more detail below, with links to yet further detail on how to tie them or options to buy them.

Name Image Tie It Buy It
Hare’s Ear Nymph
JuJu Baetis
Mop Fly
Zebra Midge

Hare’s Ear Nymph

The Hare’s Ear is about as meat-and-potatoes as it gets, a staple fly that belongs in every trout’s diet.  This nymph is a very good natural mayfly imitation, that with only slight variations covers a wide range of bugs.  The versatility of the fly increases when you vary the size, color and texture of the dubbing you use.  By doing so you can imitate even more flies beyond mayflies, including caddis, midges, and stoneflies.  While the Hare’s ear is a traditional pattern, don’t be fooled, it is beyond durable and effective.  You’ll want to carry several sizes in your box, with and without bead heads.

JuJu Baetis

The JuJu Baetis is actually a simplified, but also effective Blue Wing Olive imitation.  It imitates a standard Baetis nymph as well as an emerger.  You can fish it all year round, in smaller to tiny sizes (16-24), just like a Zebra Midge. Keep several colors in your box including purple and black.  These work well as a trailing nymph in a rig as well.

When the dry fly fishing is on, these delicate flies rest on top of the water for a long time, encouraging trout to sip them gently. To be effective year round, consider carrying all life stages with you: nymph, emerger, dun, and spinners.

Mop Fly

Yet another fly that few can explain how or why it works but it just does.  The Mop originally drew a lot of skepticism, but does catch fish and we have had success with it when other flies weren’t working.  Some believe it’s a good caterpillar imitation, but we think it fishes more effectively as a weighted nymph than as a wet or surface fly.  Large caddis given the head in proportion to the body?  We tend to fish this one on the smaller side, but give a larger version a try, and at times use a conehead for enough weight to really get it down. Pull it out when you get stymied as to what they want.  Great fly for beginner fly tiers to hone your craft.

Zebra Midge

The Zebra Midge imitates midge pupae and emerging midges.  This pattern is fished as a nymph, euro-nymph, emerger by itself, and as a dropper.  Don’t be fooled by the size, many big fish have been fooled by this very small fly.  The Zebra Midge is tied from sizes 16 to 24, and consists of nothing but a shrimp or scud hook that is wrapped in colored thread, plus silver or copper fine wire.  The head is typically a 2 or 3mm tungsten bead head, with the finish matching the wire.   If you travel for your fly fishing, you’ll notice that this pattern is to be found at virtually every fly shop on the continent, if not the world.  The pervasiveness of midges, the consistent ability of this pattern to take trout throughout the world, and how easy it is to tie have made this midge a standard pattern.

CONGRATULATIONS – you’ve found a very early version of this article, that is currently under construction.  Way to go, detective, and tune in soon for updates!

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BEST TROUT NYMPHS – FOR EURO-NYMPHING

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Overview Of Euro-Nymphs

Here’s a summary of the nymphs for Euro-style nymphing we cover in more detail below:

Name Image Tie It Buy It
Tungsten Torpedo
Tungsten Micro Woolly Bugger Jig

Why Euro-Nymph?

More and more pros in the USA are using this technique, and outfitters increasingly offer classes and guided trips using this approach:

  • Your more direct and continual connection to your nymphs helps detect more subtle strikes, so you get better hook up rates.
  • Increased precision of “high-sticking” helps you work the smaller pockets and eddies, increasing your effectiveness on large and small streams alike.
  • Longer fly rods are not only better for this technique, but also double up your investment for large rivers and lakes.
  • You can start for under $100 (just by changing your leader and flies), if you don’t want to buy a new rod right off the bat.
  • Trout spend the most time feeding under water, far more than off the surface.

When Euro-Nymph?

You can use this approach any time, literally, considering that:

  • It is the most effective method in the shoulder months and winter months, increasing the days of the year you will catch fish
  • If you are primarily a dry fly angler, use this method when fish aren’t feeding near or on the surface
  • If you are primarily a sub-surface angler, you already live by the fact that trout feed under the surface most of the time.
  • Euro-nymphing is hands down the most effective method for fishing with nymphs, so use it any time.

How To Euro-Nymph?

Euro-nymphing is the art of “high-sticking” your fly rod and leader above and off the water.  This maximizes your ability to feel even subtle takes of your fly.  To accomplish this, Euro-nymphing employs:

  • More heavily weighted flies, often with tungsten beads and wire, and often “jig” style with the hook facing upwards to avoid snags
  • A longer rod to help with high sticking (to minimize drifting your line in the water)
  • A lighter-weight line (e.g. 3-weight) helps as well.
  • A colorful leader, which helps you not only see the line tighten or stop when you get a hit, but also gauge depth
  • No splitshot which hinder feeling a strike in any case as the line must tighten more for you to feel it.

For more detail, read our related article.

Related Article: Euro-Nymphing Basics Explained

Tungsten Torpedo

This competition-designed euro-nymphing fly is designed to get down to the strike zone quickly, and stay in the strike zone.  Tied with a dense steel hook in addition to a tungsten bead, the Torpedo drops fast through the water column, into feeding lanes.

Many tie this fly with a barbless hook that has a long claw point on it. Even while barbless, the extra long claw point helps you hook and hold every fish firmly.  In addition to careful handling, barbless hooks let you to release a fish quickly without any harm.

 

Tungsten Micro Wooly Bugger Jig

This competition-designed euro-nymphing fly is designed to get down to the strike zone quickly, and stay in the strike zone.  Tied with a dense steel hook in addition to a tungsten bead, the Torpedo drops fast through the water column, into feeding lanes.

Many tie this fly with a barbless hook that has a long claw point on it. Even while barbless, the extra long claw point helps you hook and hold every fish firmly.  In addition to careful handling, barbless hooks let you to release a fish quickly without any harm.

 

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STREAMERS – STANDARD

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Overview Of Streamer Patterns

Here’s a summary of the streamer patterns we cover in more detail below:

Name Image Tie It Buy It
Black Nose Dace
Clouser (Deep) Minnow
Mickey Finn
Muddler Minnow

Black Nose Dace

Even though this one may look like an attractor, it’s actually an imitation of the – you guessed it – Black Nose Dace minnow.  The actual minnow has a black stripe down the body, with varying degrees of reddish color on the underbelly.  As a traditional bucktail pattern, it has made a recent comeback, benefiting from rising popularity of classic streamers. Bucktails are great for beginner tiers, as they are simple to tie.  This is a good one to practice on before tying rainbow trout and other bucktail imitations.

Clouser Minnow

While developed in 1987 specifically for smallmouth bass by Bob Clouser, this patterns has since become among the most widely used in the world for both salt and fresh water.  In saltwater, with tying variations it has proven itself deadly for stripers, redfish, bonefish, and snooker.  In fresh water, again with slight variations in size and color it is deadly for trout, bass, and even carp.  Especially in the fall, when the brown trout become aggressive and territorial, and in spring when rainbows need a little more enticing during high runoff flow, the Clouser is a great pick to trigger explosive strikes.

Mickey Finn

Maybe this one should be up in the attractor section, but in any case it’s a fly that has caught just about everything including browns, rainbows, salmon, bass and more.  Mickey Finn ‘s history is quite sordid, actually.  Originally tied by Canadian fly tier Charles Langevin, way back in the 19th century.    It First called The Langevin (sounds almost like a Stephen King novel…), later called The Assassin.  Then after a couple of writers in the 1940s went on a fishing trip, it was renamed the Mickey Finn, after the dangerously drugged drink, a name which finally stuck.  No matter the name, this pattern works.  For your older tiers out there you may thinking of this in the category of “bucktails.”

Muddler Minnow

The Muddler is a super versatile fly that can be fished in a variety of sizes, and also fished on top dry, as a wet fly under the surface, or as a full blown streamer.  It’s effective for trout, bass, and panfish, most commonly thought of to imitate a small baitfish minnow or sculpin. Some anglers believe it also imitates a leach or other bait, but the way most fish it is more like a streamer (than in a dead drift for example).

Part of the reason this fly works so well, is not only the shape and color, but also that the densely shaped deer hair actually pushes water in a way that creates enough vibrations to attract fish even in poor-visibility water.  Some anglers like to use a smaller version of the Muddler as a lightweight trailer or dropper in a double-streamer rig.

While the Muddler is a traditional fly that may not be as widely used as it once was, consider it valuable like a classic book – as it keeps on working really well no matter.  For this reason alone, along with its wide versatility it is worthy of a hotly contested or limited space in your fly box.

Tying the Muddler isn’t super easy, as there are quite a few skills needed to really nail it.  It’s a good upper-intermediate / or even advanced level fly , especially to master the stiff shape of the quill wings, and also to spin the deer hair head and trim to the right proportions.

We usually fish it weighted (e.g. with a conehead on it or heavy lead wire to overcome the flotation of the deer hair), however, to fish it just under the surface you can just use split shot or on the surface no weight at all.

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STREAMERS – LARGER FOR LUNKERS

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Lunkers need to eat a lot of food, and therefore are attracted to larger flies.  Need we say more?

There are many fine traditional trout streamer patterns, discussed above and that you may already have in your fly box.  They will work just fine, and often catch you lunkers.  But these flies are specically designed to target large predatory trout and other species.  Some of these flies are so large they’re actually hard to cast, unless you have the right kind of rod – stiff and long with a heavier line weight.

Overview Of Larger For Lunkers Streamer Patterns

Here’s a summary of the streamer patterns we cover in more detail below:

Name Image Tie It Buy It
Boogie Man
Mouse Pattern
Rainy’s Galloups Dungoun

Why Use Larger For Lunkers Streamer Patterns?

The flies discussed in this section are designed to appeal especially to large predatory trout. They have lots of wiggly action, from not only the design but also the materials used, and make them even more appealing to lunker predators.

Many of these flies are articulated, which has not only the benefits of making them longer/bigger, and gives them better movement, but also helps pick up fish that nip the back of your fly to test it.  Large fish got that way by being smart.  If they aren’t sure about something, they’ll test it before committing to an aggressive hit.  The 2nd hook will pick up more of these hits than a regular sized streamer.

Mouse imitations and other large surface patterns are a blast to fish when fish smack them on the surface.

And the good news is, as time consuming to tie or as expensive to buy as these patterns can be, many are also effective for bass, pike, muskie, and salt water trophies.

When Use Larger For Lunkers Streamer Patterns?

Really big trout are aggressively predatory, and often feed under the cloak of darkness. You are most likely to catch these fish from dusk through to early rise in the morning.  This is when they are pursuing bait fish such as larger minnows, sculpins,  crawfish and even mice.

Use these large streamers when you are specifically pursuing trophy trout, and be certain to select your gear and fishing methods to match your quarry. Also use these flies to pursue pike, muskie, bass and many saltwater species as well.

Fish surface patterns for large rainbows in Alaska, silver salmon, and largemouth bass.

Pull out mouse patterns by mid summer, and get ready for some terrific action!

How To Fish Larger For Lunkers Streamer Patterns?

Tips for fishing articulated streamers and large surface patterns such as mice:

  • Note that you can often simply add a trailer hook after the main hook, to the flies you already have in your streamer box.  This will increase your hookup rate for both mis-hits, and fish that are smart enough to just nip at it first, testing to see if it’s real.
  • The best streamers are ones that have dark colors on top and light on the bottom.  This is not only more realistic in terms of representing real prey, it helps create a distinct outline that is easier to see in low light.
  • Casting these large flies can be downright difficult, resulting in tangles, hangups, and hooks in your clothing.  Many of these flies, especially when wet, actually feel like there’s  a big hunk of lead or a stick on your line. So, be sure to use a stiff rod and larger weight line.  You can roll cast once to bring your fly to the surface before back casting.  And watch that you don’t try and cast too far with too much line, or your spend more time untangling than you will fishing.
  • If you are tying your own, know that these are more advanced flies that have multi-section, articulated bodies.  Be sure to incorporate materials that pulsate in the water, such as maribou, rubber legs, excessive feathers, tinsel, and hair to entire more strikes.  The fun part is, you can design your own monster streamer and probably have as much luck with is as if you bought one!
  • Fish at night-time to go after the largest trout, especially when it comes to brown trout.  At night, stealth presentation is the name of the game.  At the same time, be sure to give the streamer lifelike action, even some splash.
  • Be ready – because hook ups are stronger, at times even violent.  Be ready to set the hook fast based on feeling moreso than sight.  Get your rod-tip up high fast, get ready to palm the reel as they take out line faster, and reel in fast when they turn around.  Fighting these fish is less like trout fishing, and more like salmon or steelhead fishing which take a different set of skills.
  • When presenting a mouse pattern, remember it is is nothing like presenting a mayfly!  Drop your mouse pattern so it floats past deeply undercut banks, water with deep trenches, and seams along riverside edges – then get ready for explosive hits.
  • For fishing all of these large patterns, and tying them, the great thing is you don’t need to t worry about an exact or even a realistic-looking pattern.  You’ll probably notice that many of the commercially available patterns look like nothing you’ve ever seen.  Just something close to the most basic features of a large minnow or mouse will work great.
  • For your leader and tippet, upgrade to a much larger size such as 2X – 4x where you might normally be working with 5X – 8X for trout.  In our experience, simple 10 – 20-lb monofilament is fine, you don’t need a tapered leader because the weight of the fly will carry it much like a lure on a spinning rod.

Boogie Man Streamer

Originally tied by Kelly Galloups, the Boogie Man has been getting slammed by large fish across the continent for over a decade.  With unique features including a wool head, lead eyes, and cactus chenille, this fly rises from the dead to come alive underwater.  Thought of by some as an articulated sculpin imitation, we aren’t sure what it actually looks like – and don’t really care because it works!  As long as the fish think it looks good, it really doesn’t matter, does it.

Mouse Fly Pattern

Fish a mouse pattern late at night for big Browns, and great for Rainbows not only in Alaska, but anywhere. Also great for largemouth bass and pike.  Some tips you will be glad you use these:  First, use heavy tippet, plain mono is fine you don’t need a tapered leader and why waste one on breakoffs anyway!  Next, use a strip set instead of raising your rod tip, which gives fish a 2nd chance of they mis-hit the first time.  Which they do, because they are driven so crazy by this pattern.  Third, fish early light or last light with a smaller size, but if you are fishing for browns late at night be sure to use a larger size – they need to strike off noise moreso than visibility.  Lastly, listen and feel more than look – when the light is low you’ll need to rely on all of your senses to pick up on the strike and set the hook.  Have fun!

 

Galloups Dungeon

Now a world-famous fly, the Sex Dungeon as it’s often called is another creation of Montana tier Kelly Galloups.  This articulated streamer is now so widely used it’s recognized not only in the USA but also world-wide.  The pattern strikes a great balance between looking like a huge meal, and yet at the same time streamlined enough to move in a natural swimming motion.  This stream draws both quick reaction strikes, as well as “hunt-it-down” predation chases by huge fish you wouldn’t otherwise realize are lurking below.  Use for trout, bass, pike, muskie, and saltwater species.

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CONGRATULATIONS – you’ve found a very early version of this article, that is currently under construction.  Way to go, detective, and tune in soon for updates!

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TERRESTRIALS FOR TROUT

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Overview Of Terrestrials For Trout

Here’s a summary of the terrestrial patterns we cover in more detail below:

Name Image Tie It Buy It
Chernobyl Ant
Hi Viz Foam Beatle

Why Use Terrestrials For Trout?

Well, because trout eat a lot of them.  The crazy thing is, 99% of the fly fishing literature is about matching the hatch.  But trout can be eating terrestrials left and right, and if you are looking for a “hatch” you won’t even notice!

This happens for a couple of reasons.  Terrestrials sit lower in the water, and often sink as they drown.  This is the opposite of a hatch, where the insects are rising to the surface, which is what we are trained to look for.  If trout are keying off of terrestrials, even if there’s a hatch going on, then you’ve missed the boat.

Since terrestrials float so low and sink faster, when a strike happens it rarely breaks the surface.  Think about it – beetles and caterpillars and grasshoppers weren’t designed to swim.  Maybe a sip, maybe a little ring on the surface, maybe a snout poking up.  For example, beetles and hoppers can just get sucked under the water without trout revealing their presence.

Trout are master judges of how to conserve energy relative to the calories they need to consume.  Many terrestrials provide a lot more food per chomp than most hatching insects.  So trout like insects such as beetles and grasshoppers for how much food they provide per bite, without much excitement needed to catch them.  Other underwater food sources such as minnows and crayfish may provide a lot of food, but also take a lot of energy to capture.

Now take all these principles above and think about smaller streams.  If you frequent smaller streams, you probably know that there often aren’t large hatches like in the the larger rivers. In fact, in some small streams, trout eat almost exclusively terrestrials.

Lastly but certainly not least, many terrestrial patterns are easy to tie, easy to fish, and easy to see even when the light gets dim on the river.  As you know know, there are many reasons why terrestrials are among the best flies for trout.

When To Use Terrestrials For Trout?

They are often more productive on windy days, because that’s when more of them fall into the river.  For the best time of day, note that terrestrials are more active during the day, especially from late morning through evening.

For the best time of year, conventional wisdom cites terrestrials as best to fish in late summer.  This comes from the notions that other hatches tend to die off in the hotter, low water conditions typical of August, and also because that’s when some terrestrials such as grasshoppers seem to be most abundant.
But like in many things, if you just blindly follow conventional wisdom, you’re going to miss out on a boatload of excellent terrestrial fishing – on the surface and below it.  Fortunately there are many studies that fisheries scientists have done of trout stomach contents (by inserting a tube without hurting the fish).  These show that terrestrials are common, even the majority of trout’s intake from May through September.  Even beyond that, beetles and leaf hoppers dominate fish diets past our Thanksgiving dinner.

So the upshot is, when you are scouting the river, add to your quiver of skills looking for terrestrials that are falling down into the river or stream, as much as you look for hatches that are rising up.

How To Use Terrestrials For Trout?

Here are some of our tried and tested tips for fishing terrestrials, which when fished right are among the best trout flies:

  • In terms of positioning yourself and how you step through the river, try to stealthy as with any other form of fly fishing.
  • For presenting your fly, the nice thing is that terrestrials often drop into the stream with a bit of a plop.  So, this gives you a little more leeway compared to presenting, for example, a size 20 midge or size 16 mayfly.  In fact, while most of the time you want to present and drift as naturally as possible, you might even try to plop down the fly once in a while to get their attention.
  • To place your fly, first fish where the water deepens into a channel or slot, drift them under branches near undercut banks, and in places where the water circulates that would trap a floating terrestrial.
  • Also cover the center of the river, because while most fall in near the bank, they can float a long while and many get pulled by the current further away from the shore.
  • Just like you may fish a droppers off a large dry fly, terrestrials make some of the best rigs for droppers that there are.  This is because many terrestrials use a lot of foam, making them practically as buoyant as a life preserver.  Not only does this make them easy to fish, you can drop anything from tiny to actually rather large wets and nymphs.  Just judge the size of the dropper off the size of your primary fly, and be certain that your coenection to the dropper is weaker than your tippet strength to avoid a double break-off.
  • Watch the terrestrial carefully as  a strike indicator.  It may go under when it’s hit on directly, but more often than not in our experience, it gets pulled under when the trout takes the dropper.
  • As great a great a flotation device as they can be, another myth we want to bust is that terrestrials should always be fished on the surface.  Remember, they aren’t designed to float!  Fish them lower in the water column, by using split shot, sink putty, or by tying versions that aren’t foam life preserves but use other materials.  You might be surprise at the results!
  • Focus on natural dead drifting, but if you aren’t having any luck try an occasional twitch.  This imitates an insect trying to “save” itself.  just don’t get carried away – it’s not like stripping a streamer to imitate a minnow for example  Just make a quick twitch with your rod tip, then drop your rod to resume a natural float.
  • When you spot trout inspecting your terrestrial, give them lots of runway before they take it.  They are known to inspect your fly for a good bit before taking or refusing.  Look for their shadows, and drift as far as you can rather than pulling out early for your next cast – if your fly isn’t in the stream you’re not actually fishing!

Chernobyl Ant

The 100% foam Chernobyl Ant not only floats like a rubber raft, it loosely represents a variety of abundant terrestrials, including carpenter ants, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles).  A great choice for trout, but this floater also excels with bass and panfish (use smaller sizes).  While the primary season to use this fly is in the summertime and early fall, don’t hesitate to bring it out in late spring and late fall when trout eat more terrestrials than most people thing.  The Chernobyl Ant is effective across the USA and Canada, equally effective on both western and eastern rivers.  While it works fine by itself, be sure to double your strike potential by dropping a nymph, emerger, or other wet fly off of it.  Easy to tie, easy to fish, and easy to catch trout with this universal pattern.

Hi Viz Foam Beetle

The foam beetle by itself is a super-classic pattern that is easy to tie for beginners, and effective for trout, bass, and panfish.  The only difference with the hi-viz is the addition of a small piece of foam on top for visibility.  Some believe that the foam on top emulates wings, but how many beetles do you know that fly?  Actually the June bug does, and there are flying beetles, but we have news for you – the foam is more for you than for the fish.  Add it in any color that helps you see this otherwise dark fly, especially at dusk.  White, orange, yellow, and red are the most common.  The main features of this pattern are a once-bifurcated body, under-belly of peacock herl, rubber legs, and bright color for the thorax indicator.  While smaller than some of the other terrestrials we cover, still buoyant enough for a smaller dropper to boot.

 


Related Article: The Best Flies For Salmon

10. FAQs

What does CDC mean in fly tying?

Many small dry flies and emerger patterns use a wing called “CDC” because it not only achieves the desired imitation look but also for flotation.  CDC stands for “Cul de canard” which is French for “duck bottom.” These feathers area from the back of a duck, located immediately around the uropygial gland (also known as the preen gland.  Because of the preen oil produced by this gland, the feathers are very bouyant.

What is an emerger in fly fishing?

Emergers are aquatic bugs that trying to emerge from their subsurface world into a their next adult life stage above the water.  Importantly for fly casting, remember that emergers are moving up towards the surface, rather than down.  Emergers are used in fly tying and casting to imitate certain insects such as caddis, mayflies, and midges that are hatching.  Once they make it to the surface and dry out their wings, they are then ready to mate and lay eggs then die, fulfilling their life cycle.

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Next Article: Fly Tying For Beginners – 3 Steps To Start Under $100


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