Stuff that works, stuff that holds up – Guy Clark said it best. Classics and old-standbys are things that are proven, time-tested and true. In trout fishing, there are thousands of variations of effective fly patterns. Among those, certain patterns have reached near legendary status. In this post, we discuss ten of the most trusted fly patterns to include in your trout arsenal and how to fish them.
The Parachute Adams (PA) is truly a classic, versatile dry pattern used for matching the hatch. Anglers love this pattern for its consistent ability to spark exciting trout rises. In addition, the fly’s light-colored parachute post contrasted with its darker body makes this fly easier for trout (and anglers) to see in varying light conditions.
The PA may be fished on a dead drift in rivers or still water as a highly effective mayfly imitation. You can also fish this fly as a general attractor pattern or skitter it across the water to imitate caddis!
- Size #12-22 Dry Fly Hook
- Thread - UTC 70 Denier
- Parachute Post - White Calf Body Hair (White Float Viz also works)
- Fly Body - Superfine Gray Dubbing
- Tail - Grizzly and Brown Hackle
Elk Hair Caddis
The Elk Hair Caddis (EHC) is a high-floating, buoyant pattern, perfectly suited for dead drifting in fast-moving, pocket water. Arguably the best adult caddis imitation available, the EHC is a highly versatile dry.
The EHC can be fished high on the water, half-sunk to fish similar to a popper, or even submerged just beneath the surface as a wet fly! You will absolutely want to have this pattern in a variety of sizes and colors. It just works!
- Size #10-20 Dry Fly Hook
- Thread - 6/0 Tan or Cream
- Rib - Extra Fine Copper or Gold Wire
- Legs - Brown or Dark Barred Ginger Hackle
- Body - Superfine Brown or Olive Dubbing
- Wing - Natural or Bleached Elk Hair
Invented by legendary fly angler and tyer, Lee Wulf, the Royal Wulff is an excellent searching pattern that is effective in both fast- and slow-moving freestone streams. The Royal Wulff was designed primarily as a general attractor pattern that fishes high on a drift.
This pattern is very effective in pocket water in part because of its colors and high-profile silhouette that make it easier for trout to see in heavy water. Stock your trout box with this world-famous pattern!
- Size #8 -18 Dry Fly Hook
- Thread – Ultra 140 Black
- Tail - Elk or Brown Deer (bucktail) Hairs
- Body – Peacock Tail Feather (three herls) and Red Floss
- Wings - White Calf Tail
- Hackle - Natural Brown
The March Brown is yet another classic dry fly pattern which, no surprise, imitates the March Brown Mayfly. This pattern is general enough for use as a searching pattern and works great for the sporadic May Fly hatches which occur throughout the day.
- Size #14 - 10. Dry Fly Hook
- Thread - Tan 8/0 (70 denier)
- Wing - Wood-duck Feather
- Tail - Brown Hackle Fibers
- Body - Fawn-colored Rabbit-fur Dubbing
- Hackle - Brown and Grizzly Hackles.
Madison, the Cowichan, the Snake and the Gunnison all have one thing in common –wary trout that inhabit each of these rivers (and others all over the world) love the Zebra Midge. This pattern is proof positive that simple, easy-to-tie patterns deserve our attention as fly tyers.
Dead drift the Zebra Midge with an indicator on a dropper beneath an attractor pattern and get ready to fool some highly selective trout!
- Size #14 – 16 Curved Nymph Hook
- Thread - UTC 70 in Black or Red
- Rib - UTC Wire (copper, silver, gold)
- Head - Tungsten (or glass) 3/32 for 14, 5/64 for 16
The Copper John is a relatively quick-sinking mayfly nymph pattern that was developed in the early 1990s by Boulder, Colorado resident, John Barr. The fast sink-rate of this fly may be one of the factors that contribute to its high degree of success as a nymphing pattern.
In addition to Euro nymphing techniques (think French Nymphing or Czech Nymphing), this fly can also be fished with an indicator as a part of a dropper rig, below an attractor pattern.
- Size #10-20 -2X-heavy, 2X-long Nymph or Streamer Hook
- Bead - Tungsten Gold
- Weight - .015 Lead Wire
- Thread – Black, 8/0 or 70 Denier
- Tails -Brown Goose Biots
- Abdomen - Copper Ultra Wire (Brassie Sized)
- Wingcase (top) -Pearl Flashabou
- Wingcase (bottom) - Strip of Black Thin Skin
- Thorax - Peacock Herl
- Legs - Speckled Brown Hen Hackle.
- Adhesive - Loon UV finish
Bead-Head Prince Nymph
We can’t have a complete discussion of essential trout flies without mentioning the Bead-Head Prince Nymph, which many anglers the world-over have heralded as their go-to search pattern for nymphing. This pattern effectively imitates caddisfly nymphs as well as small stoneflies.
The Prince Nymph can be fished using a drifting technique, or, stripped-in similar to a streamer pattern.
- Size #4 – 18, Nymph 1X Hook
- Bead – Gold (Brass)
- Weight - Lead Wire.
- Thread - Brown, 6/0 or 8/0
- Tails - Brown Goose Biots
- Rib - Fine Gold Wire
- Body - Peacock Herl
- Hackle - Grizzly Half Saddles Brown
- Wings - White Goose Biots
- Glue - Head cement.
While not truly a nymph pattern, I include the Egg Fly here because you will employ a similar technique for fishing this pattern. The Egg Fly is probably among the simplest patterns you will ever tie, but don’t let that deter you – this pattern is highly effective!
During spawing season, trout actively eat the eggs of other trout and salmon because they are a nutrient-rich meal that is relatively easy to pick off from the bottom of the river. It’s a simple equation that makes a lot of sense for foraging trout. Drift this pattern near to or at the bottom of a freestone stream and be sure to carry multiple sizes and colors as the fish can be very selective!
- Size #10 or 12 Egg Hook
- Thread - 70 denier (orange)
- Body - Orange Glo Bug Egg Yarn
- Dot - Pink Glo Bug Egg Yarn
The Wooly Bugger is easily one of the most popular and widely used streamer, or wet fly patterns, period. This venerable fly is useful for a wide variety of fisheries, from streams to still waters, from freshwater to saltwater. It is also used to imitate a variety of the menu items that trout love to eat, from baitfish to leaches, and even crayfish!
Fish this fly upstream and let it drift on a dropper rig, then strip it in on the swing. On still water ponds and lakes, cast the Wooly Bugger near structure and strip it in, similar to fishing a clouser pattern. Tying this pattern in a variety of sizes and colors is highly recommended!
- Size #4-8 Streamer Hook
- Thread - 3/0 Black, Brown or Olive
- Body – Black, Brown or Olive Chenille
- Hackle – Black, Brown or Olive Saddle Hackle
- Tail - Marabou, Black, Brown or Olive with Pearl Krystal Flash
Originally intended as a sculpin pattern, the Muddler Minnow has become a classic pattern that has earned its reputation a go-to-fly for carnivorous trout. This world-famous streamer pattern is versatile! Fish the Muddler though deeper pools to imitate sculpin, or skate it on the water’s surface to imitate a mouse.
- Size #2-10 3x Long Streamer Hook
- Thread – Waxed 6/0 (for body and wing) and Waxed 3/0 (for hair head)
- Tail - Mottled Turkey Quill
- Body - Gold Mini Flat Braid
- Underwing - Tan Calf Tail
- Wing - Mottled Turkey Quill
- Collar - Natural Deer Hair Tips
- Head – Deer Hair (spun and trimmed)