The Best Trout Flies: Top Flies For Trout Fishing Success

Written by: Dan R
Last Updated:
We may earn a commission from products listed on this page.

Fishing can be a game of details. The finer points are often what can make or break a day on the water. This couldn’t be any more relevant than when fishing for trout. Add fly fishing into that mix, and those little details suddenly become more prominent than ever before.

As someone who began fly fishing for trout much later in life than most, it quickly became very obvious to me how important little details can be - and how daunting it can be at times to get those details dialed in.

While there is no better way to figure it all out than time on the water, we’re here to get you started and help set your fly fishing journey off in the right direction with a rundown of the best trout flies.

Related: 

Best Flies For Trout

Wooly Bugger

Feeder Creek Woolly Bugger Fly Fishing Flies for Trout, Bass and Salmon- 12pc Handmade Wet Flies for Fly Fishing in Various Patterns/Colors | Streamer Flies (10, Yellow)

The Wooly Bugger is the fly I cut my teeth on, and many fly anglers, beginner and veteran alike, will tell you the same thing. It has been, and continues to be, one of the most versatile and deadly trout flies around.

With a variety of colors and sizes on hand, this streamer can be used to imitate anything from bait fish to leeches and crawfish, and it can even be tied in brighter, bolder colors and used as an attractor, searching out trout that may not be actively feeding.

Fished with a sink tip or a floating line, in faster flowing streams or still water ponds, the Wooly Bugger is a fly that will catch any trout in any type of water. For beginners, this is a fly that you should not be without.

Materials Used to Tie

Pre-Tied Options

Parachute Adams

Feeder Creek Adams Dry Fly Pattern, Famous Attractor Pattern, Fly Fishing Hand Tied Flies for Trout and Other Freshwater Fish, 4 Size Assortment 12, 14, 16, 18 (3 of Each Size)

A classic fly pattern, the Parachute Adams is easily recognized as one of the most effective dry fly patterns there is.

Another highly versatile pattern, the Parachute Adams not only works as an excellent mayfly imitation, but its natural, contrasting color pattern also makes it easy for fish to spot.

This is a fly that will work wonders anytime there is a mayfly hatch, but because it doesn’t closely resemble anything in particular, it can produce trout anytime they are surface feeding, no matter what it might be that they are feeding on.

Dead drift on a stream or a lake and trout will eat it up, but it can also be used as a dry fly attractor pattern and slowly stripped to better gain the fish's attention.

Materials Used to Tie

Pre-Tied Options

Elk Hair Caddis

ELK CADDIS BROWN 12-6 PK

Caddis imitations are a must have in any fly box. While there are plenty of variations to imitate any stage in the life-cycle from larvae to adult, if choosing only one of those patterns, it would have to be the Elks Hair Caddis.

The Elk Hair Caddis is a super buoyant pattern that will sit high on the water, making it perfect for dead drifting pocket water and faster flowing runs. But that's not the only way this pattern can be fished. If you run this fly half submerged, the result is an action and sound similar to that of a popper. With the right sink tip, the Elk Hair Caddis can also be completely submerged and fished as a wet fly.

Tied in a variety of sizes, this is a must-have fly for any serious trout angler.

Materials Used to Tie

Pre-tied Options

Hare’s Ear Nymph

The Fly Fishing Place Tungsten Bead Head Nymph Fly Fishing Flies - Flashback Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear Trout Fly - Nymph Wet Fly - 6 Flies Hook Size 10

The Hare’s Ear Nymph is to nymphs as the Parachute Adams is to dry flies: general and highly versatile. This pattern doesn’t represent anything specific but instead imitates everything and nothing at once.

There are plenty of different nymph patterns, all of which are going to catch you trout. But the Hare’s Ear Nymph is the one fly you should be reaching for when the fish aren’t surface feeding and you’re at a loss as to what they might be taking below the surface. 

This is also a great pattern to use to practice your fly-tying skills. It’s not an overly complicated tie, and because you’re not imitating any one bug, it’s a hard pattern to mess up. Even if it’s not exact, it will still catch trout.

Materials Used to Tie

Pre-tied Options

Stonefly Nymph

The Fly Fishing Place Basics Collection - Kaufmann's Stonefly Nymph Assortment - 10 Bead Head Rubber Legs Wet Flies - 5 Patterns - Hook Sizes 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12

The Stonefly Nymph is another classic pattern that will occupy some space in just about every trout angler’s fly box. 

The stonefly is unlike other aquatic insects in that it goes through an incomplete metamorphosis, skipping the pupal stages and going from egg to nymph and then to adult. This means that the majority of their life, stoneflies spend clinging for dear life to rocks on the riverbed.

Reaching up to 2 inches long, trout know these insects as an easy, high-protein snack, which is why this pattern will work all year long on any trout from small resident browns to giant migrating steelhead.

Most effective when worked as close to the bottom as possible, it can be a tricky pattern for a novice fly angler to get dialed in, but when you do, hold on.

Materials Used to Tie

Pre-tied Options

Zebra Midge

Umpqua Tungsten Zebra Midge Black Midges & Emergers Size 18-2 Pack

The Zebra Midge isn’t exactly every fly fisherman's dream. Because they’re not the most exciting way to catch trout, fly anglers either love them or hate it, but none can deny its effectiveness. Like it or not, it flat out catches trout - and lots of them.

Designed to imitate the pupal stage of aquatic insects, there are all kinds of different midge patterns, but the reason the Zebra Midge made this list is because it’s another one of those flies that doesn’t imitate anything specifically but can be used to replicate any insect in this stage.

Typically fished as a dropper, under an indicator very slowly, sometimes painfully stripped back an inch at a time, the Zebra Midge can be used for any fishing style that suits you best, and catch lots of fish no matter what.

Materials Used to Tie

Pre-tied Options

Egg Fly

Feeder Creek Fly Fishing Trout Flies, Trout/Salmon Eggs, 12 Wet Flies for Bass, Big Trout, Panfish, Available in 2 Size Assortment 14 and 16 (6 of Each Size) (Orange)

It's no secret that when there are fish spawning, trout love eggs, to the point where they’ll often ignore anything else. Convention gear anglers take advantage of this year after year, but fly anglers can too, with a few good Egg Flies.

Don’t let the ease of tying this fly downplay its effectiveness. Fished the same way you would a nymph, at or near the bottom, an egg fly is deadly during spawning season, and with a variety of sizes and colors, there will be plenty of days when this is the only fly you will need.

Materials Needed to Tie

Pre-tied Options

San Juan Worm

The Fly Fishing Place San Juan Worm Power Bead Trout Fly Assortment - 1 Dozen Wet Nymph Fly Fishing Flies - Hook Size 14-3 Each of 4 Patterns

The best fly patterns out there, especially for beginners, are the most versatile ones. While we’ve covered a few that fall into the category, a strong argument could be made that the San Juan Worm is the most versatile of the bunch.

Is it my favorite fly? No, I wouldn’t say that. I can’t argue with how versatile it is and how many trout it can catch. It’s a fly pattern that will work on any body of water, in any condition, any time of the year. It’s hard not to make space for it in the fly box.

Combine all of that with the fact that it ranks up there as one of the easiest flies to tie, and the San Juan Worm is a beginner fly angler’s dream.

Materials Needed to Tie

Pre-tied Options

Rules For Selecting The Right Fly For Trout

It’s not always easy to try and figure out what a trout wants. With all of the different variables, the odds are not in the angler’s favor. This couldn’t be made more obvious than when trying to select the right fly. It can be painstakingly tedious, but these four rules will help.

Observation

Watch the best fly anglers fish for any amount of time, and you’ll probably notice something: those anglers will spend more time observing the trout than they will cast to them. Of course, there are always exceptions, but to understand what trout want, you need to watch them and let them teach you something.

The most obvious part of this is watching for rising fish; fish that might be surface-feeding. This narrows down whether you should be fishing wet or dry flies. But that obvious factor is only a small piece of the puzzle. You select what you think might be the best fly, cast it out, and nothing. An angler's instinct is to cast again, and again, and again, forcing that fly on the fish. But they’re wise to you and to your fly. Instead of casting and casting, watch the trout some more, change flies, cast, and then do it all over again until you’re on to something. Let the fish impose their will on you, not the other way around.

Feeding Fish = Imitator

This might seem like an obvious point to some. After all, the “match the hatch” approach most fly anglers use dictates imitating what trout are feeding on. But it’s not always so cut and dry, which is the reason there are a number of versatile flies on this list. Just because you know they’re feeding doesn’t mean you know exactly what they’re feeding on. Unless you can clearly tell that they’re feeding on a Mayfly hatch for example, choosing a fly can resemble more than one aquatic insect, at least until you know exactly what the trout are after.

Non-Feeding Fish = Attractor

Just because trout aren’t surfacing doesn’t mean they aren’t feeding. They could very well be gorging on stoneflies on the bottom or sucking up passing salmon eggs. Or they could be shut right down and not feed on a thing. In situations where I suspect that they might not be feeding, I alway start with an attractor pattern, usually some kind of streamer. I do this in hopes of enticing a reaction strike instead of figuring out what they’re feeding on. It’s not an exact science, and I’m often left changing things up not long after, but it’s a good place to start.

Confidence

Confidence is something that will only come with a lot of time and even more patience. When I first started fly fishing, there were more setbacks than I can count before I started to have flies that I was confident with. But once you do find that confidence, you’ll be happy that you had the patience - and spent the time - to get to that point. Those are the flies you’re going to fish with the most, and they’re the flies that are most likely going to catch you the most fish, making your selection that much easier.

Final Thoughts

Trout are a tough fish to catch on the best of days, but when you’re doing it on the fly, it seems as if the finer points are even more exaggerated. And when you’re just learning how to fly fish for trout, it can be more than a little overwhelming. It wasn’t that long ago that I was just starting out, and the woes of those first outings are still etched in my memory.

Hopefully with this rundown of my picks for the best trout flies, I was able to alleviate some of that for you - even if only a little. Leave a comment and let us know if it helped, or if you plan to use any of the fly patterns we recommended!

About The Author
Dan R
Review Editor
Dan was practically born with a fishing rod in his hand. Growing up in the Great Lakes Region fishing has been a major part of his life from a very young age. When not on the water you can find Dan enjoying time with his family.
Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

1 Comment
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mike
Mike
6 months ago

Totally agree:
#1. Wooly Bugger- Brown with black, marabou, tail. Stillwater- 20' sink tip
River/stream- 5' to 9' sink tip. Big trout can't resist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *