The 5 Basic Flies Every Angler Should Know


Part of the fun of fly fishing is having lots of different flies and knowing how to use them. But the sheer number of flies that have been created over the years is sure to intimidate anyone considering picking up a fly rod. There are thousands, and fly fishermen are dreaming up new ones every day.

The good news is that all those “new” flies are variations of a few basic styles. The five flies listed here will cover most situations you will encounter when fishing for trout. Learn what they are for and how they work, and you will begin to understand the countless fly patterns available today.

1) The Elk Hair Caddis

The Elk Hair Caddis.
The Elk Hair Caddis.

Morgan Lyle

Everyone loves dry fly fishing—using a floating fly to catch trout that are grabbing bugs off the surface. Trout don’t spawn all the time, so a lot of planning is done in the stream in time for the “hatch.” When it does, it’s exciting: anticipation builds as your carefully chosen fly moves toward the rising trout. A sudden splash gives the thrill of victory.

Elk Hair Caddis is a great simple design for a floating fly. It consists mainly of bleached elk or deer hair attached to the tip of a hook, with the narrow tips pointing backwards. It looks a lot like a true caddy fly, whose wings are stretched across its body when resting, as opposed to a fat fly, whose wings are mostly straight. Most trout streams have more caddy flies than tip flies, and trout love to eat them. However, you can use an Elk hair when you see trout rising on tip flies floating on the surface, or when you don’t know what they are rising for. You can even use it when the trout aren’t spawning at all, hoping they won’t pass a perfectly good fly floating overhead. This is true often enough to make it worth trying.

The fly’s elongated body, transparent wings and feathery legs are all triggers that inspire trout to bite. Casts nicely, floats like a cork and has mid 20’s qualityth Century writer Ted Trueblood called it an “insect.” Keep some in size 12 (about half an inch long), some in 18 (a quarter inch) and some 14 or 16 for those in between.

2) French nymph

French nymph.
French nymph. Morgan Lyle

Trout may not grow, but they still eat – just underwater and out of sight. Flies that eventually emerge live most of their lives on the stream bed as crawling nymphs or helpless larval maggots. These creatures are almost always present in trout streams and often end up drifting in the current, where the trout accidentally pick them up as they pass.

Flies that mimic these underground insects are known as nymphs. Frenchie is one of the best. Developed by European competition anglers, it has a metal bead head, usually tungsten, which helps it sink quickly into the trout’s feeding chamber between the rocks of the stream bed. It has a spotted tail, which certainly seems to suggest the tail or hind tufts of many true aquatic insects, and its body is mainly composed of fibers from the tail of a pheasant, which has a segmented, cloudy, brown, like insects. wrapped in a hook.

Frenchie is also notable for what he does not have—characteristics intended to make it look more like a real insect, such as a scar on the ribs around the body, legs or seats made of feather fibers, or a “wing sheath” on top of the throat. If it were a painting, the French would be considered an impressionist, not a realist. Many of the best flies and lures are the same way, and competition anglers wouldn’t use the Frenchie if it didn’t work. Also visible on the Frenchie: a bright “hot spot” pink, orange or another bright color, completely unnatural. It attracts the trout’s attention, and a trout cannot eat a fly it has not noticed. The French are usually not too small or too big; size 12 to 16 is the typical range.

3) The Woolly Bugger

The Woolly Bugger.
The Woolly Bugger. Morgan Lyle

Many people have called the Woolly Bugger their desert island fly, the fly that airmen should pack in their survival kits, the only fly anyone really needs if the goal is to catch fish. It’s probably an exaggeration to say it catches every fish that swims, but people say that too. The Woolly Bugger is really in a category of its own these days because so many people have modified the recipe over the years. The basic recipe consists of a soft, wavy tail and a body of yarn with a feather wrapped around it so that the yarn blows out.

Woolly Buggers are larger than most “bug” flies like the Frenchie and Elk Hair Caddis, usually about 2 inches long, and are often considered “streamer” flies, meaning they look like a small fish and are made to swim under water like a bath. . However, Buggers also resemble large insects such as stonefly nymphs, ferrgramites and caterpillars, and can move like a nymph. Part of the fun of using a Bugger is the fact that, in its basic form, it was catching fish in Europe hundreds of years ago. This original version, with its string body and coiled fin, was established as a bass fly in the Ozarks in the early 20s.th century and became the Woolly Bugger when Russell Blessing of Pennsylvania added the soft tail of marabou feathers in the 1970s.

A small variety of Woolly Buggers in sizes 10 to 6, black, brown or olive on the ground, will cover a lot of freshwater fishing. Those with metal beads or cones are best as they sink quickly.

4) Rusty spinner

Rusty spinner.
Rusty spinner. Morgan Lyle

The rusty spinner mimics a fat fly at the end of its life, drifting helplessly downstream. Over the past 48 hours or so, this insect has swum from the stream bed to the surface, transformed from a crawling nymph into a winged adult, avoided being eaten by fish or birds, molted back into a sexually mature fly, mated in a bundle in the air over the stream and fell back into the water. Trout love these flies. This is why anglers get so excited about catching a “spinning drop”. But like the Elk Hair Caddis, the Rusty Spinner is effective beyond its intended purpose. Trout often rise to take one even if there hasn’t been a real spinning drop for several weeks.

After all, a snack is a snack. And the Rusty Spinner creates the unmistakable profile of a ready-to-eat bug. Its body, wings and tail lie on the surface of the water, so the fly is very visible, silhouetted against the sky. It is equally useful in sizes from small to jumbo. As small as size 22, it can represent a small blue-winged olive or the small fly known as Trico, while in size 10 it serves to imitate one of the larger flies, such as Isonychia or Brown Drake. It probably reminds the trout of any number of winged insects that end up swimming in the stream, on purpose or by accident—everything from midges to moths. So it pays to carry these in a wide range of sizes. Because of their flat shape, they can be difficult to see; fortunately, there are versions available with small neon appendages on their backs that are not visible to the trout but make it much easier for the angler to follow the fly’s progress downstream.

5) Quail and Green

Quail and Green.
Quail and Green. Morgan Lyle

There are times when trout feed near the surface, but not on it. They may feed on a hat of fat flies or caddis flies, but more interested in insects on their way to the surface than those already there. Or they may simply graze on random mid-depth drifting insects. It is not necessary to bounce a nymph along the bottom, but a floating fly will not do the job. You need a wet fly.

Quail and Green is never a bad choice at times like this. It has a green body with only a few windings of banded quail feathers suggesting legs (this is often referred to as a soft strike, which is also the general category of similar flies.) It is thin and light, a quality. shared by many true water flies, but not achieved by many false ones. So, along with being a great general purpose fly, the Quail and Green can be effective for trout that aren’t fooled by the heavier, stiffer patterns.

Read further: 8 Vintage Streamer Models for Trout and Salmon

Partridge and Green has two siblings, Partridge and Orange and Partridge and Yellow, along with many cousins ​​made the same way, with a simple body and sharp navel. The green version is a good choice because that shade is seen on some common caddis flies, although yellow and orange also appear among water flies. Generally used in sizes 12-16. You’ll be glad you have one with you if you see fish feeding just below the surface during a hatch, and it’s never a bad idea to bring one down through a riffle or slowly swing it and flick it across the tail of a swimming pool.





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