What flies to use.?

Choosing the right fly pattern for your next fishing trip.

Choosing the Best Fly Pattern

Following a few easy steps when choosing a fly pattern can help guarantee a trout will look twice no matter what the conditions.

Article by Dave Hughes

When you peel all the peripheral layers of the problem out of your way, trout fly selection reduces itself to a simple set of three steps. Separate these, focus on them in the correct order, and each leads to the solution of the next. You'll end up with the best fly for the situation. Initiate your trout fly selection only after you've stepped to streamside and looked around. Don't park your rig, tug on waders, and decide without sight of the water what fly you're going to fish.

1. Observe and Interpret

The first step at streamside is to observe conditions. Notice the wind and weather, air and water temperatures, whether the water is high and muddy, low and clear, or somewhere in between. It's not necessary to measure anything. Just take time to gather a rough idea of how things look and feel to you, and thereby assess how active or inactive trout might be in the water.

Look for trout. If you see them rising, cruising, winking along the bottom you'll know what type of fly will reach them at the depth they're feeding. In the absence of visible trout, look for insects, even if they're few and not on the water.

When insects are flying over water that is not so deep that trout won't rise to the top (usually 2 to 4 feet) or not so dirty that they can't see to the top, it's probably a dry-fly day. A hackled searching dry will likely draw trout up.

If you see insects on the water of the same somewhat shallow depth, but you see no fish rising, try fishing a traditional wet fly, or a brace of them, on the swing in the middepths. Wets work best when it seems trout should be feeding on top but they're not.

If the air is cold, the water is cool and looks lifeless, and no insects are out and about, your choices dip down to the bottom. You might try a streamer fished >deep in pools or swept across tailouts. In shallow riffles and deeper runs, tie on a nymph, adding split shot to get it down and a strike indicator to relay news about takes.

I'll give you a bold summation about fly type here: The most successful trout fishermen I know go directly to a nymph, split shot, and strike indicator setup unless specific observations, such as visible rising trout, dictate a different method.

2. Select a Fly

Now that you know the fly type to try, the critical decision looms: Which particular fly to try? Most often fly selection is easy, because you've already acquired enough hints to tell you what to use.

If a hatch is occurring, collect a specimen in your hand or hat. Don't worry about its Latin name. Just observe its size, form, and color, and match it as closely as you can. Common errors here include going to a size too large, when it's better to be just right or even a size too small, and matching the color of the insect's back instead of its belly, which is nearly always a lighter color and is what trout see when they tip up to take it.

If conditions predict success with a dry fly, but you see no hatch to match, notice if any insect is dominant even if it's not on the water. Choose a dry fly close to it.

If insects are out but none are dominant, choose a dry fly that fits the crowd. If you have nothing else to go on, use a drab Adams, fished close, on somewhat smooth water; a buoyant Elk Hair Caddis, fished at medium range, on water that is bouncy; or a bright Royal Wulff, fished at close to medium range, on boisterous water.

If conditions look likely for a nymph, hoist a few rocks off the bottom and examine what might be clinging to them. Match the dominant species as nearly as you can. If nothing stands out, try a nymph in a common size and color. My favorites are the Fox Squirrel and Olive Bead Head in size 14 or 16. I often use a weighted Brook's Stone or Olive Scud in a larger size and then tie the smaller fly as the point. This offers trout a choice, always a good way to find out fast which fly will fool them.

If you choose a wet fly or streamer, pick a pattern that matches an active food form. If none are evident, use what you wish. Most of the time you'll use these swimming flies to explore water, fishing downstream, probing everywhere, trying to entice scattered trout.

3. Adjust When Necessary

The final step is called for only when your chosen fly fails to fool trout. Put the brakes on your fishing; check to see if your original observations and interpretations still seem right. If they do, try a different pattern in the same category. Switch from a bright dry to a drab one, from a small nymph to a large one, from one wet or streamer to another.

Make just one or two changes of flies within a type; then switch from one fly type to another. If you try two or three dries of different sizes, shapes, and colors and none draw strikes, go to nymphs or some other below-surface style. If trout refuse, try swinging a wet fly or streamer.

Most often, if you observe what's happening on the stream and interpret it correctly, you'll choose the right fly in the first place. But keep in mind that conditions change during the day. Whenever your catch falls off, stop casting and take time to examine prevailing conditions. Notice what has changed and what you need to change to bump your success back up. choose a wet fly or streamer, pick a pattern that matches an active food form. If none are evident, use what you wish. Most of the time you'll use these swimming flies to explore water, fishing downstream, probing everywhere, trying to entice scattered trout.