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Best Flies for Trout Fishing

Trout streams all over the world see different insect hatches throughout the year and some anglers believe matching the hatch is the only way to bring these trout to the net. While matching the hatch will lead to success more times than not, a handful of flies transcend the match the hatch rule, and can be just as effective when there is little trout activity going on. Whether you enjoy throwing dry flies, streamers, or nymphing, don't leave home without these flies in your pack

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Best Dry Flies

  • Chubby Chernobyl

  • Stimulator

  • Elk Hair Caddis

  • Adams 

  • Matt's Midge

Best Nymphs

  • Pheasant Tail

  • Hares Ear

  • Perdigon

  • Zebra Midge

  • Junk Flies (eggs, worms, mops)

  • Rainbow Warrior

  • Walt's Worm

Best Streamers

  • Woolly Bugger

  • Clouser Minnow

  • Zonker

  • Helmet Head Sculpin

  • Kreelex Minnow

The Best Flies for Trout and When to Throw Them

Knowing when to throw different fly patterns is just as important as knowing what flies work best in the first place. Gauging the activity level of the trout is the first step in making the decision. Knowing whether you are targeting stocked trout versus wild trout, or pressured trout versus those that see very few anglers each year. These factors will help narrow the selection and put you one step closer to catching fish. 

Best Dry Fly Patterns

Chubby Chernobyl

The Chubby Chernobyl is likely the most popular hopper imitation and for good reason. It does a great job attracting trout and floats high on the water which makes it perfect for a dry dropper rig. Its effectiveness tends to be limited from early summer through fall, but maintains its usefulness with the dry dropper rig for longer than this window.


The Stimulator is one of the buggiest dry fly patterns out there. The fly can imitate stoneflies, caddis flies, hoppers, and likely other options on the trout's menu. Much like the hopper patterns, the stimulator is a great choice to grab the attention of trout and float a dry dropper rig. Sizes 12 and 14 are the most common options but anglers can go bigger or smaller in niche situations.

Elk Hair Caddis

The Elk Hair Caddis is another buggy fly that appeals to the trout's curiosity even outside of the standard caddis hatches. Moths can find their way on to the water throughout much of the country. These are especially prevalent in the high alpine lakes of the rockies during the summer months.

Matt's Midge

From the largest tailwater trout streams to the small freestone river and creeks tucked high in the mountains, midges will be a staple in any trout's diet. When the fish start to rise, especially in the cooler month, a midge imitation is a great place to start when you aren't able to accurately identify what the trout are eating.

Adams Fly

Like the midge, Adams patterns can also be a great starting place when you find yourself in front of actively feeding trout and can't quite pin point what they are eating. The many adams variations are great at imitating the various stages of hatching and mature mayflies from emergers to spinners.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

The pheasant tail and the hares ear are likely the most recommended nymphs for beginners and for good reason. These patterns can imitate any number of aquatic insects which trout have a hard time passing on. Size is likely less important than weight. Proper weighting is determined by the depths and current speed you find yourself fishing.


The Perdigon certainly isn't the prettiest pattern, but its simplicity is the secret to its success. While you're not necessarily trying to match the hatch perfectly, the perdigon and its variants are made to get down to where the trout live and eat. When targeting finicky or lethargic trout, there is no better option out there.

Zebra Midge

A must have on any tailwater trout stream the zebra midge has kept many of fly anglers from going home skunked since its creation. Though it's prowess as a tailwater fly is second to none, don't overlook the zebra midge on freestone streams, especially in the colder weather months. 

Rainbow Warrior

The Rainbow Warrior is a perfect combination of flash and finesse. The flash can draw the curiosity of the trout while the smaller profile keeps from spooking pressured or finicky trout. While the fly isn't as tried and true as the pheasant tail and hares ear, the Rainbow Warrior continues to produce at times when other flies can't.

Walt's Worm

Like the Perdigon, the simplicity of the Walt's Worm is what makes it so effective. Whether it is imitating a caddis pupae or just seems buggy enough to the trout to be a good meal, its compact nature and small profile make it an excellent option for finicky and selective trout. 

Junk Flies

Deadly on stocked trout and wild trout alike, there is no question that junk flies are responsible for landing more trout than any other patterns around. Squirmy worms, san juan worms, mop jigs, y2ks, glo bugs, and similar patterns that put make any fly fishing purist cringe are deadly when the circumstances arise. These patterns work year round, with winter being best for the egg imitations, and high water being optimal for mops and worms.

Clouser Minnow

A staple for any fly angler fishing for predators on the stream or in lakes, the clouser does a great job of duping hungry and territorial trout.

Woolly Bugger

The Woolly Bugger and its countless variations are the do-it-all of the fly box. Leeches, crawfish, minnows, etc... its best not to wonder what the trout think they are or why they eat them, just know they will get eaten not only by the trout, but anything else that swims. Stripped, swung, or dead drifted the Woolly Bugger is the most effective streamer out there.


An effective alternative to the woolly bugger during periods of high or dirty water.

Helmet Head Sculpin

Somewhat of a niche pattern, but when the day calls for bouncing or rolling a sculpin along the bottom there is little more effective for trout.

Kreelex Minnow

Whether using dumbbell eyes or a jighead, the kreelex minnow can imitate any small prey fishes in the streams. From shiners, fry, or even sculpin this flashy fly can be tied in various sizes to best appeal to bigger predators. 

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Best Nymph Flies

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Best Steamers Patterns

Looking to more tips and techniques? Check out our other articles on fly fishing emerger patters, fly design, and effective nymphing methods. Our articles on the best trout streams in America will give you an idea of where to visit and when is the best time to go.

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