Here you will find our guide to the best flies for trout that are on the market now. It can seem overwhelming at first when you look at the hundreds of flies, but there are a few tried and true patterns that are proven to land fish.
Whether you’re new to fishing or you’re an experienced fly fisher, one thing is sure: You want your fly box stocked up with good quality fly fishing flies for trout.
So enough with the preamble, we’ve broken this list down into wet flies, nymphs and dry flies for trout so you can cover all types of water, at any time of year. So if one’s not working, you can quickly change that fly and catch that monster.
What are the best trout flies?
Woolly Bugger Wet Fly
If you could only have one fly in your fly box for trout fly fishing, we’d recommend the woolly bugger. Grab a few in a range of different sizes and colors and you will be set for every situation. Or you can also learn how to tie a wooly bugger on your own! It would be a mistake to set off without one!
You can fish a Woolly Bugger in the strike zone or near the surface – either way, you’re bound to get excellent results. The Woolly Bugger manages to perfectly imitate larger forage, convincingly creating a lifelike presentation that will be sure to fool the hungry fish.
It’s one of the great patterns, so make sure you pack a few in your box. You can see our fish here for a complete guide on fly fishing wooly bugger.
Bunny Leech Streamer
Many experienced anglers just love how bunny fur moves in the water – it’s second to none in drawing the trout over. It’s flashy, it’s bright, and the fish go crazy for it.
And that’s why the Bunny Leech ranks among the top flies for trout fishing. If you want to get more out of your fishing trip, don’t forget to include a Bunny Leech when you’re packing.
When it comes to freshwater fishing, crayfish might not be the first fly that springs to mind. But think again – crayfish can be found in waters all over the US, and the trout love them. So don’t underestimate the crayfish fly, they can make fish go nuts!
If nothing’s working for you, or you just feel like shaking things up a bit, grab your rod, tie on your crayfish, and have a go at stripping it along the streambed. You will be impressed with how quickly it will get the trout striking – it’s just too tempting a bite to miss!
Olive Freshwater Clouser Streamer
The Olive Freshwater Streamer is a great fly to hand at all times, especially for streamer fishing. It closely resembles the baitfish that larger trout prefer to eat – we recommend you use sizes 6 and 8!
The dark olive can look almost black at times, perfect when you have a streambed with lots of darker aquatic plants and you don’t want to use a lighter fly that will stick out like a sore thumb.
Muddler Minnow Streamer
The Muddler Minnow gives the Clouser a run for its money. You don’t have to be selective about where to use the muddler minnow fly pattern – it will bring you results in streams, lakes, and rivers all across the US and even in Patagonia .
Our top tip: fish it as if it was a grasshopper or a sculpin, and see how the trout react.
Clouser Deep Minnow Streamer
This white and chartreuse beauty works wonders on trout if you strip it through the water.
It behaves just like a smaller jig would in the water, which catches its eye and leads to many a catch. You can try this in any size from 2 to 10.
The bunnybuster is one of the best fly fishing streamer patterns as it offers you more versatility than other trout flies. This makes them one of the most popular trout streamer flies. The front is heavily weighted to attract fish with its jiggly action. It comes in the colors olive, brown, tan, and orange, and sizes #2-#12. Another pattern that you can add to your fly box is the marabou jig for trout.
Tungsten Missile Nymph
If you’re looking for a nymph fly that weights to get it down to where the fish are lurking on the bottom, choose a Tungsten Missile.
Something about the bead, the color, and the overall look of this nymph makes it highly effective, especially in conditions where the water is deep and fast-flowing.
Hot Bead Euro Pheasant Nymph
This amazing attractor fly will be sure to get the fish chasing and biting! Although it’s not a close imitation of any particular bug, it still gets great results.
We recommend fishing the Hot Bead Euro Pheasant in the middle or bottom of the water column on your nymphing rig set-up, aided by some split shot. Try sizes 12-22 for the best results.
Zebra Midge Pattern
Sometimes, you’ll find that the trout are selectively eating only very small larvae or pupae. Don’t forget that natural trout flies are generally much smaller than the ones we tend to favor. On days like this, choose a zebra midge in sizes 16-22, and your chances may go up.
The zebra midges fly imitates not only midge larvae, but also caddis pupae and mayfly larvae too, so it’s a good workhorse nymph to have in your box. The black creates a high contrast with the wire wrap – a combination that is guaranteed to catch the attention of the fish.
San Juan Worm
Don’t overlook the humble worm fly. Even though the world of fishing has come a long way with new flies being developed all the time, you can still do a lot of damage with a san juan worm fly.
Worms are particularly popular when run off starts, as they offer a rich meal full of protein for the fish. Some fishermen suggest that worms work especially well when the water is dirty or off-color.
Don’t pay any attention to what purists say against worms. They are just as authentic as any other dry or wet fly, imitating the natural forage of the trout in the form of aquatic worms.
If you tie your own trout flies, the san juan worm is so easy to get started with. Try your worm under a midge or an emerger on your nymph rig and you’ll be sure to get some bites.
Brown Sexy Stone Fly Nymph
This one may look a bit unusual, but it nicely imitates large mayfly nymphs – some of the trout’s favorite foods. You can use the Brown Sexy Stone in almost any trout water.
Gold Ribbed Hares Ear Nymph Fly
The Gold Ribbed Hares Ear is a classic that still deserves a spot on your list. This fly stands out due to its eye-catching, golden design, and the fact that it is so versatile.
Pack a few different sizes and you will be able to imitate everything from scuds to stoneflies (even black stonefly), mayflies to nymphs. It appeals to trout in all different locations and is one that I’ve come to depend upon.
Hook this one up and dead-drift it, and you’ll be pleased you tried! Versatile and effective, this prince nymph has been responsible for catching a huge number of trout and deserves a spot in your fly box.
This success might be down to its highly contrasting colors (copied from many natural aquatic insects) making it hard to miss in the water, or it might be something else entirely. All we know for sure is that it works – so we love it!
Rainbow Warrior Nymph
If you’re not having any luck by matching the hatch and imitating the natural insects as closely as possible, it’s time to try another tactic. Switch over to this gaudy attractor pattern and see if that won’t get the trout’s attention!
Lance Egan created this nifty fly and has used it successfully all over the world.
Bead Head Pheasant Tail Nymph
The bead head pheasant tail should be a staple in any fly box. Even though it doesn’t look like your typical fly, it’s a fish magnet since it has some tasty features that make fish go wild with desire. It works best in sizes #12-#22 and the colors olive, orange, and brown.
Beadhead Rubberleg Hares Ear Nymph
The beadhead rubberleg hares ear is one of the most popular fly fishing patterns for spring. Its rubber legs which facilitate extra movement make it one of the most popular trout fishing flies. Its appearance can fool most trout. It comes in the colors black, olive, and brown in sizes #10-#16.
Caddis Pupa Fly
The caddis pupa in sizes #12-#16 is available in the colors orange, tan, and olive. It has a natural look and it is fairly easy to tie. The fly looks like a delicacy to fish. It is a beautiful mix of soft fiber, an almost transparent body, and a natural hare’s ear.
Parachute Adams Dry Fly
Ask any fly fishermen, and he’s bound to tell you that the Parachute Adams is among his favorites, without a doubt. This fly makes the trout simply go mad. You can use it to imitate caddisflies, mayflies, and even midge dry fly pattern if you use smaller sizes.
It’s a great all-around dry fly that will work wonders on almost every trout river. Try to modify your fly to match what’s hatching where you are – copy it as closely as possible in color and size for the best success. This is a great addition to your dry fly box.
Elk Hair Caddis Dry Fly
The elk hair caddis is one of the top fishing flies for trout. It’s a versatile fly that uncannily imitates the caddisfly. It attracts the trout’s attention due to its high visibility, and you can experiment with it at different depths in the water column.
You’ll get just as good results with the Elk Hair Caddis floating on the surface as if you choose to dead-drift it. At dusk, in particular, you can fish it as a dry fly to imitate the caddisfly when it comes to laying its eggs – the trout are easily fooled by the Elk Hair Caddis.
Another way to present the Elk Hair Caddis is by twitching it and dead-drifting it, so it resembles a caddis emerger attempting to take off from the water. You can check out our post here if you want to learn how to tie an elk hair caddis.
Chornobyl Ant Stimulator
It might look a little different from our other recommendations today, but we believe you can’t go wrong with a foam Chornobyl Ant in your fly selection. You might think it’s too basic, but it’s simple and it’s effective, making it one of the top fishing flies for trout.
You can hook up a Chornobyl Ant on your fly rod anywhere from a big river out West to a smaller mountain stream, and you’ll be sure to catch something in no time. To you and me, it looks ugly as anything, but the fish just can’t seem to resist!
BWO Sparkle Dun Dry Fly
The blue-winged olive BWO Sparkle Dun is a close imitation of the olive-colored mayflies that can be found almost anywhere. Hatching throughout the year, from late in the winter through to late fall, few Sparkle Duns are some of the best fall trout flies and are excellent additions to any trout fishing fly box.
You can also try using the PMD Sparkle Dun if you see cream-colored mayfly hatching (most often during spring and summer). Here are some of our picks of flies for winter trout fishing that you can take a look at as well.
The Griffith’s Gnat is another trusty dry fly for catching trout. It imitates a terrestrial insect like a small beetle. I’ve had good results using Griffith’s Gnat during midge, mayfly, and caddisfly hatches.
A great tip is that if you’re not sure exactly what the trout are eating, give this one a whirl and see if you get any bites.
You can see our post here to know the difference between wet fly vs dry fly.
Caddis Pupa Flies
Caddis are generally a good bet if you’re not sure what the fish are feeding on. Maybe you’re in a new fishing spot, or you’re just not sure what’s hatching right now.
Caddis are found in most trout waters, and the Super Pupa fly is a pretty close imitation of the caddisfly both in its larvae and pupa stage. It might not look like anything special, but this nymph creates a natural and convincing presentation, moving in a lifelike way that the trout won’t miss.
You can check out our post here on different types of flies for more guidance.
Tying It All Up
Hopefully, this article on the best trout flies will make filling your box much easier for you. Whether you’re traveling out of town and hitting some major trout fly fishing spots or you’re just fishing in your local pond or river, these suggestions should make sure you have the best fishing experience possible.
With our recommendations for the top dry flies, streamers, and nymphs, you should be all set to hook some whoppers and come home with an impressive catch. We want to know what your ultimate fly for trout fishing is – tell us in below in the comments section!
For more on how to tie your own versions and the deeper histories of some of the patterns check out our flies section