Welcome to our guide to the best trout flies currently on the market. With hundreds of flies to choose from, it can seem daunting at first. However, there are several tried and true patterns that have proven to hook fish effectively.
Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced fly fisher, one thing is certain: You want your fly box stocked with top-quality fly fishing flies for trout.
While there is no definitive “best” fly for trout fishing, there are a handful of flies commonly employed by fly fishermen when in pursuit of this species.
What are the best trout flies?
Without further ado, let’s break down this list into wet flies, nymphs, and dry flies for trout. This way, you’ll be equipped for all types of water, at any time of year. If one fly isn’t working, you can swiftly switch it out and hopefully land that lunker.
Woolly Bugger Wet Fly
If we had to recommend just one fly for your trout fishing expedition, it would undoubtedly be the woolly bugger. Stock up on this fly in a variety of sizes and colors, and you’ll be prepared for any situation. You might even consider learning how to tie a wooly bugger yourself! It would be a mistake to embark on your adventure without one!
The Woolly Bugger can be fished in the strike zone or near the surface – either way, expect positive results. It expertly mimics larger forage, creating a lifelike presentation that will surely deceive a hungry fish.
This pattern is a classic, so ensure you pack a few in your box.
Bunny Leech Streamer
Experienced anglers rave about the enticing motion of bunny fur in the water – it’s unparalleled in luring trout. Its flashy and bright appearance drives fish wild.
This is why the Bunny Leech ranks among the top flies for trout fishing. To maximize your fishing trip, make sure you pack a Bunny Leech.
Crayfish may not be the first fly that comes to mind when it comes to freshwater fishing, but they shouldn’t be overlooked – crayfish are abundant in waters across the US, and trout find them irresistible. So, don’t underestimate the crayfish fly; it can drive fish to frenzy!
If you’re struggling or simply feel like changing things up, tie on your crayfish and try stripping it along the streambed. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it gets the trout biting – it’s just too tempting a morsel to pass up!
Olive Freshwater Clouser Streamer
The Olive Freshwater Streamer is an essential fly to have on hand, especially for streamer fishing. It closely mimics the baitfish that larger trout favor – we recommend sizes 6 and 8!
The dark olive color can appear almost black at times, perfect when fishing in a streambed with lots of darker aquatic plants. Using this darker fly prevents you from standing out too much in such an environment.
Muddler Minnow Streamer
The Muddler Minnow gives the Clouser a run for its money. The muddler minnow fly pattern is versatile and effective in streams, lakes, and rivers across the US, and even in Patagonia .
Here’s a top tip: fish it as if it was a grasshopper or a sculpin, and observe the trout’s reaction.
Clouser Deep Minnow Streamer
This white and chartreuse beauty works wonders on trout when stripped through the water.
It mimics the behavior of a small jig in the water, which catches the fish’s attention and often results in a successful catch. This fly is effective in sizes ranging from 2 to 10.
The bunnybuster is one of the best fly fishing streamer patterns due to its versatility compared to other trout flies. This makes it one of the most sought-after trout streamer flies. The front is heavily weighted to attract fish with its jiggly action. It comes in colors such as olive, brown, tan, and orange, and in sizes #2-#12.
Another pattern to consider adding to your fly box is the marabou jig for trout.
Tungsten Missile Nymph
If you’re in search of a nymph fly that sinks to the bottom where the fish are feeding, choose a Tungsten Missile.
Something about the bead, the color, and the overall appearance of this nymph makes it highly effective, particularly in conditions where the water is deep and fast-flowing.
Hot Bead Euro Pheasant Nymph
This fantastic attractor fly is sure to get the fish chasing and biting! Although it’s not a precise imitation of any specific bug, it still produces excellent results.
We recommend fishing the Hot Bead Euro Pheasant in the middle or bottom of the water column on your nymphing rig set-up, assisted 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. It’s important to remember that natural trout flies are generally much smaller than the ones we tend to favor. On such days, opt for a zebra midge in sizes 16-22, and your chances of success may increase.
The zebra midges fly pattern not only imitates midge larvae, but also caddis pupae and mayfly larvae, making it a versatile nymph to have in your box. The black color contrasts significantly with the wire wrap – a combination guaranteed to catch the fish’s attention.
San Juan Worm
Don’t underestimate the value of the modest worm fly. Despite the fishing world’s advancements and the development of new flies, the san juan worm fly still proves effective.
Worms are particularly popular when runoff begins, offering a protein-rich meal for the fish. Some fishermen suggest that worms work especially well when the water is dirty or off-color.
Purists may scoff at the use of worms, but they are as legitimate as any other dry or wet fly, imitating the trout’s natural prey in the form of aquatic worms.
If you tie your own trout flies, the san juan worm is an easy starting point. Try fishing your worm under a midge or an emerger on your nymph rig, and you’re bound to get some bites.
This fly may look a bit unusual, but it accurately imitates large mayfly nymphs – some of the trout’s favorite food. 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 earns a spot on our list. This fly stands out with its striking golden design and its versatility.
Load up on a few different sizes, and you’ll be able to mimic 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 rely on.
Hook up this prince nymph, dead-drift it, and you’ll be glad you did! Versatile and effective, this prince nymph has been responsible for catching a significant number of trout and deserves a spot in your fly box.
Its success might be attributed to its highly contrasting colors (copied from many natural aquatic insects), making it hard to miss in the water, or it might be due to another factor entirely. All we know for sure is that it works – and we love it!
Rainbow Warrior Nymph
If you’re not having any luck matching the hatch and accurately imitating the natural insects, it’s time to change your strategy. Switch over to this flashy attractor pattern and see if that doesn’t grab the trout’s attention!
Lance Egan designed this nifty fly and has used it successfully worldwide.
Bead Head Pheasant Tail Nymph
The bead head pheasant tail is a staple in any fly box. Although it doesn’t resemble your typical fly, it’s a magnet for fish, featuring some enticing characteristics that drive fish wild. It works best in sizes #12-#22 and in colors like 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 fisherman, and they’re likely to tell you that the Parachute Adams ranks among their favorites. This fly drives trout wild. You can use it to imitate caddisflies, mayflies, and even midge dry fly patterns if you use smaller sizes.
It’s an excellent all-around dry fly that will work wonders on almost every trout river. Try to modify your fly to match what’s hatching at your fishing location – mimic it as closely as possible in color and size for the best results. 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.
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
We hope that this guide will simplify the task of filling your fly box. Whether you’re traveling to renowned trout fly fishing spots or just fishing in your local pond or river, these suggestions should ensure you have the best possible fishing experience.
With our recommendations for the top dry flies, streamers, and nymphs, you should be well-equipped to hook some sizable trout and return home with an impressive haul. We’d love to hear about your ultimate fly for trout fishing – share your experiences in the comments section below!
Don’t forget to download our series of fly fishing books below for more insights and tips.