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. We recommend any of the best fly box options on this page here.
So enough with the preamble, we’ve broken this list down into wet flies, nymphs and dry flies so you can cover all types of water, at any time of year. So if one’s not working then you can quickly change that fly and catch that monster .
You can also see our post on Where To Find The Cheapest Flies for you to find the right flies that won’t break your bank.
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Whether you’re aiming to catch rainbows, cutthroats or big brown trout, these flies allow you to cast out across the river and fish back up towards you. They are fantastic in lakes or larger rivers.
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. It would be a mistake to set off without one!
See also our full How To Fly Fish For Trout for a more in-depth guide.
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.
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
The Olive Freshwater Streamer is a great streamer to hand at all times. It closely resembles the baitfish that larger trout prefer to eat – we recommend you use sizes 6 and 8!
For our full post on What Do Trout Eat see it here.
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.
The Muddler Minnow gives the Clouser a run for its money. You don’t have to be selective about where to use the Muddler – 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
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 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 the sizes #2-#12.
If you’re looking for a nymph fly that has the weight 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
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. You can also visit our full post on how to tie a pheasant tail nymph here.
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 Midge 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.
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 certain to get some bites.
Brown Sexy Stone
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
The Gold Ribbed Hares Ear is a classic that still deserves a spot in 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, 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 fly 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!
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
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 the sizes #12-#22 and the colors olive, orange, and brown.
Beadhead Rubberleg Hares Ear
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 colours black, olive, and brown in the sizes #10-#16.
The caddis pupa in the 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, a body that is almost transparent, and natural hare’s ear.
Ask any fly fishermen, and he’s bound to tell you that the Parachute Adams is among his favourites, without a doubt. This fly makes the trout simply go mad. You can use it to imitate caddisflies, mayflies, and even midges if you use smaller sizes.
It’s a great all-round 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.
Elk Hair Caddis
The Elk Hair Caddis is one of the top fishing flies for trout. It’s a versatile fly that imitates the caddisfly in an uncanny way. 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 lay 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.
It might look a little different from our other recommendations today, but we believe you can’t go wrong with a foam Chernobyl 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 Chernobyl 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
The 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 all the way through to late fall, few Sparkle Duns are excellent additions to any trout fishing fly box. For Winter Trout Fly Fishing tips see our post here.
You can also try using the PMD Sparkle Dun if you see cream-colored mayfly hatching (most often during spring and summer).
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 the 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.
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 for 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.
The Wrap 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.