The Top Five Flies to Catch Trout Anywhere

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Article contributed by Field Staff Writer M. Spencer.

There are thousands of trout filled waters in the world. In these thousands of waters, there are thousands of species of aquatic insects that fall prey to these fish on a daily basis. While matching the hatch of these insects can be important, in any of these areas, there is a selection of flies that can, more often than not, catch fish anywhere and at anytime.

For those of you who do not know, the hatch is a word used by fly fishermen to track the lifecycle of certain species of insects which are food for trout. This cycle has been placed on a chart and provides recommendations as to which flies to use in specific areas during specified times of the year.

The flies talked about herein are not intended to match a specific hatch schedule. Each one covers a generic group of prey or on a certain type of water. The five flies I don’t go anywhere without are as follows: the Elk Hair Caddis, the Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph, the Hare’s Ear Soft Hackle, the Zebra Midge, and the Wooly Bugger.

Keeping an assortment of these flies in various sizes and colors are sure to catch you some fish anywhere you decide to mend a line. I have provided a description of each type of fly identified in this article. Over the next few weeks, we will be providing a step by step instruction on how to specifically tie each one of these flies. 


The Elk Hair Caddis

Tied small enough, the Elk Hair Caddis is capable of imitating everything from the smallest caddis and mayflies to a cluster of midges or a drowning ant. Tied large enough, it can be used as a stonefly, mayfly, monster caddis, or even a grasshopper. Learn to tie the Elk Hair Caddis.


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The Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph

While incredibly similar to the classic Pheasant Tail Nymph, I prefer the Flashback variant for both it’s ease of tying and the way it stands out. This fly can be tied anywhere from size 8 down to 20 or even smaller. I prefer to keep them around a 14 or 16, though. In that size they resemble any number of smaller mayfly, damselfly, or even stonefly larvae.


Hare’s Ear Soft Hackle

When you see trout activity on the top but there are no bugs on the surface, there’s a good chance they’re taking what we call “emergers.” Emergers are insects at the stage between a larvae and a “hatching” adult. They’re bursting out of their adolescent husks and working their way up to the surface to breed. A good soft hackle, swung properly, can imitate this sometimes flawlessly.

The best part of the Hare’s Ear Soft Hackle is that it can be tied in any number of colors and sized to match just about anything. Browns and Greys can be great for Mayflies. Tans and greens can be excellent before a Caddis hatch. Most aquatic insect types will go through an emerger stage of some sort. Like the Flashback Pheasant Tail, the use of a bead in this fly is entirely optional. It’s always a good idea to stock some both with and without a bead.


Zebra Midge

Tied from a 16 down to a 22, 24, or even a 26, the Zebra Midge can be an extremely effective fly during the colder months of the year, especially when there are no caddis, mayfly, or stonefly hatches going on. I’ll usually have an assortment of sizes and colors, including red, olive, dun, and black.

Wooly Bugger

Wooly Bugger

One of the easiest, earliest, and most effective streamers to date, I doubt very many flies have caught more trout than the Wooly Bugger. Depending on the color and size, it can be tied to match any number of larger food sources that trout (and other species) depend on. Larger oranges and browns are great when fish are feeding on small trout, chub, etc. or crayfish. Smaller buggers tied in olive or brown are a great pattern to mimic a damselfly or larger mayfly larvae. White or grey Buggers are great when fish are keying in on baitfish, and a black fly is great in dirty water.

A.J. Fick

Born and raised in northeast Pennsylvania, I’ve lived in southern California, central Texas, and currently reside in western Idaho. I consider myself a western hunter at heart, enjoying being part of vast landscapes and the thrill of the stalk. One of my hunting mottos is “stretch the stalk, not the shot”. My motivations as an outdoorsman are rooted in the sustenance, independence, and challenging physical aspects. In fact, my largest driving factor for physical fitness is preparing for upcoming hunts and ensuring I’m well-prepared to climb mountains and cover ground with a heavy pack. I also recognize and respect the importance of conservation efforts for our wild animals and wild places and the close connection to hunting and fishing. If we want future generations to experience the wonder and adventure of the outdoors, and gain the countless benefits, we must continue to make wildlife conservation today’s priority to ensure continued opportunity.

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