3 Flies Every Skinny Water Angler Needs


Chasing trout is a personal favorite of mine. More specifically, chasing hungry trout that call the skinny water of backcountry streams home is #1 on my list. Why? Because this is where feisty trout slam flies like monster sharks. From the east coast to the Pacific, small streams make up the majority of our waters, so why not indulge in a resource that’s readily accessible? But before you go, stocking your fly box with the right trout food is a must. Whether you’re fishing hemlock-lined creeks of Pennsylvania and the northeast or meandering high country waters of the Rockies and points west, here are three flies that are sure to give ‘em hell.



The Humpy comes in a variety of colors, but the red-bodied, brown-hackled version is what we’re talking about here. Those hackles, a slightly-bulging body and moderate-sized tail make this fly ultra-buoyant and nearly irresistible to lurking trout. 

If you’re a dry fly fan, the drift of the Humpy is the tops. It’s a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to water conditions, thanks to its buoyant float. It’ll look equally tasty in slow, back-eddied water; fast, choppy sections; and textbook bubble lines.


In the summertime, the weather is just right for all the flying insects – including ants. If you’ve ever hiked through a swarm of gnats en route to your favorite hidden fishing hole, you know what we mean. Tiny. Bugs. Everywhere. These flying terrestrials might be annoying to you as you’re sucking air on that uphill hike, but to trout, they’re lunch.

These terrestrials fly or scoot around on surrounding vegetation, so bouncing them off the overhanging limbs isn’t a bad idea – just don’t get snagged. It’s also convenient (and saves your eyes) to use an ant with some colored indicator on it – think purple or white foam on top – to make it easier to see on the water, just in case you need to mend that line.


Often, if you’re not seeing trout rising for bugs on the surface, they’re likely feeding somewhere else in the water column. So, if you find a creek deep enough for a dry-dropper rig, the Zebra Midge is your go-to. Trout crush these simple-bodied flies, no matter the color. Black, red, purple, with or without a beadhead…fish will love them, if presented correctly.

To fish a dropper rig, tie on some light tippet to the bend of the top dry fly hook shank – 5x or 6x – and drift it like a boss. 

Skinny water can give any angler a run for their money. The vegetation can be thick (and unforgiving), the fish can be spooky, and the hike in can be challenging; but the reward is oh so sweet.


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