Walk into your local fly shop and you’re sure to notice there are more patterns and variations of flies than even the most observant angler can remember. With all of the different flies available, many of which will all work at the same time on the same body of water, it helps to break down the different types of patterns.
When the first step of choosing the right fly is about choosing the style of fly you want, the next steps that lead to catching big trout get even easier. Soon you’ll know when the trout are looking for certain fly patterns and your local river will be as familiar as your favorite fly rod.
The king of all trout flies, the one that resonates in the minds of anglers and non-anglers alike at the mere mention of fly fishing; dry flies are maybe the most exciting way to fly fish for trout. Imagine you’re wading the local trout stream and you cast out your dry fly. You watch it drift along in the current, riding high and proud on the water’s surface, when a fish slashes away that tranquility in a take so sudden that your arm sets the hook before you can even register the strike.
While there are many types of dry flies and many new patterns are created each year, most dries are bushy patterns that use hair or feathers to carry them along the surface of the water. Most anglers fish dry fly patterns on a dead drift, without any tension or input, but skating or twitching a dry on the surface can also be a very effective technique for nailing big trout.
While the favorite tactic of many fly anglers is the dry fly, the pattern they should be fishing more often than any other is a nymph. Nymphs are imitations of the small larvae and bugs that will one day hatch to become the flying insects that most dry fly patterns replicate. Trout feed on nymphs at all times of the year, which means it’s usually their most stable food source, meaning they’ll slurp down your nymph fly, even if you don’t see fish activity on the surface.
Nymphs are often weighted, as they are most often fished very close to the bottom of the water column. To find out which nymphs may be in your local river, find a section of current with small rocks along the bank. If you start flipping the rocks you’re likely to find nymphs clinging to the underside of the stone. Choose a fly that imitates the size and color, if possible, and hang on for the strike of a hungry fish.
There seems to be a divide amongst the fly anglers of the world: the anglers that fish dry flies and nymphs and the anglers that chuck big, meaty streamers all day long, regardless of what insects are present in the water. The thought behind a streamer is that fish are looking for the biggest meal, the highest amount of calories possible, while expending the least amount of energy. A big baitfish, which most streamers try to imitate, is a meal that will keep a trout fed longer, even though they may need to chase down that prey first.
That chasing strike is usually more vicious than a gently slurped dry fly or the pull of a trout picking a nymph from the rocks below. The anglers that are throwing streamer patterns all day long are usually looking for the biggest fish in the river and the biggest strikes. While the risk of not catching fish may be higher, the rewards of throwing streamers all day long are great.
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