You or maybe a friend has often pondered “What are the best trout fly patterns?”. Every trout angler should have the following patterns in their fly box and below I will get in why exactly you should have the following: wooly bugger, Adams or Parachute Adams Dry Fly, San Juan Worm, Scud, Elk Hair Caddis, and RS2 nymph. These flies may work better in some regions than others, but they should all have a place in your fly box as they certainly are all very effective in their own ways and in my opinion are the best trout fly patterns that are a must have.
Trout flies come in a variety of sizes ranging from as big as size 4 hooks to small as a size 24, and just as much of a range of colors. Trout flies typically do not imitate bait fish. Instead, trout flies are designed to imitate insects at various stages of life.
A trout fly can imitate anything from a fish egg, to a worm, but most patterns resemble from the larvae stage to the fully developed insect. Such various patterns as midges, nymphs, and emergers are all simulating the early growth of an insect. While patterns such as a dry fly or a hopper emulate the fully grown bug.
These topnotch flies listed below are merely a drop in the water for what is out there. There are hundreds of patterns that you can tie up or pick up from your local fly shop. Speaking of which, your local fly shop can tell you which of these patterns would work best in that area and for that time of year.
Wooly Bugger – One Of The Most Recognizable Trout Flies Ever
The Wooly Bugger is a streamer pattern that is undoubtedly going to be ranked in the top five of any trout angler’s favorite fly patterns. The design is intended to imitate a leech or nymph and is an extremely effective pattern for all trout species.
The Wooly Bugger is tied using a marabou tail, chenille body wrapped with wire and hackle, and topped with a bead head.
As with any fly pattern, it can be tied in many variations- with or without legs, different colored beads, and endless body and tail color combinations. Typically, the Wooly Bugger is tied in darker colors such as browns or olive variations.
This pattern can be tied in various sizes and weights depending on what the angler needs, but is usually tied on hook sizes between 6 and 10, with respective beads to fit. Obviously you can tie to your needs.
Regardless, this pattern is a surefire way to locate fish and a must-have in any trout fly-box.
Top 5 Trout Patterns That Will Catch You More Fish
Adams or Parachute Adams Dry Fly
If you are a top water enthusiast like myself, either of these dry flies is a must. Besides personal preference, dry flies are also extremely effective when the time calls for it. An Adams dry fly is designed to imitate a caddis or mayfly that has fallen to the water’s surface and is either stuck or dead, floating down the stream.
The Adams Dry Fly is a very basic pattern that consists of a hackle tail, dubbin body, hackle tip wings, and a head wrapped with dry hackle. It is designed to simply float along in the current. No stripping or twitching required.
The Parachute Adams Dry Fly is similar to the Adams Dry Fly with one exception- its hairdo. The Parachute Adams has a poly yarn “Mohawk” post that sticks up and is wrapped at the base with a hackle. This is intended to assist the angler with visibility. It is as if you have a strike indicator on your fly.
These two patterns are typically tied in darker color patterns such as tans, olives, grizzly, and brown. I guess if you are feeling adventurous you can try other variations on the color wheel. Size wise, these flies range from 12 to 22.
This is a great fly for rising fish and a great pattern for beginner fly anglers. Be sure to have a dozen on you at all times.
San Juan Worm – The Popular Aquatic Worm That Trout Love
Although this fly catches a lot of flak for being both easy to tie and its simple nature, there is another reason- it is extremely effective. The San Juan Worm imitates, you guessed it, a small worm floating down the current and it is more often than not irresistible to trout.
The San Juan Worm is constructed using a piece of ultra-chenille or rubber “Silli-worm” material. Sometimes it is tied using a small bead for weight, but a small split-shot on the leader is fine too.
This worm pattern is pretty straightforward regarding construction, intended imitation, and how to fish. Cast it out, let it drift, catch the fish, and start over.
Scud For Trout – Simple Yet Effective Scud Fly Pattern
A scud is a small beetle-like aquatic crustacean that resembles a rolly-polly. It has a flattened shell body with fourteen pairs of legs, antennae, and a small tail. Unlike aquatic insects (stone flies, mayflies, etc.) that are at the mercy of the current, Scuds are great swimmers and can dart in and around the rocky bottom of a stream to escape the predatory fish that feed on them.
A Scud pattern fly, although intended to imitate the aquatic crustacean, can be mistaken by a trout for a caddis or crane fly larvae. When Scuds die, they turn orange and slowly drift down in the current. Trout often mistake these for eggs and regularly feed on them.
There are around 90 species of scuds in North America so it is easy to see why they are such a regular part of a trout’s diet in various locations.
Tying a Scud pattern requires dubbing for the tail, legs, antenna, and body, while a piece of wire forms the ribbing and either UV resin or various other materials can form the shell. They are relatively quick and easy to tie.
The Scud pattern comes in only a selective few colors as it is based on what has been found in the stomachs of trout. Olive, olive-gray, tan, and orange are the colors that are most effective. They can also be sized from a 10 to an 18.
Elk Hair Caddis – Dry Fly Commonly Used For Trout
The Elk Caddis is another dry fly pattern and a personal favorite. This fly is intended to imitate either a caddis or even a grasshopper stuck on the water’s surface. The pattern is designed in a way that it floats very high and is actually most effective in more turbulent waters.
A caddis fly only lives for about two weeks, so immediately after a hatch and the few weeks prior, trout can be found “rising” to feed on flies that fell in or have died and ended up trapped on the water’s surface. This fly pattern is designed perfectly to imitate the “tented” wings of the Caddis fly while it is on the water’s surface.
An Elk Hair Caddis consists of a body made from dubbin, tinsel, and hackle, while the “wings” and head are the stacked elk hair. Do not fret though, the elk hair can be substituted with deer hair or even cul-de-canard (CDC). These flies are usually tied in tan, olive, brown, or gray colors. However, I have tied on in all white and had great luck.
An Elk Hair Caddis can range in sizes from 10 to 18 and should definitely have a place in your fly box. Be sure to bring some floatant because after the first fish or two crushing it, you will need it to keep riding high in the water’s surface.
RS2 Nymph – The Emerger Pattern That Trout Love
The RS2 Nymph is a very versatile fly that, depending on how it is tied, can be fished as a nymph, an emerger, or even a dry fly style pattern. It has found great success over the years since its inventor, Rim Chung, invented it over 40 years ago and labeled it RS2, which is an acronym for Rim’s Semblance 2. The fly is designed to imitate a mayfly or a midge.
Although the original was tied using beaver dubbing and hackle, it has since been modified multiple times and tied up in various colors with numerous materials. The RS2 is typically tied on a hook size ranging from 18 to 24.
The world of trout fishing is filled with variety with regard to techniques, flies, equipment, and locations. However, there are only three main species of trout that are usually targeted- brook, brown, and rainbow, and all three will eat any of the flies mentioned above. It is up to you as the angler to determine which fly is best based on different variables.
Use the knowledge of a local fly shop as a very advantageous tactic to not only knowing what to use, but how to use it and where to go. When you are on the water, simply take a minute to turn over a few rocks or watch the water’s surface to figure out what bugs are around and how the fish are feeding.
Once all of this has been done and you have determined the most effective fly pattern to use, do not be discouraged if they do not eat your presentation. These fly patterns all come in different sizes and colors. That is part of the fun in this sport- figuring out just what you need to do to fool the fish into thinking your fly is the real deal and what they should eat.
This list is purely subjective, but feel free to do your own research and do not be surprised if, although in different rankings, some if not all of these flies are on other “Top 10” or “Best of” trout fly patterns. The reason being is that these patterns are tried and true. So tie some up yourself or grab a dozen the next time you are in a local fly shop and enjoy your time on the water.