Trout Fly Types: Everything You Need to Know
Simply put, trout flies are artificial lures designed to mimic common fly species. Trout flies are made with materials like hackle, animal fur, and feathers, and are completed with a hook that can be either barbed or barbless.
Flies are cast into or on top of the water using a fly rod. With so many different types of fly fishing flies for trout, it can be challenging for both beginner and experienced anglers to understand them fully.
In this article, we look at the different types of flies for trout that are out there, running through how they differ, when they excel, and the limitations for each type.
1. Dry Flies
Dry flies are smaller than other types of trout fly and are typically tied with furs and feathers. Their small size means they are used with small, almost miniature hooks – usually sizes 12, 13, and 14.
Dry flies are designed to sit on the surface of the water and entice trout feeding on or around the water’s surface. Dry flies are great for catching the most common trout species, as well as grayling. As the name implies, these flies are kept out of the water and should ideally be used with a lubricant designed to keep the fly on the water’s surface.
An effective presentation is crucial when using dry flies, and a very fine tippet is usually necessary. A tippet is a thin, often expensive, line used to prevent the trout from seeing the mainline.
Dry flies are particularly effective when trout are rising; this is when large numbers of trout come to the surface to feed on a hatch of flies. Dry flies do not perform well in harsh conditions, as they’re not designed to get wet. Reach for another option if you’re fishing in heavy rainfall or gale-force winds.
One of the most popular dry flies is the Black Midge, a versatile fly that can imitate many fly species.
An example of a common dry fly on a size 14 hook
2. Wet Flies
Today, wet flies are less popular than their dry fly counterparts but are still highly effective when used correctly. Unlike dry flies that target the water’s surface, wet flies are fished under the water’s surface. They should therefore be avoided when the fish are rising or feeding on the water’s surface.
Compared to streamers, wet flies are generally much smaller. They are usually tied on in pairs or triplets, as they are most effective when fished in small groups. It’s best practice to fish the heaviest wet fly on the dropper, as your fly line will sink faster.
Wet flies are effective across all trout species, but in my experience, they work best in rivers when pursuing brown trout. Wet flies are a great choice in heavy rainfall or low-feeding conditions, as they are designed to be fished below the surface.
One drawback to using wet flies is that they may result in catching smaller fish. This is because they imitate underwater insects that small or juvenile fish typically consume, such as emerging midges, rather than adult fly species that sit on the surface.
A commonly used wet fly is the Zebra Midge; these flies imitate the zebra midge’s emerging stage and are a good fit for beginners.
A pair of wet flies
Nymphs are designed to imitate immature or early-stage forms of aquatic insects such as mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies. Nymphs come in various forms and patterns, and many are tied with a bead. The added weight of a bead makes these nymphs more suitable for targeting larger fish, such as heavy brown trout.
Nymphs are fished under the water, usually in pairs or triplets. They can be fished using a bung or retrieved, but they are most effective when targeting fish across different depths. When using nymphs, ensure you include a few feet of line between each nymph; this is important to ensure each fly covers a different section of water. The obvious drawback of this strategy is that the water you are fishing must be very deep. Therefore, nymphs are best suited to deep trout holes, not shallow streams.
Popular nymphs include the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, the Prince Nymph, and the Pheasant Tail Nymph. I love fishing Prince Nymphs tied with tungsten beads. Their quick sinking action makes them devastating in difficult water conditions.
A common Bead Head Nymph, great for catching brown trout. Learn more about this specific fly in our top 11 trout flies!
Streamers are large trout lures that imitate the appearance and movement of leeches, small baitfish, spiders, and other amphibious creatures. Streamers are fished below the water’s surface using different retrieval techniques. Their bulk and weight enable them to sink quickly through the water column, making them ideal for reaching deeper waters quickly.
Because of this ability to rapidly drop through the water, streamers are fantastic on sunny days. When the sun is beaming down, trout will lie and feed at the bottom of the lake/river.
A popular streamer is the Green-Eyed Damsel. This fly performs very well in weedy waters, as it mimics an insect that naturally lives among aquatic weeds and plants.
A Trout Streamer
Other Fly Types
While there are many different types of trout flies, the ones mentioned above are the most popular. With that said, these flies below make great additions to any trout fly box:
Eggstacy Blobs are flies crafted using eggstacy cotton, and are designed to imitate trout eggs. They are most effective when trout are in their spawning phase and should really only be used during that time. I enjoy bung fishing with Eggstacy Blobs because of the aggressive takes they entice.
Four different Eggstacy Blob trout flies
Squirmy Wormies are used to represent maggots and earthworms. They are fished using a bung/indicator at varying depths.
When fishing with Squirmy Wormies, it is common to experience light taps on your indicator. Do not strike these taps. Wait until the bung is completely submerged before striking. This will allow for a proper hook set in the corner of the fish’s mouth.
A small assortment of Squirmy Wormies in various colours
Buzzers, like nymphs, imitate the early stage of a fly’s life cycle. They are far smaller than nymphs and usually fished in triplets. When fishing Buzzers, let them sit still in the water and only retrieve them very slowly.
Two Rainbow Streamers. Notice how small they are!
A Mop Fly is an imitation of a grub and is typically fished in areas with moist surrounding land, such as bogs and wetlands. Mop Flies are among the easiest flies to tie and can be made using household materials such as old rugs or mops. Avoid using them when you need your fly to sink quickly; their buoyancy will prevent this from happening.
A Mop Fly
There are a wide variety of fly types available for fly fishermen. Finding what works best for you and your angling will likely take many years. With that said, try to enjoy the experience. I recommend purchasing and tying as many different flies and fly types as possible until you have three or four flies in each category that you regularly use.
Try not to become overwhelmed with the vast information required to fish these flies. Start with the basics of wet and dry flies and once you’re comfortable, start experimenting with different categories and less conventional options.