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Fly Fishing Basics: The Different Types of Fly Fishing Flies

A selection of boxes holding many flies for fly fishing
Fly Boxes

Fly fishing is a captivating angling technique that relies on the art of presenting artificial flies to catch fish. The right type of fly can make all the difference in your success as a fly angler. If you are a new fly fisherman trying to figure out what fly to use it can be overwhelming. In this blog, we'll dive into the world of fly fishing flies, exploring the main three types and how to use them effectively to target trout and other species.

Understanding the Basics of Fly Fishing Flies

Fly fishing flies are artificial lures designed to imitate various stages of aquatic and terrestrial insects, baitfish, and other aquatic creatures that trout and other fish species feed on. These flies come in a wide array of patterns and designs, each tailored to specific fishing conditions and the preferences of the angler. "But I'm new to fly fishing and can't buy every fly in the shop". Below is a breakdown of different flies we find in a typical stream.

The Three Main Types of Flies

In the world of fly fishing, there are three main types of flies: dry flies, nymphs, and streamers. Let's take a closer look at each:

  1. Dry Flies: Dry flies are designed to float on the surface of the water. They imitate insects like mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies that hatch and rest on the water's surface. When trout rise to feed on insects, dry flies are the go-to choice for fly fishers. They come in various sizes, shapes, and colors to match different species and stages of hatching insects.

  2. Nymphs: Nymphs are underwater fly patterns that mimic aquatic insects during their larval and nymphal stages. These flies are typically weighted to sink beneath the water's surface, where they imitate insects like mayfly nymphs, stonefly nymphs, and caddisfly larvae. Nymph fly fishing for trout is highly effective, as the majority of a trout's diet consists of subsurface insects. Anglers tend to use a strike indicator as you cannot see the fly.

  3. Streamers: Streamer flies are usually larger, often flashy flies designed to imitate small fish, leeches, and other aquatic prey. They are typically fished below the surface and are known for enticing aggressive strikes from trout and other predatory fish. Fishing a streamer is a favorite among anglers looking for an adrenaline-packed fishing experience as you can feel the fish take a fly. *We also have two other subsections, terrestrials and wet flies. Terrestrial flies imitate non-aquatic types of bugs that live around a stream and can fall in. Ants, beetles, and grasshoppers are all examples, but flies are fished like dry flies and fish will eat the fly off the surface. Wet flies are similar to nymphs and are fished subsurface. Flies in this category are cast across stream and swing across the water column in front of fish. These are supposed to be a fly that imitates the hatching or emerging phase of a bug.

How to Use Different Types of Fly Fishing Flies

Now that you're familiar with the three main types of flies, let's explore how to use them effectively in different types of fly fishing:

  1. Dry Fly Fishing: When you see trout rising to feed on insects on the water's surface, it's time to fish a dry fly. Choose a flies to match closely what resembles the insects on the water. Cast the dry fly upstream of the rising fish and let it float naturally downstream. Be prepared for an exciting take when the trout comes up to sip your dry fly pattern.

  2. Nymph Fishing: Nymph fishing is often done below the water's surface, as most aquatic insects spend the majority of their lives there. To fish nymphs effectively, use a weighted nymph fly pattern and attach it to your leader with enough weight to reach the desired depth. Cast upstream and allow the nymph to drift naturally in the current. Keep a keen eye on your line for any subtle tugs or movements, as trout can take your fly very gently.

  3. Streamer Fishing: Streamer flies are ideal for targeting aggressive trout, especially in larger bodies of water. To fish streamers, use a sinking line or add additional weight to your leader to get the fly down to the desired depth. Cast the streamer across the current and strip it back in with varied retrieves, mimicking the movement of prey fish. This technique is also applicable to saltwater flies and fishing in the ocean.

Choosing the Best Fly Pattern for the Situation

Knowing which fly to use for your fishing situation requires some knowledge of the specific angling conditions and the preferences of the fish you're targeting. Factors such as the type of water, the time of day, the presence of hatching insects, and the type of fish will all influence your choice of fly.

For beginners, seeking advice from experienced fly anglers or visiting a fly shop can be immensely helpful in selecting the right fly patterns for your fishing adventure. Guided fly fishing trips can be invaluable as you learn the ropes. Remember that as you gain experience, you'll become more adept at matching the hatch and selecting the perfect fly to tempt trout and other species.

Adding the Right Fly to Your Fly Selection

Learning to fly fish is already a lot, but picking the right fly is crucial for success. Besides the knowledge of a guide or local fly shop, how can you decide what to use? Hatch charts are very helpful and can narrow down your options, especially if you are some place new. Utilize the internet and search "Hatch Chart and the body of water" and some biology student spent way too much time counting bugs one year. There will be a guide of certain bugs as certain times of year that you can plan on or eliminate. No need to throw a March Brown in August and there are no Green Drakes in April. This will allow you to add some flies that match that time of year. And remember, if you can't see the fly, then don't use it. It is all visual and if you can;t keep track of your flies at the surface, then you'll never see it get eaten.

Fly fishing offers a diverse and engaging range of flies to fill your fly box with, each designed to imitate the various stages of insects and prey that trout and other fish species feed on. Understanding the main types of flies and how to use them effectively is crucial for a successful fly fishing experience. So, whether you're casting dry flies on a serene mountain stream or stripping streamers in a large river, the right fly pattern can make your fly fishing journey truly unforgettable.

Best Fly Patterns for Fly Fishing Appalachia:

-Parachute Adams, BWO's, Elkhair Caddis, March Browns, Little Black Caddis, Stimulators

-Hare's Ear Nymph's, Copper Johns, Prince Nymphs, Caddis Pupa

-Wooly Buggers, Game Changers, Slump Busters, Kreel-X, Clousers

-Ants, Beetles, Grasshopper patterns


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