Types of Fly Fishing Flies

Types of Fly Fishing Flies
Fly fishing flies are designed to imitate a food source such as bugs and fish eggs or they can be bright, gaudy patterns intended to draw an instinctive strike from large predatory fish. We will take a look at five types of flies that have specific applications for fresh and saltwater fish.

Dry Flies

Dry Flies are the most common type of trout fly since they imitate hatching aquatic insects, such as mayflies. It's during this hatch that trout instinctively look for swarms of these insects resting on the surface of the river and feed with reckless abandon.

Dry flies, like the elk hair caddis, imitate these hatching, floating bugs and incorporate materials such as elk hair or hackle feathers that allow the fly to float on the surface. If the fly is not floating, it will not get eaten by a hungry trout.


Nymphs are flies that imitate aquatic insects that live on the river bottom. Because these river bugs are available to trout and bass all season long, it is important to have this type of fly in your fly box. There are many different kinds of nymphs that make up a fish's diet in a river environment, but simple patterns like green caddis pupa, black stoneflies and olive woolly buggers will be effective on streams across the country.

Egg Patterns

These popular flies are quite simple but very effective since all species of fish found in a river spawn at some point during the year. When fish are spawning, there are free-floating fish eggs which are an easy meal for trout and steelhead. Early egg patterns were tied with yarn and the result was a puffy ball that roughly imitated a fish egg. In recent years, egg patterns have become more realistic with the advent of plastic beads such as a trout bead. These beads are available in many sizes and colors to imitate eggs at different times of the season.

Steelhead Flies

Steelhead are a migratory rainbow trout that are closely related to the Pacific salmon. They go through the same life cycle as a salmon but do not die after spawning and actively strike flies when returning to their native rivers. The Skykomish sunrise fly is tied with bright, flashy materials in order to gain the fish's attention in the often cold, murky flows of winter and spring. The use of extra weight, such as lead eyes, bead heads and cone heads, helps to get the fly down to steelhead resting on the river bottom since these wary fish will not move far to strike an offering in cold water.

Saltwater Flies

Fly fishing for saltwater species such as bonefish, redfish and snook has become quite popular thanks to innovative fly patterns that match natural food sources. Bottom feeding fish like bonefish and redfish are always scouring the sand grass looking for shrimp or small crabs to feed on. Flies like the crazy Charlie and Turneffe crab are designed with extra weight to get them on the bottom and mimic the size and movement of the real deal.

Baitfish minnows are another food source for saltwater fish and there are numerous flies that provide the action and profile to provoke a strike. Clouser minnows and deceivers use a combination of hair and flashy materials like krystal flash that bring the fly to life.


Article Written By Brian M. Kelly

Brian M. Kelly has been freelance writing since 2003. His work has been published in respected outdoor magazines such as Outdoor Life, Great Lakes Angler and Salmon Trout Steelheader. He holds an associate's degree in automated machine design from Macomb College.

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