Dry flies mimic hatching insects that float on the surface. When bugs go through this metamorphosis in the warm months of summer, they ascend to the surface with their newly sprouted wings where they pause before flying up onto the river bank to mate. All this commotion gets the attention of hungry trout who focus their feeding habits on the surface. Fly fishing anglers use a variety of dry flies to match the type of bug that is hatching, or "matching the hatch" as it is commonly referred to. General patterns like the Adams work well in most situations, but specialty flies like the Stimulator maybe needed if trout are focused on emerging stoneflies. Caddis patterns are another popular fly since caddis hatches occur across the country and the Elk Hair caddis is a must have pattern in any fly fishing anglers fly box.
Since aquatic insects only hatch for a very short period of time, it pays to have sub surface flies handy since this is where trout reside and feed most of the season. General nymph patterns like the Pheasant Tail, Hare's Ear and Zug Bug don't represent any one particular bug, but do a fine job of mimicking a number of insects like caddis and mayflies. The most popular nymph pattern has to be the stonefly since this large insect is found in most trout streams and provide a hefty meal for hungry trout. The standard Black Stonefly nymph works well most of the time, but new patterns like the Softshell Stone are very realistic and can prove to be the ticket to fool wary trout.
These flies represent large food items, such as minnows or sculpins that trophy trout tend to feed on exclusively. The famous Woolly Bugger is a classic streamer that has caught numerous trout around the world and for good reason; it has great action thanks to the marabou tail and flowing hackle body. Depending on the color Woolly Bugger, fly anglers can mimic everything from emerald shiners to smelt, perch and chubs with this fly. With streamer flies gaining popularity over the last decade, new patterns like the Zoo Cougar continue to bring trophy trout to the net.
There are a number of insects that are not found in the water, but near the waters edge that make an easy meal for trout. Bugs such as grasshoppers, crickets, ants and beetles are all food sources for trout and the fish will key on these items exclusively at times. Fly anglers need to carry a few hopper patterns in the summer when these bugs are bouncing around the river bank. Try a foam bodied flies like the Streambank Hopper, as these flies ride high on the water just like the real thing. Add a couple ant patterns like the Chernobyl Ant and Black Fur Ant to round out a complete fly box that is ready for action.
Midges are the smallest insects found in a stream and are prevalent during the cold water months of fall and winter. Since large food items are scarce this time of year, trout will look to feed on anything they can find and that means midges. Midges come in 2 forms, nymphs and dries, and both can be found on the stream at the same time. If you notice trout keying on surface prey, start with a black or gray midge in a size 20 or 22. As small as these flies are, trout can be picky on the size of the fly since this is their lone food source. When the surface activity slows down, switch to a Biot Midge or Zebra Midge to imitate the midge nymphs that are crawling below.