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The 12 Must-Have Trout Flies (15 of 35)

Fly shops or web sites, with hundreds and sometimes thousands of fly patterns, can be intimidating. To get you started here are the 12 essential flies every fly angler needs in their fly box. These are trout flies that will work anywhere in the world, and they are fly patterns that can be found in any fly shop. The selection includes nymphs, streamers, and dry flies and should cover nearly any situation you can find on a trout stream. Of course you’ll eventually want to include local favorites or your own favorites, but these will get you started in good shape.

12 Flies List
Frenchie Jig Nymph Tunghead Hot Spot Pheasant Tail Jig Pattern
Zebra Midge TH Zebra Stillwater Midge Fly Pattern
Pheasant Tail Nymph English Pheasant Tail Fly
Prince Nymph Tunghead Prince Nymph Fly Pattern
Hare's Ear Nymph Gold Bead Hare's Ear Nymph Fly Pattern
Rubber Legs Nymph Pat's Rubber Leg Stone Fly
Black Beadhead Woolly Bugger Streamer Bead Head Woolly Bugger Streamer Flies
White Zonker Streamer Bead Head Flash Zonker Bass Fly
Chubby Chernobyl Dry Chubby Duo Stonefly or Hopper Imitation Fly
Parachute Adams Dry Adams Parachute Dry Fly
Elk Wing Caddis Dry Elk Wing Caddis Dry Flies
BWO Sparkle Dun Dry Sparkle Dun Trout Flies

Video Transcript:

Picking flies can be super confusing. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of different fly patterns. When you go into a fly shop, it's just overwhelming seeing all those trays of flies. You don't know where to start. Well, I'm gonna give you a place to start. I'm gonna give you a dozen flies that you can use anywhere.
I use these flies in the mountains of Vermont, I use them in the Catskills, I use them in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming. I'm down in Chile right now at Magic Waters Lodge and these flies are working just fine. So, these flies are gonna work for you anywhere in the world. It's a good place to start. You got to start somewhere. Here's a dozen flies. The thing is you will be able to find these flies in any fly shop. They're common popular flies that you'll be able to find anywhere. So, here's the list. Let's start with nymphs.
So, the first nymph I would pick is the Frenchie jig nymph. It's a little kind of sparkly, sort of a pheasant tail hairs here with a bead head tied on a jig hook. That's a deadly fly. Second would be a zebra midge. Zebra midge is an imitation of small mayfly, small stonefly, small midge. When you need a small nymph, this is a good one to go for. Another nymph that's handy is a pheasant tail. This one is a little more subtle, doesn't have any bead on it, it's skinny, it imitates small mayfly nymphs, small stonefly nymphs, and it's one of the most popular flies in the world. Next would be a prince nymph. It's a weird-looking fly. Nobody knows what it imitates, it just works and I get it in a beadhead version. So, beadhead prince. And it just looks strange, but it really works everywhere.
Next would be a hare's ear nymph, a beadhead hare's ear, imitates larger mayflies, stoneflies, maybe even a caddis fly larva. It is just a good general nymph that works in all kinds of waters. And then finally, you need a fairly large nymph, and one of the most popular in the world is this rubber legs. It probably imitates a big stonefly, or maybe a crayfish, and it's got wiggly rubber legs, it's got some weight on it, it's got a bead at the front of it. This is good for a large nymph when you want to fish deep in the water column. Okay. So, that's the nymphs, let's go to streamers next.
I'd take two streamers in my initial selection. I don't think you need a great variety of streamers. So, I'd pick a dark one and a light one. The first is the absolute, probably the most popular fly in the world, works anywhere for all kinds of fish, trout, bass, even saltwater fish, and that's a woolly bugger, a black woolly bugger, and I like them with either a tungsten bead or a cone. So, a beadhead woolly bugger or a tongue head woolly bugger. A little bit extra weight will help get that fly down, but beadhead woolly bugger is a killer fly everywhere for everything.
And then for a light-colored streamer, I like a white zonker. It's got a piece of rabbit fur on it, a little sparkle to it. If a dark fly doesn't work, try a light fly like this white zonker. And then for dry flies, starting with the largest, my favorite, large dry fly is a Chubby Chernobyl. It's got a highly visible wing that sticks up so you can see it on the water, it's got a foam body, so it floats really well. And this is a good fly to hang a nymph on if you're using a dry-dropper rig because it'll float even holding a nymph below it. Even a heavy nymph won't sink this. So, Chubby Chernobyl is an excellent large dryfly. Imitates a grasshopper, stonefly, cricket, who knows. It imitates a larger surface food.
And then for matching most mayfly and caddis fly hatches, a parachute Adams is a great fly. It's the most popular dry fly in the world, and it works most days. There's some people that only fish parachute Adams for dry flies. So, it's really effective and you need to have some of these in your fly box. And then to imitate caddis flies, small grasshoppers, moths, things like that, an elk hair caddis, this has got a down wing. So, it imitates flies that have their wings folded along their body. Elk hair caddis is a great fly. And it's a great fly when you don't know what fish are taking or if they're not rising, sometimes they'll just come up for an elk hair caddis. So, great fly. And then finally, I would never go anywhere in the world without a small olive mayfly. And I would say if you're gonna have one, I would say some sort of blue wing olive in a size 18.
So, that's my dozen flies. They're gonna work anywhere in the world, and it'll simplify your fly box. Don't worry about it. You'll pick up lots of different flight patterns as you go. They're always local favorites. You might get a fly from a guide, but if you go with these flies, you're gonna be in good shape.