How to choose trout flies


Mastering fly selection for trout

I love fly fishing, moreover I love to fly fish alone. It's such a multi-faceted sport, no matter how good you become at one particular section of the sport, you will always find another section of it to learn, discover, and master. This is a basic introduction. Choosing the correct trout fly on a river goes way beyond choosing the first attractor pattern that you know works on all rivers, If you give the fly selection a chance, observe, and learn you will open a new world into river entomology and consequently this will make you more experienced, more tuned in, and inevitably a better angler. what's more, if you are like me, there is nothing more fun than challenging yourself on new water, not using the usual war vetted flies that you know work. It's about challenging yourself, getting out of the comfort zone, and getting into that place where you don't know if you will catch a fish. You just hope your experience and fly selection will pay off.

If you are new to fly fishing you may find yourself thinking 'this is a bit much' but don't worry I have done my best to make this article as simple as possible, I have devised 3 simple steps for you to apply, this article should serve as a guide, an introduction to the wonderful world of fly selection. 

Learning your bugs and observing their behavior

this is where it all starts

The real first test is before you even reach the river, it's all about planning and memorization. In order to choose the right flies, it is imperative that you know what insect that fly is supposed to imitate. Memorizing these insects including there seasonal behavior is N1 on the list here is a great video that will put you on the right course:

Learn the insect orders

In general, there are different orders and categories of insects that trout eat all around the world throughout the year. In addition, most insects have up to 4 different stages. These categories are all important but mostly we need to know what the trout are eating in the particular period chosen, this is based on temperature, seasonality, and flows (among others) 

Insect Behaviors

Once you know about all the insects you are most lightly going to see on the water, understanding and memorizing each stage of when they are actively on the menu is the next step. Here is another great video:




Ok so you have watched the video, this is just an introduction. for more categories check this link out:
Don't worry if its a little much, the point is you won't forget them when you next meet them.

Let's discover what fly pattern imitates what insect

Well, you have successfully identified spent mayfly's on the river that the trout are rising too, but you don't know what pattern imitates it in your box...... now you have a problem. Now we need to understand what pattern imitates what.  


Prep your fly selection

This part is essential for success and one that I skipped for many years.  If you know a particular hatch is going to be on in the period you are fishing then you should have your box prepared accordingly. I understand on a new river this may be difficult, but you have the internet at your disposal, check what hatches are on in that period on that river. If you fish a river a lot then there is nothing that comes close to keeping a journal..... well that and having a friend who is a ghillie and a river entomology expert!


you can see that this can become an expensive hobby, you can either learn to tie your own flies, or buy them. I personally find satisfaction in catching trout on flies that I have tied. But if like me you are not a master of the art you may find it difficult to get those beautiful Davie McPhail pattern down. Practice makes perfect. Just keep at it. One bonus is, tying these patterns yourself you will be able to fine-tune that pattern to that particular water..... shhhhhh! don't tell anyone!

A good way to stock your fly box is 70% of flies that should be hatching or are active on that river, and the rest is confidence flies.


Observe, Observe, Observe 

Once you have learned all the above and are comfortable with insect knowledge, seasonal behavior, and have the right flies in your box. Then, you are ready to pluck up the courage to go down to the river and select a fly that YOU know is right for YOUR own situation, it's all about personalized learning. Not about your busy telling you what fly to put on, then you second guess yourself and start getting nervous. If this is a problem for you, fish alone until you are confident in YOURSELF then go out with friends and ignore them :) 

Chances are your buddy is still fishing that attractor from 2 seasons ago and catching moderately on it. Once your dialed in on insect activity, seasonality, and you have started challenging your self, you will catch more fish, you will be turning heads. If that's your cup of tea. River Knowledge is another essential part of mastering river fishing, download the how to read the river free ebook here or buy the hardcover version here

I hope you found this article helpful and will apply these thoughts to your own river experience. The important thing is to have fun. Keep humble, stay safe, and put that trout back....The right way!



Made for fly fishing, born to fly fish. We strive to share our passion for fly fishing through our unique products range, videos, blog, and one of a kind fishing Holidays to Lake Como.

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