When someone walks into Little River Outfitters and see the huge number of flies displayed they are overwhelmed as to what to buy. All of us who fish for trout carry far too many fly patterns. This is where the advice of the people who run Little River can help for they are serious fly fishermen.
The real key to success is properly presenting the fly. Another great source is to ask several successful local trout fishermen. They will usually share this knowledge and will explain that good anglers need just a few patterns. I once fished with a superb hillbilly friend in the Smokies who was legendary for caching local trout. After several seasons of joining him on these mountain streams he confided that he used two patterns (one dry & one wet) for all his fishing. His success was first knowing where to swim those flies and secondly, how to properly present his two patterns.
I have been lucky enough to have fished in New Zealand a number of times. I have fished quite often on the chalk streams of France and England and on many of the great trout waters of South America as well as almost every trout state in our country.
After more than 50 years of pursuing trout I believe that the following dry fly patterns in different sizes when properly presented will catch trout most of the time in most places. There are a few rare streams and during some very specific hatches that specific patterns are needed. But most of the time in most places the following dry fly patterns will catch fish.
DRY FLIES SELECTION
NOTE: From years of experience I believe that parachute patterns will catch more fish than will the conventional Catskill type dry flies. Also, this is the selection that works for me. You may want to substitute or add a very few patterns for those suggested here. The message I am trying to convey is that you need only a few patterns in different sizes, so long as your presentation is correct. In almost all trout waters you need only two major dry fly imitations--mayflies and caddis.
Where there is rough pocket water or rapids the standard dry flies are often drowned and require frequent redressing. Small mountain brooks such as you find in Tennessee, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia contain many short pools culminating in a quick drop into the next pool. Quite often you will drift only a few feet of calm water before the fly is sucked over and under into the next pool. With two or three false casts the Royal Wulff and Humpy are buoyant and continue to float after numerous drowning. These flies have the added advantage of being highly visible, too.
The Elk Hair caddis has probably caught as many fish in recent years as any dry fly pattern. It is the Woolly Bugger of dry flies. Caddis will hatch in different colors and I find if I have and Elk Hair Caddis in dark brown, light gray and natural deer color I usually do well. The Elk Hair Caddis pattern does well in sizes 12 to 18. Smaller than that I prefer to make my caddis pattern wing with polypropylene yarn.
HOPPER: This is one pattern that will take trout from 6 inches to 6 pounds—or bigger. There are many hopper patterns. Once while lying on the bottom of the stream with a snorkel I had my friend toss in the water above me both real hoppers and different pattern. One of the things that really stood out was that all live floating hoppers have their feet sticking below the surface. I know I have caught a number of trout on hoppers that were dressed with no legs. But after that experiment I prefer hopper patterns with legs—I just feel more confident.
There are two observations I’ve made about fishing hoppers. One is that hoppers early in the season are small and grow bigger later. It’s a good idea to fish smaller hopper patterns early and larger ones later. Some of the best hopper fishing occurs where a stream meanders through a grassy meadow. Trout often rest or hide beneath an undercut bank. If you fish your hoppers tight against the bank a trout lying well back under the bank may not see it. You’ll up your score if you fish hoppers about a foot off the bank. Hoppers contain so much food that trout will eagerly swim some distance to take one.
ANT: Wherever I have fished for trout there have been ants and experienced anglers will tell you that for some reason both bass and trout seem to relish ants. There are two kinds of ant patterns. Unfortunately, most anglers just fish the one. There are floating ants that drift in the surface film. But far more ants drowned and are carried by the stream in the water column
If you fish floating ants a trick that often draws immediate attention of a trout is to “plop” the ant to the surface. Apparently trout know when an ant falls to the water.
Sinking ants can be fished as you would a nymph. One effective method in the summer is to use a foam beetle with an ant dropper. The beetle acts as an indicator and trout will often take either pattern.
TRICO: This fly hatches on many waters in the United State during the warmer months of the year. I have encountered dense hatches of Trico out West, in Michigan and certainly in Pennsylvania and the streams of the mid-Atlantic. I prefer to fish the spinner fall. The Trico often will take trout when various midges are hatching.
GRIFFITH GNAT: When tiny flies such as midges are hatching this fly will usually fool most trout. I never dress this pattern larger than 16 and tie it as small as size 22. The dressing that seems best for me is a body of peacock herl with a spiraled grizzly hackle.
When trout are eating tiny emergers try clipping all the hackle from the underside of the fly. Time and again this trick has fooled trout sipping emergers trapped in the surface film.
ONE LAST THOUGHT—on hard fished streams containing wary trout it is advisable if getting refusals to offer the fish smaller sizes of your dry flies.
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