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The Fly Fishing Fly Guide: A List Of The Best Fly Fishing Flies

As with any hobby worth its salt, fly fishing is multifaceted. There’s the fishing itself as the focus, of course, but you’d be surprised to discover just how much time you can invest in its other aspects. Stop by any fly fishing fan’s house, and you’ll no doubt see a shelf lined with photography books about the sport — and of course, the requisite “I’D RATHER BE FISHING” cap or t-shirt lurking in their cupboard. Classic.

But one of the biggest draws is the flies themselves. As the name suggests, they’re designed to mimic the appearance of small, flying insects hovering just above the water’s surface. They serve the same function as bait on more conventional fishing rods, though they’re not actually live insects, baitfish or derived from meat products. Rather, they’re made from pretty much anything you can think of — feathers, cotton, bits of plastic and much more. Collecting flies is a hobby unto itself, and it’s fairly normal for longtime fly fishers to accrue scores — even hundreds — of distinct flies. Many start to create their own, too!

But once you’re actually out in the water, what are the best fly fishing flies? It’s a simple question, but as with any fishing-related query, there’s no simple answer. Factors like the time of day, the season, the clarity of the water, the type of fish you’re trying to catch and more are all key factors for consideration. But a quick glance online will reveal a multitude of complex and oft-contradictory answers, many as informed by sentiment and tradition as opposed to scientific research or field experience.

Nonetheless, some broad strokes can be drawn. So let’s take a look at the best fly fishing flies in a bit more detail. Here’s a breakdown of the main types currently available and the fish they’re good at catching — provided you’ve got the casting technique down pat, that is!

  • Dry flies — These surface flies imitate adult aquatic insects and are suitable for fishing trout, panfish and bass.
  • Streamers — These flies imitate popular food sources in rivers and lakes and can be used to catch all species, including baitfish, crayfish and leeches.
  • Nymphs — These imitate young insects that live in their larval form in the water. They are highly effective while fishing for trout, panfish, salmon, and steelhead.
  • Wet flies —These flies imitate aquatic insects that often swim to the surface. You can use them while fishing for trout, panfish, salmon, bass and steelhead.
  • Saltwater flies — These flies immediate many food sources in the ocean and are effective while fishing for batfish, crab, shrimp, bonefish tarpons and more.
  • Salmon flies — Designed for both Pacific and Atlantic salmon and steelhead species, these flies are not that subtle and often trigger an aggressive response.

There's also considerable variation within each of these types — different colours, materials, and more will all be used, depending on the individual preference of the fisher and the particular fish they’re trying to catch.

It can be a bit daunting if you’re new to it all — so if you’d like to get a bit more firsthand information about the best fly fishing flies, why not get in touch with the team at We’ve got a great range of fishing flies, along with all the other gear you need for fly fishing. As keen fly fishing fans ourselves, we’re always eager to hear about your latest fishing adventure.



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