Blog And Tips -

Best Flies to Use for Dry Fly Fishing

 image of fly fishing

When most people think of fly fishing, dry flies are what comes to their minds. A small fly that floats on top of the water, waiting for a fish to strike! Although there are many types of fly lures used for fly fishing, today we are going to discuss the most common dry flies. There are obviously thousands if not millions of different professional and homemade fly patterns that exist. I thought it would be cool to look into 10 of the most common and well used dry fly patterns that exist.  

Before we jump into this list, let’s first look at why and when we would use a dry fly on our line instead of maybe a nymph or wet fly. Often when you head down to your favorite spot on the stream, river, or lake, there are natural fly hatches that are taking place. If the fly hatches are at the point where the natural flies are either flying away from the water or returning to the water, then this is where you would want to use a dry fly. 


How do you know which dry fly to use?  

This is where you need to be a bit of an investigator. Yesterday I was out fly fishing on a small lake out near the Canadian Rocky Mountains. When I arrived and started setting up my fly rod and gear, I noticed thousands of drakes and caddis flies flying around and hitting the water. So, I took off my hat and scooped one of these flies out of the air. I was then able to see what colors the fly was and its size. Because I like to be prepared on my fishing trips, I had over 10 cases full of different flies that I could try and match to this natural fly. 

It turned out to be a white drake fly and luckily I had 6 of them in my fly case so I borrowed a few to my friends that were fishing with me. You always want to use a fly that matches the hatch that is currently happening as it is the most likely thing that the fish will bite. If you try this and do not get any bites, feel free to try other flies. We all ended up landing a few 1-4 pound brook trout so our investigative work paid off.  


What makes a great dry fly? 

Action: We are mainly looking at how the fly sits in the water and how the fly lands on the water.  

Attraction: Like most things in life, the fly needs to be attractive. In this case, we are normally staying away from the flashy colors and bling. This is why most of the best dry flies are black, tanned, gray, or olive colored.  

Imitation: What is going to get the fish to strike the fly? How the fly is presented in the water once it gets wet is everything. I know that in your fly box, all the flies look great, but it's what happens to the fly once it hits the water that matters. 


Most common dry flies in no specific order: 


image of adams dry fly

The Adams or Parachute Adams fly pattern is as old school as they come. Dating back to 1922, this fly was created by Leonard Halladay. What makes this fly so famous is that it can imitate such a wide number of mayflies. If you do not carry 10 fly boxes full of flies, make sure to have a few of these as they can imitate a large number of different hatches that occur from the spring to the late fall. You will want multiple sizes of this hook as well as different hatches bring different sizes of natural flies. 


Elk Hair Caddis 

image of elk hair caddis fly

Fishing for trout? The Elk Hair Caddis will land you more trout than you'll know what to do with. Created by Al Troth, this fly is commonly tied as black, tanned, or grey and it is designed to represent adult caddisflies. You might be thinking that adult caddis’ are rarely seen during the day, you would be right. Then why does this fly work so well? It resembles a wide array of different flies well enough that makes it a ‘go to fly’ in the fly box. The elk hair that the fly is made out of is hollow which is what makes it float so well. Sizes 12-20 are the most used. If you do not mind fishing into dusk, the Elk Hair Caddis will be the best fly to use.  


Klinkhamer Special 

 image of klinkhamer fly

The Klinkhamer Special was created by Hans van Klinken. The coolest part about this hook is the shape of it. The steel part of the hook is designed to sink in the water a little bit, mimicking a mayfly emerger while also sitting on top of the water. Like the Adams and other flies on this list, the Klinkhamer is used to imitate a wide variety of different terrestrials, so anglers do not have to carry as many different patterns to the water. 


Blue Winged Olive 

image of blue wing olive fly

The emerger version of the WD-40 fly pattern, the Blue Winged Olive fly will do you many favors when it comes to getting more trout in your net. The Blue Winger Olive represents many varied species of mayflies, but mainly it represents the Baetis. The most common sizes used are 16 and 18 and the early spring is when you will want to get these flies on the water. I normally use the Blue Winged Olive on overcast days with a slight drizzle of rain, normally between September and November.  



image of simulator dry fly

The Simulator pattern will be found in every fly fisherman's tackle box. There are numerous patterns of this fly, but all are meant to represent larger grasshoppers, stoneflies, damselflies, and dragonflies. I would suggest using Simulators in sizes 6 to 14.  


Black Ant 

image of black ant fly hook

Fishing in the hot heat of July and August, ants will be out in full force. The Black Ant is a classic fly that mimics these natural ants. There are many modern versions created that have foam tied to them to help with floating. Because of this, you won’t need to add as much if not any floatant to it.  


Deer Hair Emerger 

image of deer hair fly

Cannot seem to figure out what the fish are biting? Try the Deer Hair Emerger. It is used to imitate many different terrestrial, olives, and sedges. This fly can be used in both fast choppy water and slow calm water. If you apply floatant, only apply it to the deer hair wings and not the rest of the body as you want the body to be below the surface, looking like an emerger.  



image of mosquito fly

Yes, the insect that has bitten you a million times in your life is a well known delicacy for fish. If the mosquitos are out in full force causing you to use your bug spray, then chances are you should tie one on the end of your line. This fly will always be a number one choice for anglers as these pesky bugs don't seem like they are going away anytime soon!


Dry flies

Fly fishing with dry flies is my favorite. There is nothing better than seeing your fly get taken by a fish, then getting to real it in. I would highly suggest always keeping a variety of varied sizes of these hooks in your fly box. If you are not having much luck with other flies, try these as they have proven themselves repeatedly throughout the years.  


If you like reading about fly fishing, our Zinger Fishing blog has a wide variety of different articles. We cover places to fish, what patterns to use, techniques, gear, and everything else to help fellow anglers land more fish in their nets.