Flies used in fly fishing imitate both the immature and adult stages of insects, as well as baitfish, leeches and worms. Most flies fit into these six categories:
Dry flies and other surface flies represent adult aquatic insects as they emerge from the water. They also represent other food sources that have fallen into the water like grasshoppers or mice. Dry flies are good for trout, panfish and bass. And there’s nothing more exciting than watching a fish rise up and take your fly on the surface. See chart below for classic dry fly patterns.
Nymphs are imitations of young insects in their larval form that live in the water. Fished on or near the bottom of lakes and rivers, nymphs are very effective for trout, panfish, salmon and steelhead. See chart below for classic nymph patterns.
Streamers imitate baitfish, leeches and crayfish, which are all primary food sources for fish. Streamers are fished throughout the water column in both rivers and lakes. Virtually every species of fish can be caught with a streamer.
Wet flies imitate aquatic insects as they swim to the surface. They are very effective when used for trout, panfish, bass, salmon and steelhead.
Salmon flies are designed for both Pacific and Atlantic salmon as well as for steelhead. These flies often don’t imitate anything specific in nature but are meant to trigger an aggressive response.
Saltwater flies represent the many food sources found in the ocean. From baitfish to crab and even shrimp, these patterns can catch everything from bonefish to tarpon.
Need help choosing a fly? Check the Color Coding System. Content courtesy of simplysuperfly.com.
The Basic Box
This chart shows fly patterns that will serve you well for all of your freshwater fishing - from bass to trout and panfish. You may have trouble "matching the hatch" sometimes because, about 10 percent of the time, freshwater fish focus on one abundant water-born insect and become so choosy that they will take only a close imitation; but these flies can catch most fish most of the time.