Different Types of Fly Fishing Flies

Different Types of Fly Fishing Flies

Fly fishing encompasses several aspects in terms of gear. Rods, reels, accessories, and waders are just a few. However, the flies themselves are often the most critical part of any angler’s arsenal. 

There are so many variations, colors, sizes, and kinds of fly fishing flies on the market. This can make the buying process quite overwhelming if you don’t already know what you need.  

Because there is such a broad range of options, it is important to break it down as much as possible and figure out how you can benefit from the different fly fishing flies’ styles. This may seem like a daunting task, but today we will break down a few fly types and how to use them. 

This article will give you a better idea of what types of flies are available and what you can catch with it. 

Not All Fly Fishing Flies Are The Same 

You may ask yourself, what is the big deal with picking out flies? Why do people invest so much time and money into such a simple idea? 

These are very valid questions to ask, and probably every angler thought this early on. 

You may be struggling to justify all of the time and resources that fly fishers put into their flies. Hopefully, this article will give you a better understanding of what flies are, what they offer, and how they are used. 

The fly is the physical part of the fly fishing rig that delivers results. One could argue it is the most important. You can have thousands of dollars’ worth of gear, but without knowledge about flies and the right flies for various situations, that gear won’t be adequate. 

Is Fly Fishing Expensive? It doesn’t have to be.

As you progress through your fly-fishing journey, you will start to appreciate flies much more and how intricate they can be. 

Here is a breakdown of the various types of fly-fishing flies on the market! 

Best Types of Dry Flies

The most common fly that every angler has in his/her arsenal is the dry fly. Generally speaking, a dry fly is one that sits on top of the water. 

Dry flies are similar to a “topwater” lure or something of the sort in other fishing styles. 

What Is The Most Popular Type Of Fishing?

Dry flies are built to resemble flies or insects that naturally sit on top of the water. They imitate the adult life cycle stage of these insects. 

The most common types of insects you are attempting to imitate include: 

  • Stoneflies
  • Caddisflies
  • Mayflies
  • Leeches
  • Beetles

There are so many more, but these are some of the most common insects you should try and match with a fly fishing fly. 

The Best Dry Flies For Beginners

The best dry flies for beginners are whatever occurs naturally in the area. There should be certain flies that are always in your fly box. Having these dry flies on hand allows you to mix it up a bit if necessary.  

Although a lot comes down to geographic location or personal preference, the best types of dry flies are universal to most locations.  

The Stimulator

A fantastic fly that is a must for any angler is the Stimulator. These are made to imitate a few different hatches to match the season you are fishing. 

For example, the golden back is used to match golden stone hatches, attract summer salmon, and target the annual stonefly hatch.

A big perk of the stimulator is its customizability and versatility. Often, fly fishers will have many variations of the stimulator fly to take advantage of several scenarios. 

The Black Ant

There are a number of ant variations. Having a general black ant fly in your arsenal is a good idea. Especially in the deep summer months, terrestrials can be used as great flies. In between the main fly hatches in May and August, an ant can be perfect to supplement a fish’s diet. 

Adams Fly

Arguably the most-used fly in the industry is the Adams fly. 

Since this style has been around for nearly 100 years, the Adams is a must for building a lineup of flies. These are commonly used to imitate mayfly and caddisfly hatches.

If you are a beginner, this is probably the first fly you should grab. Even if you are a seasoned veteran, you know the impact Adams flies have and how important it is to have them ready. 

Midge Fly

Like the ant, a midge is similar to a gnat or mosquito and garners a smaller presentation than other flies. As the name shows, these flies are meant to present as midges in the wild. 

Thankfully, it is very easy to tell if an area has this type of insect because they are very prominent in their natural environments. 

Want to learn more? Read this: “What Is Midge Fly Fishing?


Wulffs are interesting flies because they aren’t designed to imitate one specific thing. Although there are many variations, the Royal Wulff is the most popular and used in many situations. 

Elk-hair Caddis

Having Elk-Hair Caddis Flies around is excellent, especially for targeting trout. Even if you are chasing other fish like Steelhead, these flies can be very productive. 

Elk-Hair Caddis Flies are a unique fly because the elk hair keeps the fly on top of the water, but it adds a unique ability to skip across the water when applying some action. 

No matter what you are fishing for, throwing one of these is a good way to mix up the presentation and show something different. 

Dry Fly Fishing Tips For Beginners

If you are a beginner, dry fly fishing will most likely be the first taste you get of the sport. Using dry flies is the most common strategy. 

Each variation of fly fishing branches off of this one in at least one way. 

There are a few tips and tricks that will make the entire experience much better. 

A good beginner tip is to check your fly regularly. After a catch or missed bite, look over your fly and make sure it is in good shape. Bites can mess up a dry fly so much that it needs to be replaced or repaired, even if it was a missed bite.

Check the legs, wings, hair, or whatever components may have been damaged. Casting a faulty fly is less than ideal. 

Another helpful tip is to cast upstream when fly fishing in moving water.  Casting a dry fly slightly upstream will allow it to float naturally downstream as you draw it back in. Species like trout often sit relatively stationary near the bottom facing upstream. They are looking to snag tasty treats as they float downstream.

The Best Wet Flies And Nymphs For Beginners

Unlike dry flies, wet flies are designed to be submerged under the water’s surface. Wet flies imitate insects in either the larva or nymph stages of the insect’s lifecycle. 

Nymphing is the specific term for using flies that resemble insects during their lifecycle stage as a nymph. Until the insect becomes an adult, its life is spent underwater, so nymphing rigs are submerged. 

Nymphing is also known as one of the most effective styles of fly fishing. During certain times of the year and with certain types of fish, nymphs can make up most of their diets. 

A trout’s diet is usually 80% composed of nymphs. 

Just think about how improved your odds are when you can tap into 80% of a fish’s primary food. 

There are a few styles and variations of wet flies that you should have in your fly box to make the most of this technique.  

Our article, “What Is The Difference Between Wet Flies And Dry Flies?” has even more information on wet vs. dry fly fishing.

Best Nymphs For Your Fly Box 

Pat’s Rubber Leg

This fly is made to imitate a stonefly, and some common colors include black, olive, and tan. This nymph has outward legs to produce a very realistic look.

Pheasant Tail 

One of the oldest nymph flies in the game is the Pheasant Tail. Pheasant Tails are created to imitate mayflies and often contain small, copper components.

Copper John

The Copper John is a very versatile nymph because it can represent both mayflies and stoneflies. This is a fantastic fly to use when searching a lot of water quickly.

Electric Caddis

The Electric Caddis is a super fly that imitates caddisfly larvae. Caddisflies are an extensive group that can be found all over the world. So, having this on deck can help in many situations.

San Juan Worm

Although some fly fishing purists probably aren’t keen on using worms, especially for trout, the San Juan Worm nymph works. This is a super simple design that should be a mainstay in your gear, especially when you want to think outside of the box.

Hare’s Ear

Another one of the classic nymphs is the Hare’s Ear. These are made to represent mayflies in their developmental stages. This kind of nymph has various colors and sizes to make it both versatile and customizable.


If the weather is colder or the fish are lethargic, using a Frenchie is a good idea. This is similar to a Pheasant Tail, but a bright spot grabs the fish’s attention. These are great to have on hand in case the fish do not want to cooperate.

There are so many more styles than these, but you have to start somewhere. Read our article, “What is Nymphing?” to learn more about it.  

Best Wet Fly Tips For Beginners

As you progress through the sport, nymphing is the next step. Nymphing requires different skills and techniques than dry fly fishing. Here are a few tips to make your time nymphing more successful. 

The first tip is to diversify the nymphs you have. Fish can be very finicky as to what pattern they want to chomp down on. To solve that reasonably common issue, you should have several styles and designs to fall back on. 

For trout specifically, they know far more about nymphs than you. They know what patterns are found where and when. This is why having a good arsenal of different presentations will help 10-fold. 

Another tip, one we didn’t cover above, is your nymph’s size is worth thinking about. 

Bigger may not be better. Big fish will feast on small flies. 

It is more important to get the pattern and presentation right. Having different sizes of the same pattern can help solve this issue. 

Best Streamers For Beginners

A great way to single out those trophy fish is by using a streamer. You may have heard the saying, “big bait catches big fish.” Well, this isn’t wholly true, but taking the size of the fly up a notch can pay off if you’re using streamers.  

Although streamers are considered wet flies, they deserve a separate section just for them. 

Streamers can cause forceful bites, so you need to be ready for it. 

This style is also a far more active style of fly fishing than the dry and wet types. Prepare to be more involved in the entire process. 

Here are six of the best streamer patterns out there on the market today! 

Muddler Minnows

One of the most versatile streamers out there is the Muddler Minnow. There are many variations of this type, but the primary use stays the same. These are made to imitate minnows and fleeing baitfish that fire up the fish. These are also great because minnows can be found worldwide and aren’t tied down to specific regions.

Wooly Buggers

The most-used of all streamers is the Wooly Bugger. Anyone who has picked up a streamer before has probably seen these. This is also a widely-used streamer because there are tons of colors, sizes, and styles that fall under this category. Usually, the cone-shaped head stays the same, but everything else is customizable.

Hawkins Triple Double

The Hawkins Triple Double is super interesting because it uses a long stretch of rabbit fur to entice the trout swimming below. Often, these will have a strip of red or pink to help resemble an injured creature. 

Jig Bugger

Made from super dense Tungsten, the Jig Bugger is excellent when used on hot summer days when dry flies aren’t working. They are great for finding those deep, cool holes where fish like to sit because of the Tungsten head and the jig body.


If you know of a high baitfish population in a particular area, using a Sculpin is a fantastic idea. These are great for early spring and late fall because of the color schemes, especially in flowing rivers or creeks. 

Lynch’s Double D

As any experienced stream angler would know, Lynch’s Double D, or a variation thereof, is a mainstay in their fly boxes. People who use it swear by it, for a good reason. This is a great streamer where the narrow head allows for it to slice through the water, creating a flash of sorts from the back end. This fires up fish in a way that is hard to replicate.

Different Types of Fly Fishing Flies

Best Streamer Tips For Beginners

Like any style of fishing, streaming does have its own technique. 

You will have to adjust your cast just a tad because streamers are heavier than the average fly. With dry flies, the weight of your line is the aspect propelling it forward. 

With streamers, the streamer itself is that weight. This causes a different weight distribution that can throw you off a bit if you’re not ready. 

Instead of continually swinging back and forth to feed out the line, the streamer’s weight will produce the perfect cast in just one or two swings. Be prepared to adjust because this is a more significant difference than you may think. 

Another way to increase your catch is by drifting. This is a popular technique for nymphing, but it can also be used with streamers. Part of the fun of fishing is experimenting and figuring out what works.

Streaming is a style that focuses on big, moving baits. Drifting switches that around entirely and offers the streamers as a dead fish. If the bites aren’t coming, try to drift your streamers and see if that can turn it around. 

Best Poppers For Beginners

Sometimes you need to mix it up. If the dry fly won’t work and the nymph rig isn’t doing it, tying on a popper could be an excellent choice. Poppers are used in many styles of fishing, and fly fishing is no exception.

A popper has a scoop shape or flat head to create a disturbance on the water’s surface. As you pull back on the rod, the fly with quite literally pop the water and create disruption. 

Aggressive, hungry fish will fly to the surface and munch on these as long as your timing is right. 

Dry flies are used for a wide range of species. Nymphing is very popular for trout. Poppers focus on bass. 

Bass are aggressive and create topwater explosions that will make your heart skip a beat. This doesn’t mean other species can’t be targeted with poppers but keep this in mind when fishing. 

Here are five types of fly fishing poppers! 

Hair Popper

Like many other flies, deer and elk hair can even be used on poppers. This specific hair is used because of its floating properties and durability. Adding hair to a popper adds depth and texture that makes it even more enticing for the fish. 

Foam Popper

Foam poppers are probably the most common of all the poppers because they are lightweight and easy to cast for extended periods. These are great for the dog days of summer and trying to target bass. 

Hard-body Popper

Hard-body poppers are a bit more durable and do better in running water. They are usually made with bright colors, so it sticks out to both you and the fish.

Blockhead Popper

The whole idea is to disrupt the surface, but the Blockhead Popper takes that up to another level. The cupped mouth is larger than the others, so the pop is also larger. This is great in windy conditions or choppy water so that you can make an impact. 

Other Poppers

This final section is for the poppers who don’t necessarily have their own names or categories, and those a bit off the wall. This includes frogs, baitfish, giant bugs, and more. These probably will not make up your everyday lineup of poppers, but they are worth trying out for fun.

Best Popper Tips For Beginners

The best tip for learning to use a popper fly is to practice casting before getting into the water. By the time you can start to fish, you want to know how to do it properly, or at least enough to get by. 

Similar to streamers, casting poppers puts the weight in the “fly” rather than the line. This makes them a bit harder to cast, especially against the wind. 

When dry or wet fly fishing, you will be casting the line, not the fly. 

Can You Fly Fish With A Spinning Reel?

However, you might find this style of casting to be easier than the traditional fly fishing style. It all comes down to figuring it out at the start. 

When it is windy, or the water is not necessarily calm, you may want a popper like the Blockhead. This popper is designed to create a commotion. 

When the water is like glass, you will want to scale it down and use something more subtle. Poppers like the hair-body and foam variations are great for this. 

The final tip is not to overdo it. Poppers are made to create a disturbance on the surface and get fish like the bass to strike. But, those big splashes and commotion isn’t always the way to go. Sometimes, you need more finesse to get those fish to bite.  


Hopefully, you have found this information to be useful for your next time out on the water. 

Knowing the different types of fly fishing flies is crucial for understanding the sport and getting the most out of it. There are even flies specifically for saltwater fly fishing

Happy fishing! 

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