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Fly Fishing 101, Part 27
The 10 Best Dry Flies

According to the book, 40 Best Trout Flies by Robert H. Alley, dry flies are at the very bottom of the list for flies that catch trout. Technically he is probably correct. The various researchers who make studies of these thing claim a trout will eat 9 nymphs for every dry fly. Those odds do make other flies more productive.

But there is another side. One that was not really discovered until "real" dry flies, (those that looked very much like the insect and floated the way insects do,) were invented. It's the take. Actually seeing the trout rise to your fly, check it out, and take it! For many fly anglers, that is what fly fishing is all about. But there is a catch. Your casting has to be good, you have to be able to figure out what the insects are. Presenting the proper fly in the right place, without drag takes practice. But when you have all the pieces put together - it's heaven!

Here are the top ten in dry flies, in order of importance. Keep in mind, insects vary from region to region. Always ask other anglers or a fly shop you trust what is best in your region at the various times of the year.

  1. Adams
  2. Light Cahill
  3. Dark Cahill
  4. Bivisible
  5. Irresistable
  6. Hair Wing Royal Coachman
  7. Elk Hair Caddis
  8. Dave's Hopper
  9. Black Fur Ant
  10. Black Midge

    From 40 Best Trout Flies by Robert H.Alley.
    Published by Frank Amato Publication.
    Thanks for use permission.

    Adams: This is "the" universal dry fly if there is one. It works on any type of river in the world. It can resemble a mosquito, caddis, mayfly dun, midge or horsefly. Carry it in sizes 10 - 20 if you have room. Use a floating line for all dry flies, a leader of 10 feet, and extend your cast with "mends" to achieve a natural float. No drag on the fly.

    Light Cahill: This fly is mostly used toward the end of the day, and strongly resembles the mayfly hatches which take place from May to July on Eastern rivers and from June to July on Western rivers. Fish this fly upstream, drifted with the current, (mend your line to get the longest possible drag-free float) once the fly is past a possible trout, pick up your line, make a few false casts to dry the fly, and drop the fly into another upstream current. Use ten-foot, 4X or lighter leaders with a size 12 or 14. During day, a size 16 might be better.

    Dark Cahill: The Dark Cahill is best in slow meadow-type streams. In faster currents, use a size 12. For quiet water and pools, drop down to a size 16. If fishing upstream and floating with the currents doesn't produce, try lightly jerking the fly just across the currents. It might resemble an emerging caddis.

    Bivisible: This fly can be tied as large as a size 4 for stonefly and caddis hatches, and as small as a size 16 or calm waters and tiny caddis. The bi-color, with the light or white hackle is for the benefit of the angler - makes it easier to see. It is a very versitile dry fly, and can be used on rivers or lakes. Tie (or buy) it in colors to match your local insects, the most common colors are brown, gray and black. The Bi-visible is one of the best flies for lakes. It is considered an attractor pattern.

    Irresistible: Here is a heavily tied fly - more like a bass bug for trout. Usually used in sizes 10 to 12 near shore line cover in lakes. In streams and creeks, use size 12 - 14, fished upstream with the drifts in faster currents. The places where the fast and slower water meet form an edge, called a "seam," trout lay waiting for food along those seams. Cast your fly right on the seam, and let it ride past you before you pick it up and re-cast. If night fishing in legal in your region, this is the fly to use. Keep wading to a minimum.

    Hair Wing Royal Coachman: This fly was invented for fishing riffles, runs and rushing currents. It also works in long slow or deep run. The brightness of the fly (and attractor) will attract warm water species as well as trout. Use a size 14 in calm water, use a size 14 or 16 in fast water. It is a fly that is easy to see, and a good fly to try when nothing in particular is happening. It was first tied as a wet fly.

    Elk Hair Caddis: Most caddis occur in brown, gray, olive and tan. This fly covers all those colors. While the natural insect ranges from size 4 to 22, the angler can get by with using size 10 - 16. Think life-form when you use this fly. Bounce it in the surface as the fly begins the downstream drift. When targeting a trout, remember to cast a couple of feet ahead of it and drift the fly over the fish. This fly is mostly used on fast rocky sections of water, which is where caddis live.

    Dave's Hopper: When the hoppers are out in mid-summer to early fall, this fly can be deadly. The best fishing will be near the river or stream banks. Made a noisy crashing cast - just like a hopper mis-judged his distance and missed that streamside bush. Let the fly drift down with the current. Look for cover where a hopper might have been, make your cast there.

    Black Fur Ant: Mostly a western fly, this fly floats in the surface film of lakes. The winged ant found in the west in May or June is a size 10 or 12. Land the fly gently, in front of the trout's nose, and barely inch it forward. A 10-feet leader, and 6X tippet are necessary to sucessfully fish ant patterns.

    Black Midge: Like ants, midges come in different colors, but the Black Midge seems to be the most common. Midges appear throughout the year in rivers. Some as large as a size 14, but more commonly size 20 - 28. Leaders need to be at least 10 feet long, and tippets should be 6X. Presentation should be directly in front of the trout's nose, do not move the fly, the trout should just suck it in. In moving current, let the fly drift downstream. In lakes, you will get one cast to one fish. The cast must be presented to a actively feeding fish. While hatches do occur anytime, but most commonly at twilight. Carry midges in black, gray and brown.

    These are by no means all of the possibilitles for dry flies. Some, such as the Thorax flies each represent a specific insect who may only be available a very short part of the season. You need to investigate and learn what insects you have locally - or where you fish. Part of the joy of fly fishing is discovering the neat little secrets that apply to your fishing. It is an ongoing journey - fly fishing is not a destination! ~ DB

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