The Best Types of Flies For Fly Fishing

Fishing flies in a box, next to LOOP rods and reels

If you’re new to fly fishing, you’ll soon realise that flies are an essential piece of kit – but you’ll also quickly discover that there are many different types of fly fishing flies.

However, there is a reason for all the variety. A fly is a type of bait that resembles things that are eaten by fish, such as insects, small fish and worms. They’re attached to a hook and placed on, or just below, the surface of the water. This tricks the fish into thinking there’s a tasty meal waiting for them, making it easier for anglers to land a catch.

Although they all serve the same broad purpose, every type of fly has a specific purpose, and the one you choose can have a significant impact, depending on what type of fish you’re hoping to catch and the water you’re fishing in.

We take a look at everything you need to know about flies for fishing, including the difference between wet and dry flies, the best flies for fly fishing, and what type of equipment you’ll need to help store your flies.

What’s the difference between dry and wet flies?

There are two main types of fly fishing flies: wet and dry flies.

Wet flies sit under the water. They’re made to mimic fish eggs, worms, young insects and other little creatures that are eaten by fish. Wet flies are usually presented just below the surface of the water, although they can also be presented much deeper beneath the surface.

Some of the most common wet flies include emergers, nymphs, streamers and intimate hatching flies, although you may also come across other types of larger bait.
Dry flies, on the other hand, are designed to sit on top of the water. They usually resemble fully-grown flies and insects, although you can also get much larger dry flies that look like rodents, beetles or grasshoppers.

They’re made to mimic insects that sit on top of the water, or they may resemble larger animals that fish may think are injured and therefore prime prey.

Best flies for fly fishing

So, now you know about the two main types, what are the best flies for fishing? Let’s take a closer look at the differences between flies and the different reasons you might choose each one.

Fishing with dry flies

Dry flies are constructed of water-resistant, lightweight and buoyant materials to imitate an insect that alights or floats on the surface of the water.

They keep the hackle tied around the hook, which allows the fly to sit slightly off the water. While dry flies may cause a slight ripple in the water, they don’t dip below the surface, as wet flies do.

Dry flies are particularly good for fishing trout, panfish and bass. There are several different types of dry fly, which we’ll consider in more detail below.

Sherry Spinner

The term ‘spinner’ refers to flies that mimic adult flies. This type of dry fly, then, was designed to imitate female olive flies when they return to the water to lay their eggs.

With a Sherry Spinner, the wings are splayed out to create the crucifix shape that’s associated with adult female flies when they are trapped on the surface of the water.

Although this is the most common type of spinner pattern, there are also plenty of others that you’ll come across. For instance, after they lay their eggs, they may have no tails, or only one wing, and your fly can also be tied to resemble this.

herry Spinners are a good choice when it comes to fishing trout. When using this type of fly, you should let it drift on the surface, only occasionally pulling it to mimic a fly trying to take off. You can then leave it for a while and then repeat the pulling motion. Eventually, this should tempt your fish to attack, and you’ll hopefully land a big catch!

Check out our LOOP Akademi to find out how to tie a Sherry Spinner.

Sherry spinner fishing fly

Griffith’s Gnat

Midges or gnats are the staple diet of trout worldwide, and are found on most rivers, lakes and streams across the globe.

This type of dry fly, then, is designed to imitate egg-laying adult midges and emerging midges. It’s a versatile fly that can be tied in several different ways, from a size 16 down to a 24. The smaller sizes are particularly effective when fish are feeding on hatching flies and midges – and hatching usually occurs in evenings throughout the summer months, so you have a long season to practise getting to grips with this fly!

The Griffith’s Gnat is a good choice for beginners, as it’s simple to tie and can be used across a variety of different locations, whether you’re fishing in still water or fast-flowing rivers.

Learn how to tie the Griffith’s Gnat with our video tutorial from the LOOP Akademi.

Fishing with Streamers

Streamers are a type of wet fly. They’re larger flies that represent minnows, sculpins, leeches and other swimming food items that provide meals for trout, panfish and saltwater fish such as tarpon, redfish and bonefish.

Streamers are presented at all levels of water, from the very bottom to just below the surface, although they most commonly sit in the middle of the water.

All fish, regardless of size, will strike streamers, making them a solid all-round choice. These flies are well-known for their ability to take the biggest fish in streams, ponds, lakes and saltwater. That means attacks on streamers can be aggressive, so be prepared for a fight when fishing with this type of fly!

The best way to fish with streamers is to cast your line out, and then pull your fly line in short and long pulls, causing your streamer to move through the water in bursts.

Woolly Bugger

Woolly Buggers, a type of streamer, are the most recognised fly, and one of the best to have in your fly box. It can resemble a leech, or a larva-type creature moving about the streambed, depending on the material used.

It’s a great choice for beginners, as only basic materials and knowledge of fly tying are required to tie any number of bugger variations.

It’s also an extremely versatile fly, as it can be used in freshwater and saltwater alike. Woolly Buggers are most commonly used in streams, ponds, lakes, rivers and tidal flats, and typically have a high success rate, as fish can’t seem to resist them.

Salmon flies

Salmon Flies are different to most other types of fly, as they’re not designed to imitate anything specific in nature. Rather, they’re simply meant to trigger an aggressive response in fish, helping anglers to land a catch.

They’re designed for use when fishing for both Pacific and Atlantic salmon, as well as for steelhead trout.

Blue Winged Cascade Fly

This is a type of Salmon Fly and is a variation on the classic cascade pattern. The cascade fly is one of the most popular flies for fishing salmon, thanks to its versatility. It can be used in almost any river conditions, and is suitable for use throughout the season.

The Blue Winged Cascade Fly, then, is a great option. Just like the classic cascade, but with a bright blue addition, it’s a good option for late spring when moving away from the heavy tubes and fishing higher in the water.

Find out how to tie this useful fly in our fly-tying guide.

Wet flies & nymphs

Nymphs and wet flies represent the immature life stages of insects such as mayflies, caddisflies & stoneflies. Nymphs are designed to imitate young insects when they’re in their larval form, and are used for fishing towards the bottom of lakes and rivers.

When using these types of flies, you’ll usually have most success when used just before water-borne insects are hatched.

Fly box of various types of fishing flies

Stonefly Nymph Pattern

A classic nymph fly, the Stonefly Nymph Pattern is designed to resemble Stoneflies, which are a favourite food source of trout.

Even in a river where they are not abundant, this nymph pattern often convinces trout to take. That makes it a great choice for beginners and advanced anglers alike, increasing the chances of landing a trout.

Large Dark Olive

The Large Dark Olive fly (LDO) is a key food source for trout across the globe. It’s found in running water, and there are usually two hatches: one in springtime and one in autumn. That means that March and September are good times to try fishing with the Large Dark Olive.

Find out more about this versatile fly and how to tie it in our LOOP Akademi guide.

Saltwater Flies

Saltwater flies are specifically designed for use in saltwater, and therefore resemble the wide variety of food sources in the sea. This covers a wide gamut, such as crabs, shrimp and other small crustaceans. As you might imagine, this means saltwater flies are often larger than other types of flies.

They’re good for catching a range of different saltwater-dwelling fish, from bonefish to tarpon.

The Cuban Shrimp

If you plan to fish in the sea, the Cuban Shrimp fly is a must-have. It’s less bulky than some other flies, meaning it’s beginner-friendly.

It’s also easy to tie and has a few rubber legs to provide movement in the water.

Storing flies for fly fishing

When you’re fishing, it’s a good idea to keep all of your flies neat and tidy. After all, the last thing you want at the start of your fishing trip is to discover that your flies and lures are tangled or damaged at the bottom of your bag.

Our range of fly fishing boxes are expertly designed to keep your flies and lures safe, dry and untangled during travel.

The Opti 270 Tarpon-Predator Fly Box is the largest of our fly boxes, and is specifically designed to keep large saltwater and predator fly patterns organised.

If you have a range of different fly types, you might prefer the Opti 185 Tactical Fly Box. This box is designed to safely store a variety of different flies, from large patterns to tiny nymphs. That means you can quickly and easily find the fly you need, meaning you can get on with the important stuff – fishing – faster!

There are lots of different flies for fly fishing out there, from wet and dry flies to nymphs and streamers. Each one is designed to mimic a particular food source to tempt the fish to your line, and different flies are better suited to different types of fish and different fishing environments. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the different types of flies, so you can start to build your own fly box.

If you need any further help when it comes to fly fishing, our LOOP Akademi has you covered. We have everything you need to get started in the world of fly fishing, including articles, fly tying video tutorials and much more. Take a look today!