Confucius says, “he who fishes without fish flies does not fish with just any fly.” Okay, he didn’t really say that, but there is some truth to knowing the difference between fly fishing flies because there are a ton of them.

While there are a lot of different fish flies, there are three main different types of fly fishing flies – the dry fly, the nymph, and streamers.

How do you know which one to choose?

Fishing Flies: The Dry Fly

The dry fly floats on the water’s surface, which is why a lot of fishers like this particular fly.

With this fly, you’ll actually see the fish take the fly because it has to come up to the surface to get it making the whole experience more engaging.

Dry flies are meant to resemble different types of insects that you would typically see if you were watching the surface of a lake or a river. If you watch, you’ll often see insects like mayflies and stoneflies. Dry flies resembling these insects attract the trout that feed on them.

Other types of dry flies resemble bugs that look like grasshoppers or other insects you would typically see on land, but would still float in water.

Not all dry flies resemble insects, though. You also have what are called attractors which are bright colors and don’t look like any insect you’ve ever seen. Attractors get a fish’s attention because the thought is that fish will eat anything that looks like a bug.

Of course, if you prefer trout fishing, then you might not be very successful with dry fly fishing just because trout prefer to feed under the water.

Fishing Flies: The Nymph

The nymph fly is perfect for trout fishing because most of the trout feed just under the water which is exactly where the nymph waits for a bite.

It attracts fish because it resembles one of the stages of the mayfly and stonefly that the fish love to eat, so naturally, the fish see it and think it looks like something they’ve eaten before.

While these particular trout flies are more productive over the other styles, it does require a more advanced technique to detect when the fish are biting.

The classic fly fisherman knows that a strike indicator, also known as a small float or bobber, will let you know when the trout are biting. You’ll see it move in an unusual way and know that something is being tempted by your fishing fly.

Fishing Flies: The Streamer

A streamer is different from the nymph and the dry fly in a few ways, but most significantly in the way that a fish will attack it to try to eat it.

Streamer flies look like leaches or minnows to the fish you are trying to attract. It works like that because of the way you cast and then strip the streamer in the water.

Stripping is basically pulling your streamer with short, quick movements or with longer movements, which mimic the way that smaller things might move. In short, it looks like a living thing that fish want to eat.

How to Pick the Right Fishing Fly

Within the three main types of flies, you’ll find all sorts of fly tying patterns that make you question which one to use and how to choose the right fly. Get to know some of the patterns to help you decide which direction you want to go.

As an example, the Clouser Deep Minnow is a streamer fly and is considered “the world’s best pattern” simply because it looks just like a small minnow when you strip it through the water. This fly works best for trout, bass, and redfish.

If you’re looking for the best dry fly to have if you want one, you’ll want to add the Elk Hair Caddis to your fly collection. Sometimes considered one of the more popular Midwest flies, this one attracts trout really well. When you make it twitch, it looks just like a caddis trying to escape the water. Fish love it.

The Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear is one of the absolute bestselling patterns for nymphs around the globe. When it is in the water, it looks like many of the insects that trout like to eat, making it a prized fly in many a tackle box.

Fishing is its Own Reward

Fly fishing is quite possibly one of the most fun types of fishing, especially when you find the fishing flies that pull in the trout you can’t wait to catch.

Learn the types of flies, pick what you need, and start casting to see which fish will bite at what you’re offering!

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