Fly Fishing Flies

Flies are artificial bait you use to catch fish. Unlike traditional fishing, flies for fly fishing are light as a feather—which is not surprising, as some are made with actual feathers (called hackles). The weight lies in the fly line rather than the flies.

When you go fly fishing, you cast the fly line onto the surface of the water. The movement of the fly line mimics the motions of real natural insects and tricks the fish into biting. The flies must look believable as insects, bugs, and other water-related animals that fish feed on. More importantly, they need to move and act like them, too.

When you buy your flies, you will find several types of artificial bait. You will need to choose the right bait for your fly fishing expedition. Before jumping on your next fly fishing adventure, let us help you choose the best fly fishing flies for you.

How Do I Choose Fly Fishing Flies?

To choose the right kind of fly fishing flies suited to your needs, you should answer three questions:

  • What kind of fish are you going after?
  • Where are you going to fish?
  • What time of the year are you going to fish?

What Kind of Fish Am I Going After?

Fish have strong food preferences and you will need to accommodate their food choices if you want to catch them. Using the wrong kind of fly will only frustrate both you and the fish.

Where Am I Going to Fish?

Saltwater bugs and insects differ enormously from freshwater ones. There is even a significant difference if you are going fly fishing on the banks of a river or deeper in the water. Some bugs are aquatic, others are terrestrial, and some are both.

What Time of the Year Am I Going to Fish?

Just like any other animal, insects, bugs, and water animals grow depending on the season. While midges can be found almost throughout the year, mayflies are not found in mid-winter and caddisflies only show up in the spring and summer. If you want to fool fish into thinking your fly is a real one, you need to follow seasonal patterns and natural hatching times.

Types of Flies

There are dozens of different fly types. To help you be successful during your fly fishing trips, you need to think about the life of an insect from birth onwards:

  • When aquatic insects are born, they are nymphs that live beneath the surface of the water. Their wings are not yet developed, so they can’t fly.
  • As they grow older, they slowly rise to the surface with the help of their wings.
  • When insects reach adulthood, they fly on the surface of the water.

When you set out on your fly fishing trip, you need to consider the time of the year and the growth stage of the insects and bugs at that time. Once you have established what real nature looks like, you can buy flies that accurately mimic it.


Fish like nymphs because they live in the water and fish don’t need to climb to the surface, where they may be more vulnerable to predators, to find food.

In real life, insect nymphs spend their time inside the water until they grow strong wings. Nymph flies mimic this behavior. These types of flies don’t float on the surface of the water but rather go in the water to mimic nymphs in ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams.

When you fish with nymphs, you don’t know if a fish has taken the bait. That’s why nymph flies often come with strike indicators that hang on the surface but dip into the water when a fish takes the bait and bites the nymph fly. You then know you can reel the fish back to you.

Dry Flies

Dry flies mimic adult insects and bugs like mayflies, midges, mosquitoes, caddisflies, and stoneflies. Sometimes, dry flies mimic terrestrial bugs and insects like grasshoppers, ants, and beetles.

Since dry flies fly on the surface of the water, you don’t need an indicator to alert you when the fish is biting your bait.


Emergers are the in-between stage between nymphs and adult insects. They are closer to the surface of the water but have not yet managed to fly above the waterline. Some insects never manage to grow their wings perfectly and stay in the emerger stage. This makes them easy prey for fish.

Emerger flies imitate insects that are at this stage of their development.


Minnows and leeches are streamers, traveling under the water’s surface. If you want to catch fish with streamers, you must mimic their movement. This means you will move your streamer fly in a motion that imitates the movement of a live leech.

How Can I Make the Right Fishing Fly Choice?

To choose the best fly fishing fly for you, start by observing your surroundings. Take a look around your fishing spot and check what types of insects you can see, whether they are flying, and how close to the bank they are.

Inspect the water and take notice of what bugs are around. If you can’t see any fish rising to the water’s surface, it may mean that it’s nymph season: fish will find all their necessary food below the surface.

In this case, fly fishing with dry flies will not bring the best results: fish have no reason to rise to the top of the water since they have all they need well below. Remember that rising to the surface can be dangerous for fish so they will avoid it, particularly if they have enough food at the bottom.

If you choose a streamer fly, you must have some experience with casting your line. The trajectory of your line will help your streamer fly appear realistic and capture the fish’s attention. You must keep your line moving in a natural way that mimics aquatic creatures.

What Are Flies Made of?

Most flies are made of a combination of natural and synthetic materials. Natural materials include feathers, furs, and animal hairs. Synthetic materials include wires, ribbons, beads, feathers, and tying material.

The point of flies is for them to be as light and realistic as possible, both in the way they look and the way they move. They have to be as close to the insect they are mimicking to trick fish into taking the bait.

Are There Different Flies for Freshwater and Saltwater Fly Fishing?

Saltwater flies are bigger because fish are bigger in the sea. Also, saltwater flies must be corrosion-resistant, otherwise, they will disintegrate fast due to the salt’s corrosive properties.

Types of Flies for Different Fish

Trout, salmon, and bass are often attracted to streamers.

Bass also like poppers: poppers imitate insects that can’t fly and are in agony, making them easy prey for fish. Poppers pop in the water, thus creating a commotion that attracts bass. The popping mimics an insect struggling to fly and stay above the water.

Trout, bass, and smaller fish also like nymphs, while trout are equally attracted to dry flies.

Fly Fishing Outfitters Have the Flies You Need

No matter the type of flies you want, you will find quality flies that perfectly mimic real insects at various stages of their natural development. Once you have established the type of fly that works best for your fly fishing trip, be sure to order them from Fly Fishing Outfitters and make your fly fishing outing a success!

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