The flies all trout fishers should carry imitate broad insect groups like caddisflies, mayflies, stoneflies, minnows, leeches, worms, and crustaceans. Decades ago, this meant using hair and fur creations like the Elk-hair Caddis, Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear, Brooks Stonefly, and Mickey Finn.
All these classic patterns still work today for aggressive trout in wilderness streams that don’t see much traffic. But in many pressured waters, trout get caught, and released, many times over.
While that’s a great thing from a conservation standpoint, the trout become conditioned to refuse flies that don’t look quite right. Some of us even believe they become trained to avoid certain fly patterns, just because they have “seen that one before.”
That’s why fly tiers are constantly experimenting with new designs and modern materials to come up with flies that are more exacting, or more attracting, and most importantly, patterns the trout haven’t seen before.
This constant evolution is creative and engaging, and makes fly tying an artistic pursuit worthy to stand on its own. On the water, these new flies give us an edge that is partly psychological, but it is real nonetheless. When you arrive on the water with new flies you may also have extra sparkle, a sharper hook, wings set in a more realistic position, legs that are more lifelike, and hackle that moves and breathes. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 25 years of fly fishing, guiding, and catching trout in streams around the globe, if you believe in a fly, it works better. If you lose faith in it, you should replace it.
That’s why when you’re fishing with a guide, and things turn cold for a period of time, the guide will suggest replacing your fly. It’s not that he tied on a lousy fly in the first place, it’s just that a new fly will inspire you to cast more accurately, mend the line attentively, and strike with confidence. It’s just human nature.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all psychological—far from it. Flies that don’t work quickly fall by the wayside, while others become mainstays in fly boxes across the country.
The pursuit of making a “better” fly is not an illusion, it’s a constant reality and it happens all the time. That’s how Gary LaFontaine brought us the Sparkle Pupa, Randall Kaufmann created the Stimulator, and John Barr came up with the Copper John.
In that spirit, what follows are 12 relatively new patterns tied by the leading minds in fly tying and fly fishing today. They fill your needs in broadly important categories—a streamer, a mayfly dry, a caddis dry, a midge pupa, an attractor beadhead nymph and so on. There’s no duplication of effort here, so if you’re a beginner, you can’t go wrong with starting your first box with six of each type.
If you’re an experienced fly fisher, you’re likely to enjoy these flies even more. If you fish these, you’ll want to replace the flies you’ve already got in your box because these are simply better. Passage’s Crippled Parachute is better than the Parachute Adams you’ve got in your box, Egan’s Tungsten Dart will catch more fish than the Prince Nymph you’ve used all these years, and Cathy’s Super Beetle is light years ahead of the old hair beetles collecting dust at the back of your box. These are the best of the best of a crop of new flies for 2015. Enjoy!