Skip to main content

A Modern Fly Box

Top flies to catch trout.

A Modern Fly Box

There are many choices to make in fly fishing, and few are more important than what you choose to put in your fly boxes. Ultimately, it dictates what flies you’ll tie to your tippet. (Amidea Daniel photo)

The first two questions a new fly fisher might ask are “What flies do I need?” and “Why are there so many different flies?” The latter question has a simple answer: Trout eat an enormous variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects, crustaceans, fish, fish eggs, and other food items. The first question is tricky—every waterway has its own unique food chain.

Staple patterns such as Pheasant-tail Nymphs, Hare’s-ear Nymphs, Copper Johns, Elk-hair Caddis, Compara-duns, Catskill Adams, and Woolly Buggers should always be in your box and will consistently catch trout. They’re generic patterns designed to imitate multiple insect species including mayflies and caddis, and other food sources such as baitfish. Woolly Buggers can be fished using different methods: dead-drifted under an indicator, retrieved as a streamer, or jigged to imitate a dying baitfish, a swimming leech, or a scuttling crayfish. They also imitate hellgrammites in brawling rivers, or damselfly nymphs in stillwaters.

Modern flies have evolved from these time-honored patterns, and open a world of endless innovation and possibilities in fly design. The following 24 fly patterns are intended to highlight today’s cutting-edge trout flies, sourced from the best guides and fly tiers in the world. Sifting through the thousands of available patterns is a daunting task, and there are many great patterns that aren’t included here. They may be in your fly box in the future.

The best advice I can offer to build a proper fly box for your waters is to gain a fundamental knowledge of the waterways you’re fishing. Reach out to local guides and fly shops to hone in your fly selections. Hire a guide—you’ll be amazed at what you learn. Spend time on the water observing, and learn to tie flies. Become a student of the water and the natural surroundings. You will reevaluate your box endlessly, adding and removing patterns as time progresses—it’s only natural for a fly angler. Remember to enjoy your fly-fishing journey. It’s a long one, but so much fun.


studio images of flies, GD Sculpin Snack, The Roamer, Squirmy Wormy, Mopsicle, Thunder Egg
(Photos courtesy of Fulling Mill, Umpqua Feather Merchants, Holly Flies, Jay Nichols, Jake Villwock, and Eric A. Naguski)
studio images of flies, Paranymph, Swim Coach, Mini Finesse Changer
(Photos courtesy of Fulling Mill, Umpqua Feather Merchants, Holly Flies, Jay Nichols, Jake Villwock, and Eric A. Naguski)
studio images of flies, Spring Brown, HG Cress Bug, Simple Stone, Deep Cleaner, Resting Caddis
(Photos courtesy of Fulling Mill, Umpqua Feather Merchants, Holly Flies, Jay Nichols, Jake Villwock, and Eric A. Naguski)
studio images of flies, Adams Superfly, DJL Drake, Amy's Ant, Fat Angie, Mini Leech Jig Radiant
(Photos courtesy of Fulling Mill, Umpqua Feather Merchants, Holly Flies, Jay Nichols, Jake Villwock, and Eric A. Naguski)
studio images of flies, Blowtorch, Sweetmeat Caddis, Perdigon, Problem Child, Micro Matcher, Tube Midge Tungsten
(Photos courtesy of Fulling Mill, Umpqua Feather Merchants, Holly Flies, Jay Nichols, Jake Villwock, and Eric A. Naguski)

Dennis Pastucha is the art director for Fly Fisherman. He holds a bachelor of fine arts with a minor in art history from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. He is an avid fly fisher and fly tier.


Poster for video of George Daniel's Tying and Fishing Favorite Nymphs
Click here to learn to tie the Simple Stone and seven more of George Daniel’s top nymph patterns in his new film.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Fly Fisherman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Fly Fisherman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Fly Fisherman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Fly Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now