My 5 Favorite All-Purpose Dry Fly Patterns

dry fly patterns

Pardon the overused pun, but I’m hooked on dry fly fishing. I love watching a trout rise to take a fly off of the river’s surface. My dry fly box is stocked and already in use for this spring and summer season of fishing. While I definitely carry more than five dry fly patterns, here are the five all-purpose flies, in various sizes.

I like these in sizes 14-18, with some size 20s in a couple of these patterns:

1. Parachute Adams

This is where it all begins for me.

If I could only use one dry fly, I’d choose a Parachute Adams for sure. This fly serves double-duty. I use it during a Blue-Winged Olive (BWO) hatch, but I also use it as an attractor pattern. It works equally well in Montana, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Michigan. I carry some size 20s in this pattern because it has worked on days when trout stubbornly refuse a size 18.

2. Elk Hair Caddis

Like the Parachute Adams, the Elk Hair Caddis serves well as both an imitation and an attractor pattern. My dilemma is always the dubbing. I like black for the spring creeks in Minnesota or Wisconsin Driftless creeks, but green or tan works well for the Yellowstone River in Montana.

I’ve even had success with a larger Caddis pattern (size 12) during hopper season.

3. Light Cahill

I always make sure my fly box has an ample supply of Light Cahills to imitate Pale Morning Duns (PMDs). I’ve run into a lot of PMDs on the spring creeks in Montana and tailwaters like the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon. Like a BWO, and PMD is a another mayfly species.

While the BWO has darker (gray) color, a PMD is much lighter pale color—as its name suggests.

4. Comparadun

I’m being a bit non-committal here as the Comparadun is a rather general pattern rather than a specific fly. I’ll go with gray if I want to imitate a BWO or light tan if I want to imitate a PMD. The key is that the Comparadun floats a bit lower in the film than a Parachute Adams or a Light Cahill.

This makes it look more a cripple or a dun that is struggling to take flight.

5. Royal Wulff

My final go-to fly is an attractor pattern. While I’m selecting a Royal Wulff as my fifth fly, my favorite attractor varies from week to week and from river to river. I like something with bushy hackle which can handle a lot of water.

So I’m also fond of an H & L Variant and a Red or Yellow Humpy. Occasionally, I’ll return to one of the first attractor patterns I ever used — the Renegade. It doesn’t stay “dry” quite as well in rough water, but even when submerged, it produces well.

You only need a few basic patterns for spring and summer dry fly fishing, but make sure you fly box is full of them in different sizes.

The Mayfly Life Cycle

mayfly life cycle

There’s nothing more exciting than reflecting on the life cycle of a mayfly. Well, actually there is. It’s catching trout—and lots of them. If you want to catch more trout, it’s helpful (though not necessarily exciting) to think about the life cycle of a mayfly. It will help you know what you’re trying to imitate.

1. The Nymph stage

A mayfly spends all but one or two days of its life underwater as a nymph. It’s no wonder, then, that 85% of a trout’s diet comes from beneath the surface. It’s why fishing nymph patterns is almost always a sure bet. Nymphs move about the stream as they feed and molt and then drift into the current or dart from place to place.

If you want to get technical, there are four categories of Mayfly nymphs. Dave Hughes, in his Pocketguide to Western Hatches, classifies them as swimmers, crawlers, clingers, or burrowers. You could vary your strategy if you’re trying to imitate a certain kind of mayfly. However, most of the time, the tried-and-true dead drift method will work. Standard patterns include Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail. A Prince Nymph works fine, too, even though it was originally designed as a Stonefly nymph.

2. The Emerger stage

In this brief stage, the child becomes an adult when the skin splits along the back of the nymph and the winged dun escapes. This happens as the emerger rises to the surface and sheds its skin underwater. Some nymphs, however, crawl to the edge of the river where they shed their skin on the rocks or grass. This explains why you often see empty “casings” on rocks near a river’s edge.

It’s often a good idea to trail your dry fly with an emerger pattern, which you fish just under the film. Sometimes you’ll even see “rising” trout which don’t seem to be feeding on the surface flies. If so, definitely switch to an emerger pattern.

3. The Dun stage

Now the fly has become a young adult. The dun stage is a favorite for fly fishers, and many standard patterns—such as the Parachute Adams, the Comparadun, and attractors like a Royal Wulff—imitate this stage. Mayfly duns ride the surface until their upright wings are dry and hardened for flight. This ride can last for ten to twenty feet.

Fortunately for fly fishers, most mayflies hatch (technically “emerge”) during daylight hours. Prime time is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., depending on wind and water temperature. Overcast, cool days are ideal, especially for Baetis flies and Blue-Winged Olives (BWOs).

4. The Spinner stage

This is the fully formed adult stage in which mayflies are ready to mate. As Dave Hughes says, “Mating takes place in the air, another bit of incomparable grace.” At this point, the females are spent and fall to the water. This creates a “spinner fall” — another opportunity for the trout to roil the surface as they feed. Anglers who see mayflies with flat wings like an airplane – rather than with wings sticking up – should switch to a spinner or “spent wing” pattern.

On some days, you might be able to catch a trout on a pattern that imitates any of these stages. But other days, trout are more selective and zone in on a particular stage. Switching to a pattern that reflects a different stage in a mayfly’s life cycle might trigger some superb fishing.

S3:E16 Dry Fly Fishing Lessons from the Summer

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Dry fly fishing lessons are best learned by doing – not by reading or in a classroom. This summer, we had some great days on the river catching brookies and browns on dry flies. We also learned a few things. Click now to hear some of the lessons we had to relearn as we fished on the surface.

Listen now to “Dry Fly Fishing Lessons from the Summer”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.”

It’s the last segment of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experiences.

What lessons have you learned this past summer? Please post your comments below?

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The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

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S3:E8 One Fine Evening on Wisel Creek

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Wisel Creek is a gorgeous spring creek fishery with a tragic past. On August 6, 1866, a flash flood destroyed a community, killing 16 men, women and children in Preble Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota. Today, it’s hard to imagine that this quiet creek could flood anything. On a whim, after a no-fish day on another stream, we decided to fish the evening rise on Wisel Creek, which we had never fished before. And what an evening it was! Listen now to this episode.

Listen now to “One Fine Evening on Wisel Creek”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

We’d love to hear about a recent “one fine day” that you’ve had on the river. Please tell us your story below. What surprised you about the fishing?

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The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

Know Your Pattern: the Parachute Adams

Parachute Adams

If I had to fish with a single dry fly pattern, I’d definitely choose the Parachute Adams. It’s worked well for me on rivers ranging from Oregon to Michigan. Last weekend, I did well with it on the Little Jordan, a small creek in southeastern Minnesota.

I suspect I’ve caught more trout on the Parachute Adams than on any other dry fly pattern, though the Elk Hair Caddis is a close second. Here is a profile of this remarkably effective pattern:

1. How it originated

The Parachute Adams is a modification of the Adams.

According to Paul Schullery, the Adams originated in 1922 in Michigan. Leonard Halladay developed it as a general mayfly imitation, and his friend, Charles Adams, used it successfully on the Boardman River near Traverse City, Michigan. As a result, Halladay decided to name it after his friend.

The Adams is a relatively simply pattern to tie. It consists of dark gray dubbing for the body, brown and grizzly hackle, grizzly hackle tips for the wings, and a mixture of brown and grizzly hackle fibers for the tail.

Bud Lilly observed that the Adams grew lighter when it went east. But when it went west, fly tiers used extra hackle—presumably to keep it floating longer in the swift currents of western rivers.

2. How it has been modified

The Parachute Adams uses the same hackle, dubbing, and tail as the Adams.

However, the modification comes in the hackle (front) section of the fly. An Adams pattern wraps the hackle around the hook vertically—up and down. However, the Parachute Adams contains a vertical post of white calf hair at the front or head of the fly. Then, hackle gets wrapped horizontally around the base of the post. Tiers refer to this as “parachute style”—hence the name Parachute Adams.

There is no wing added as in the traditional Adams pattern.

The Catch and the Hatch has produced a helpful instructional video for tying this pattern. Even if you are not a fly tier, it’s worth watching so you can see what makes this fly work.

One of the more recent modifications to the Parachute Adams is the Purple Haze. This is the exact same pattern with a purple body instead of a dark gray one. It gives trout a bit different look, and I’ve had success with it.

However, I keep reverting back to the time-tested Parachute Adams — especially on rivers where the Purple Haze has become a craze so that trout are seeing nothing but purple.

3. Why it works

Like the standard Adams pattern, the Parachute Adams works well because it is a general mayfly imitation. It is versatile enough to serve as an attractor pattern when nothing specific is happening on the surface. Yet I have done quite well with it during specific hatches like Blue-Winged Olive (BWO) hatch. Some fly fishers even swear by it as an option for the Caddis hatch.

Perhaps it works well, too, because it is a low-riding fly. This gives trout a good look at it as it remains suspended in the surface film where mayflies typically emerge.

One of the most important factors in its success is its visibility to fly fishers. I can see its white post, or parachute, even in low light.

4. When to use it

You can use the Parachute Adams, well, whenever you want to catch trout on a dry fly. I’ve caught trout on it in every season of the year—even in the winter when a size #18 or #20 can imitate a midge cluster.

Unless I suspect that trout are keying in on Pale Morning Duns (PMDs) or on Caddis flies, I’ll tie on a Parachute Adams when I see rising trout. Typically, I like a size #18 or even a size #20 when a hatch is on.

I’ll tie it on, too, when no hatch is happening and I’m trying to coax a trout to the surface. In these cases, I typically use a bit larger size—either a size #14 or #16.

The Parachute Adams is a terrific choice for your number one go-to fly. Don’t leave home without it.

Other Flies in the “Know Your Pattern” Series

    The Royal Coachman

    The San Juan Worm

Interpreting the 4 Feeding Behaviors of Trout

Look at that! Those trout are feeding on duns.”

My buddy Nolan pointed over the starboard bow of our drift boat: “Do you see those fish rising near the bank about forty yards away?”

We were floating the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley, south of Livingston Montana. It took me a few moments to spot the three trout whose noses kept poking up from the surface. But I didn’t see any tiny mayflies in their dun stage. I thought Nolan was arrogant to make such a claim.

How could he have the 30x vision of a spotting scope?

After I scoffed at him, Nolan explained that he couldn’t see those insects any more than I could. Rather, he made the call by watching how the trout were feeding. While it is not an exact science, you can generally figure out what trout are feeding on by watching their behavior.

1. Noses mean duns

If you see noses poking through the surface, the trout are feeding on mayflies in their dun stage. Sometimes, these trout appear to be standing on their fins, up to their eyeballs in water.

The dun stage is the first of two adult stages of mayflies. A Parachute Adams may work fine. But in some cases — slow, clear water or a specific hatch — it might pay to use a Comparadun or Sparkle Dun pattern. Some kind of cripple pattern may work, too, given that most aquatic insects do not make the transition from nymph to adult stage and remain stuck in the surface film.

2. Fins mean nymphs

If you see only a dorsal fin or tail (and not the trout’s nose), then the trout is feeding on something just below the surface.

This is a good time to use unweighted nymph, which floats just beneath the surface. Or, you can use an emerger pattern which sits low and protrudes into the film beneath it. A pattern which rides high, like a Parachute Adams, will not work well unless it gets water-logged and disappears from your sight.

3. Dimples mean midges or spinners

If you see a small dimple in the water, chances are are the trout are feeding on midges or spent mayfly spinners. You may or may not see the trout’s nose. Sometimes you will even see the trout gently roll through the surface with the grace of a dolphin.

Aside from specific midge patterns, a size #20 Parachute Adams works well for midges. Mayfly spinner patterns have light bodies and wings which lay out to the side (like airplane wings) rather than shooting up from the body at a forty-five degree angle.

4. Splashes mean caddis

If you see rising trout making splashes, they are likely feeding on caddis flies. The reason for the splash is that these flies are fluttering on the surface, and the trout go into attack mode. Some kind of elk hair caddis pattern will do the trick.

Final Thought

Of course, watching surface behavior is only one part of your knowledge base. Knowing which hatches happen in the river you’re fishing at particular times of the year and even specific times of the day is critical to making the correct visual assessment. As always, talk to the experts at your local fly shop or read their reports online. Then keep your eyes open to watch what is happening on the river’s surface.

Fly Fishing after Dark

A while ago, I wrote “Resisting the Urge to Fly Fish Until ‘Dark Thirty,'” a short post with the simple point that sometimes, it’s wise to to quit before dark. That’s sound advice. Sometimes.

My point in the post was that if you’ve already had a great day catching trout and you’re expected home at a reasonable time (a time determined in consultation with your spouse and/or children), then peel yourself away from the river. Head home. There’s no reason to be greedy and fish until dark to catch a few more.

However, you need to resist the urge to quit before “dark thirty” if the best fishing of the day typically occurs when the sun goes down and darkness prevails.

A few days ago, I fly fished with my son, Luke, and my brother, Dave, on the Big Thompson River in Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately, my flight to Denver was delayed, so we could not start fishing the first day until 7:00 p.m.

I figured we’d stop about 8:15 p.m. as the darkness began to settle in and head to the town of Estes Park to eat. But the brown trout in the Big Thompson convinced us otherwise. At about 8:15 p.m., they started rising. My brother Dave (pictured above) suggested that we keep fishing. Luke insisted on it. So we ended up fishing until 9:00 p.m. — well after dark. We caught trout after trout on a size #18 parachute Adams. Luke used a size #18 tan elk hair caddis with a black body and out-fished us all. We went back two more evenings, fished from 8:15 to 9:00 p.m., and caught quite a few nice-sized browns.

This experience provided some good reminders and a few lessons.

1. Browns like to feed in darkness.

This is common knowledge, but a good reminder: Brown trout come to life when the day is dying in the west.

Recently, I talked to the guides at the Old Au Sable Fly Shop in Grayling, Michigan, about booking a trip. They told me that their “day trips” in June and early July start at about 7:00 p.m. Then, they fish until midnight. That’s when the big browns come of their lairs to feed on the surface.

2. The white post on a tiny parachute Adams makes it stand out even in low light

If you’re afraid of not being able to see these tiny (size #18 or #20) flies, don’t be. You can see the white post easily enough as long as there is a little bit of light in the sky. The tan wing of an elk hair caddis is easy to spot too in waning light.

3. Assume that any rise in the vicinity of your fly is a strike.

Even after it was too dark to spot our flies as the floated down the current, we caught brown after brown simply by setting the hook any time we saw a fish rise where we thought our fly might be. I don’t have the scientific data to prove it, but I think we had fish on about three-quarters of the time we guessed and set the hook.

4. Go with shorter casts.

For one thing, it’s easier to see your fly and to control your line as the darkness takes over. Also, it will keep you from snagging a rock or a branch on the other side of the bank. The last thing you want to do is to tie a tiny fly onto your teeny tippet when it’s dark.

5. A flashlight can save the day, er, the night.

Some fly fishers will not have the common sense to practice my previous point. Uh, that would be me.

I saw a fish rise about an inch from the opposite bank. There was a branch a few inches above it, but I couldn’t resist. Unfortunately, I snagged my fly on the branch and ended up losing it. Trying to thread a 6x tippet through the eyelet of a size #18 hook was nearly impossible. Neither the river nor the sky provided enough backlight.

Thankfully, the flashlight on my cell phone saved the night! It was a clumsy process, but I tied on a new fly in the darkness and ended up catching two more nice browns before we quit.

6. You can’t fish at night (or in the day time) if you forget your fly reel.

Yes, on our second night, I left my reel in another small pack I had used earlier in the day when we hiked to a high mountain lake. So I was relegated to spectator status. My fly fishing companions mumbled something about giving me a turn to use their fly rods if the fishing was good. But I guess it was too dark for them to see that they were catching a lot of trout. Or perhaps they thought it was too dark to risk transferring their fly rods from their hand to mine.

I won’t make that mistake again.

S2: E7 Fly Fishing Made Simple

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Fly fishing made simple is big promise. If you’re just starting out, learning how to cast, read water, and grasp a modicum of entomology can feel overwhelming. We’ve wanted to publish an episode on keeping fly fishing simple, and a recent post by a listener pushed us to make it happen. In this episode, we discuss fly fishing made simple by identifying four ways to reduce its complexity and help you enjoy the sport.

Listen to our latest episode:”Fly Fishing Made Simple”

At the end of each episode, we have a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” We read a few of the comments from this blog or from our Facebook page. We enjoying hearing from our readers and listeners, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

How have you kept fly fishing simple – and enjoyable? Please add your ideas to the creative mix.

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My 6 Favorite Dry Fly Attractor Patterns

Sometimes you need the right dry fly pattern to catch selective trout. A couple years, ago, my son, Luke, and I were fly fishing the Owyhee River in eastern Oregon during a Pale Morning Dun (PMD) hatch. The brown trout would only rise to a PMD pattern. Nothing else.

But when there is no apparent insect hatch, it’s time to pull out an attractor pattern from your fly box if you insist on dry fly fishing. The strategy is to coax the fish to the surface rather than to match the insects on which they are feeding. It’s attraction rather than imitation.

And which dry fly attractor patterns do you want in your fly box?

If you are new to fly fishing, I have some suggestions, but let me first offer a few disclaimers.

First, this is not the definitive list. Another fly fisher’s list will be different, and that’s fine.

Second, don’t be fooled by claims of “the only fly that works” or the “best fly” for this river or that river. It’s all a matter of preference.

Third, size matters, though this post is focusing mainly on patterns. My default size is a #14 for an attractor pattern, though I’ll go smaller at times (see below).

Fourth, I realize that I’m blurring the definition between an attractor and an imitation with a couple of these patterns. So if you’re a veteran fly fisher, there’s no need to get your waders in a bunch. I realize that an elk hair caddis, for example, is an imitation. Yet I will use it as an attractor when there are no caddis flies on the water. Finally, I do most of my fly fishing in the west (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon). However, most of these patterns have worked for me in the Midwest, and I know fly fishers who have success with them on the east coast.

Alright, here is my list.

1. Parachute Adams

I’m sure this will land near the top of any fly fisher’s list of favorite attractors. I’ve used this greyish beauty in standard sizes, but a size #18 is my favorite. It can imitate midges or blue-winged olives or mosquitos. The white post, or parachute, is for you (the fly fisher), not for the fish. It makes a tiny size #18 visible to middle-aged anglers like me.

2. Elk Hair Caddis

If I had to select only two dry flies, it would be a Parachute Adams and an Elk Hair Caddis. This tan fly (and also comes in a black version) simply looks “buggy.” In a pinch, it can imitate a small hopper or a March Brown. I am fond of it because it takes longer to get water-logged than an Adams. So it works great in faster, choppy water.

3. Red or Yellow Humpy

The elk hair hump and the generous brown hackle at the front of the fly make this float forever—well, longer than a lot of flies which get soggy after getting dunked by a riffle. The red or yellow (or green or purple) underbelly makes it stand out as a trout gets closer to it.

4. Royal Wulff

There is a whole family of “Royal” flies, beginning with the Royal Coachman — America’s first great fly pattern according to Paul Schullery who wrote an entire book on it!

The “Royal” flies have a bright red silk floss middle flanked by two bands of peacock herl. Sounds stunning, right? It is. The Royal Coachman has white wings, while the Royal Wulff uses white calf hair which, in my opinion, makes it float a bit better. The white calf hair tufts protrude from the brown hackle at the front of the fly. Anyway, the Royal Wulff has been a standard pattern for years, and so it sometimes gets forgotten. But it’s still a great option.

Another variation is a Royal Trude — tied on a longer hook with a long white tuft of calf hair extending from the front to back of the fly. A friend, John, uses it almost exclusively on the Yellowstone River in Montana and always catches fish whether spring, summer, or fall.

5. Renegade

My last two flies are more debatable choices. I’ve included the Renegade because it’s the first dry fly I ever used and because it still works. It is an unusual looking fly with white hackle at the front and brown hackle at the rear. Some fly fishers actually fish it as a wet fly (beneath the surface). My friend Arlen swears by this fly when fishing the Boulder River north of Yellowstone National Park. After setting it aside for several years in favor of the attractor patterns I mentioned previously, I’m going to start using it again.

6. Spruce Moth

I fished with this pattern last summer for the first time at the recommendation of a friend.

Technically, this fly is also an imitation. The spruce moth, or Western budworm, returned to the spruce and fir forests of the West in the early 2000s. Even when there are no spruce moths on the water, I like this pattern as an attractor because it is big (easy to see) and has plenty of hackle (not easily water-logged). My podcast partner, Dave, and I did well with this fly last year on the Yellowstone, the Boulder, and on some smaller streams in the Bozeman, Montana, area.

These are my favorites, although I could have easily swapped out numbers 5 and 6 for a Stimulator, a Goofus Bug, or a Madam X with its rubber legs.

But I like to recall an observation which Bud Lilly made several years ago when he owned the fly shop in West Yellowstone, Montana, which bears his name.

During a typical day, he chatted with fifty or more fly fishers who talked about how selective the trout had been on the river that day. When Lilly asked them what they were using, they would say: “The only thing that worked was this little beauty.” Lilly said that by the end of the day, he had seen about fifty different “only things.” So you’ll be fine if you keep your fly box stocked with a few basic attractor patterns.

Unless there’s a hatch of PMDs or BWOs or Tricos, a standard attractor pattern just might coax a big trout from its lair.

Bad Weather, Great Day

bad weather, great day

The rain is more of a West Coast drizzle than a hard shower.

At three o’clock in the afternoon the gray clouds hovering over Montana’s Gallatin Valley release the droplets of moisture they have been hoarding for the better part of the day. Before long, the rain droplets morph into wet snow flakes.

Five minutes later, the snow turns back into rain. The temperature hovers around 40 degrees. A September day like this is a terrible day for a fly fisher to venture outside. But I have learned that the worst weather for fly fishers is the best weather for catching trout.

On days like this, Blue Winged Olives emerge en masse on the East Gallatin River. When they do, the trout go into a feeding frenzy.

Stories of the River

I park my little red Toyota 4×4 at the edge of a rancher-friend’s pasture, a few feet from the river.

I can see my house, one mile away, perched on the first of several foothills which lie at the base of the Bridger Mountains. Captain William Clark and his Indian guide, Sacagawea, walked somewhere nearby as they made their way from the Three Forks of the Missouri to meet up with the Yellowstone River about thirty miles to the east.

More recently, local resident Jim Doig was killed when thrown from his saddlehorse not far from place where I am going to fish. His nephew, Ivan, tells the story in his memoir, This House of Sky. I peer into the Cottonwoods, Aspens, and the buckbrush which line the East Gallatin River. I am not expecting to see the ghosts of Clark or Sacagawea or Doig. But I half expect to see the large whitetail buck, which jumped across the Dry Creek Road in front of me a week ago about a mile from this spot.

The drizzle continues as I take my fly rod and walk through the tall grass to the river.

This stretch of the East Gallatin is no small challenge to fish. From an aerial view, the pattern of the river must resemble a piece of ribbon candy. This pattern slows the current to a crawl. Its surface is glassy, and a vague seam will appear for a moment and then disappear. The best places to fish are in the seams which separate an occasional stretch of riffles from the calm water. I find one of these stretches about fifty yards below a bend in the river. As I arrive at the river’s edge, the drizzle turns into snowflakes. BWOs flutter everywhere on the water. I prefer to keep things simple, so I tie on a size #18 parachute Adams.

Size #20 Dreams

Crouching at the edge of the river, I flip my fly at the head of a riffle, quickly mend my line, and get a reasonable drift.

Nothing.

Fish rise all around my parachute Adams. Five minutes later, I still have nothing to show for my efforts. It occurs to me that the insects with the smoky blue wings are tinier than my size #18 parachute.

So I switch to a size #20 — a fly that is ridiculously tiny, smaller than the head of a Q-tip. I drift the fly through the same riffle I had been fishing a few minutes ago. This time I get a strike. My rod doubles over and quivers as a healthy rainbow tries to shake free from the fly. This scene repeats itself again and again over the next twenty minutes. I end up landing eight healthy rainbows, all fifteen to eighteen inches long.

A quick glance at my watch tells me I need to head for home. I don’t want to leave.

The snow is softly falling. There are more trout to catch. There is a longing to stay in the moment. But if I don’t leave now, my cell phone will begin to ring. I know that my wife can see my red truck from our living room picture window a mile away. Dinner awaits. Then a work-related meeting. Reluctantly, I turn from the river and from the only run I have needed to fish, and I start walking back through the wet grass to my truck. It’s been a great day. But great days don’t last forever—not in this life. As I approach my truck, the snow turns into rain.