Effective Dry Fly Patterns for Summer

If you are headed to the Rocky Mountain west to fly fish this summer, make sure your fly box is full of effective dry fly patterns. There are some obvious choices: Parachute Adams (for Blue-Winged Olive hatches), Elk Hair Caddis patterns (for the ubiquitous caddis flies), Pale Morning Duns (PMDs), and, of course, grasshoppers.

Don’t leave home without an ample supply of hoppers!

The Purple Haze (a variation of the Parachute Adams, but with a purple thorax) is an effective dry fly pattern, too.

Other patterns, though, get easily overlooked. Yet they can be highly effective. We suggest you consider including the following seven in your fly box:

1. Stimulator

This is a terrific all-around pattern for stoneflies.

My brother, Dave, has had great success with this in the small streams in the high country in Colorado. I like it in sizes 14-18, although a size 12 can work well too. I always go with orange — whether an orange body or an orange head with an olive body.

This fly also works during the salmon fly hatches on the big western rivers in June.

2. Spruce Moth

A couple years ago, my friend, Brand, put me on to this pattern while fly fishing the Boulder River south of Big Timber, Montana.

Since then, I’ve used Spruce Moths successfully on other rivers throughout the west—wherever Spruce and Fir trees are found. These moths can be bad news for the trees, but they are good news for fly fishers. Trout jump (literally!) at the opportunity to feed on them because, like grasshoppers, they provide a lot of calories in one gulp.

I’ve used Spruce Moths throughout the summer, but they work especially well in August when there are hatches. I prefer them in sizes 12 or 14. They can even imitate small grasshoppers.

3. Renegade

This fly has been around for a long time, and it’s one of the first patterns I used in the late 1970s when I started fly fishing.

It’s a classic attractor pattern, meaning that it doesn’t imitate a particular insect. It has white hackles on the front, brown hackles at the back, and a peacock herl abdomen in the middle. The white and brown hackles make this fly visible to fly fishers.

Now it doesn’t take a lot for it to get waterlogged and sink just under the film. When this happens, don’t get frustrated. Keep fishing it, because trout love taking it when it has been submerged.

Standard sizes are 14-18.

4. Beetles and Ants

Perhaps these terrestrials do not get ignored as much as I think they do. But I’m surprised how many fly fishers will fish a hopper pattern without dropping a terrestrial behind it. When I fish a hopper plus a beetle or a hopper plus an ant, I seem to catch as many on the terrestrial as I do on the hopper!

I prefer smaller sizes like 16 or 18, although a size 14 is fine.

5. H and L Variant

Dave, my podcast partner, has already sung the praises of this flythis fly. I like it, too, because it’s a highly visible fly which holds its own in rough water.

In fact, I think of it as a vanilla Royal Wulff. It has the bushy hackle without as much color. Once again, the standard sizes (14-18) work well.

6. Royal Trude

This is a cousin of sorts to the Royal Wulff.

Rather than two hair wings which resemble a fly in its dun stage, the Royal Trude has a long white down-wing. This gives the trout a different look. In fact, the Royal Trude can work both as a salmon fly and a grasshopper imitation. I have a friend who fishes nothing but this fly on the Yellowstone River in Montana. He always catches his share of trout. Some even fish this as a wet fly or a streamer. But it’s highly effective as dry fly.

I like it in sizes 12-16.

7. Humpy

This is another rough water fly, and perhaps you wonder “why bother?” since other attractor patterns like a Royal Wulff or an H and L Variant work effectively.

But the Humpy is so bushy that it seems to stay “dry” longer these two. The lower abdomen of the fly is either red, yellow, green, or even purple (the “Humpy Haze,” anyone?). As for sizes, I am partial to a size 16, although a 14 is fine, too.

What are some other overlooked effective dry fly patterns that work well for you? Please leave a comment and let us know!

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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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