Photo credit: Haris Zlatarevic

9 Must-Have Trout Flies for Spring Fly Fishing

This selection of flies should have a home in your fly box. These are some of the best spring trout flies to catch hungry fish.

Late winter, early spring, and the beginning of runoff hold excellent fishing conditions across the U.S. You’ll need to know the flies to use and the locations to hit. Below, we’ve compiled nine of the best wet and dry flies for springtime trout fishing.

The Orvis flies shown are a great representation of these styles. They are on the pricey side but can be found cheaper from other brands and outlets, although not always of this quality.

Best Wet Trout Flies

These six wet flies make up a great staple selection to keep in your fly box for spring conditions. They are a good place to start, and you’ll be one step closer to a tight line.

WD-40

WD-40 fly for spring fishing

Most Western anglers find space in their spring fly collection for BWO imitations. The WD-40 is a wet fly that imitates BWO emergers and a variety of aquatic insects trout like to call food.

You should submerge the WD-40 nymph in the lower-to-mid water column for fishing success. Colors are various dark earth tones, and appropriate sizes are 18-22 in most areas.

The WD-40 is available on Orvis.com for $1.59 on sale. 

San Juan Worm

San Juan Worm Spring Fly Fishing

Simple and effective, the San Juan Worm is most tying anglers’ first fly to be tied. Fish heavily consume protein-rich worms when runoff starts. And fish hide on the river bottom during the runoff, a perfect place to present a worm.

Place the San Juan Worm on the bottom of your nymph rig for success, usually under an emerger or midge. Colors are red, pink, orange, and tan.

This one is available on Orvis.com for $1.59 on sale.

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Zebra Midge

Zebra Midge spring fly fishing

Fishers would be hard-pressed to find a time or river where a Zebra Midge wouldn’t catch a trout. Whether in spring conditions or late fall, you’ll find a fish that wants to eat a Zebra Midge.

This midge variation is a classic pattern with a wire wrap for attractant. Run this midge pattern as a nymph in the middle water column. Darker colors and small sizes from 16 to 22 usually work well.

The Zebra Midge is available on Orvis.com for $1.99 on sale.

Sow Bug

Sow Bug spring trout fishing fly

This tailwater insect is a prime source of food for trout year-round, but especially in mid-to-late spring. If your Sow Bug is in a river environment, fish will be lining up.

This is a great fly to nymph with a worm, with the Sow Bug in the middle water column. Tan, gray, and rainbow-gray hybrid colorations work well, and 14-18 are generally good sizes.

It’s available on Orvis.com for $1.99 on sale.

Bead Head Pheasant Tail Nymph

bead head pheasant spring fly fishing

A fly that can be fished nearly anywhere in the world, the Bead Head Pheasant Tail looks nothing like any bug in existence. But it has the characteristics of a large amount of fish food. Spring fishing is a great time to nymph this weighted bug.

Another middle water column specialist, the Pheasant Tail impersonates small-to-medium stonefly nymphs. Double this up on a nymph rig with a larger stonefly to give the fish dinner options in sizes 12-22.

The Bead Head Pheasant Tail is available on Orvis.com for $1.99 on sale.

Sculp Snack

sculpsnack trout flies

Sculpin streamers imitate the small benthic sculpin fish found in waterways across the U.S. The Sculp Snack pattern works well for runoff conditions when waters get muddy.

Toss this fly to hunt eddies and pools, giving time for it to hit the river bottom. Work between dead drifts and twitchy strips. Just remember to streamer set when that hungry trout latches down.

This one is on sale at Patriot Fly Fishing for $2.00.

Best Dry Trout Flies

Although most spring fishing happens under the surface with nymphs, don’t be caught off guard when the surface starts boiling! Add these three dry flies to your box and be prepared for myriad hatches.

Blue Winged Olive

Blue winged olive spring fly fishing

The Blue Winged Olive fly is the emerged version of a WD-40, meant to be fished as a dry fly. Spring hatches throughout the South and locations like the Green River in Utah are known for prolific BWO hatches.

Have both nymph and dry versions in your spring fly box to match conditions, which can change in just a few degrees of temperature variance.

As mentioned, this is a dry fly. Attach to thin tippet, dab with floatant, and lay that bug down softly. Look for sizes 14-22. Make sure to match the hatch sizing. I often step down one size from the present bugs.

The Blue Winged Olive is available on Orvis.com for $1.99 on sale.

Elk Wing Caddis

elk wing caddis spring fly fishing

Anglers can find this dry fly at nearly any fly shop across the U.S. This fly is highly popular due to the plentiful populations of caddis pupa on nationwide riverbeds. It’s a personal favorite of mine for a dry-dropper rig.

Elk hair generally performs well as a surface dry, and a dash of floatant helps the fly stay on the surface. A small midge placed underneath on lighter tippet is a great plan of attack in numerous areas. The Elk Wing Caddis works great in earth tones like tan, gray, and olive.

It’s available on Orvis.com for $1.99 on sale.

Adams Parachute Dry Fly

Best spring trout fly adams parachute

Last, and certainly not least, is the Adams Parachute. This fly should be in every angler’s fly box. This dry fly is a tried-and-true classic that remains relevant in rivers around the globe. It looks highly similar to many aquatic bugs but looks exactly like none.

This general appearance tricks quite a few hungry trout. Fish a larger Adams Parachute first and a nymph second. You can also double dry fish; lead with the larger fly again. Sizes run 12-16.

The Adams Parachute is available on Orvis.com for $1.99 on sale.

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