Basic Rocky Mountain Fly Patterns

Basic Rocky Mountain
Fly Patterns
The following slides is a compilation of Basic Flies used throughout
the Rocky Mountain Rivers, Ponds and Lakes created by some very talented fly fishermen, both
past and present. This is not all inclusive as that would include 100’s upon 100’s of flies to present.
It’s best to consult your local fly shop for what works best and at what time of the year. Hatch
Charts are available on-line that will give you a 90% solution to the pattern, size, color, variation,
and hatch dates of the fly you need to have for a particular river or lake. They can easily be
printed and taken with you and are put together by pretty knowledgeable anglers. Fly-fishing
websites offer updated fishing reports from Guides on what's hatching and in what pattern, size
and color to assist you in making your outing successful. Books, I have found, can offer in-depth
information about insects and the flies that are used to imitate them, written by the experts. I’ve
tried to include as many recommendations from all of these sources in this presentation. One last
thing, to understand the fly you should have a general knowledge about Entomology and the
particular insect you are imitating and it’s life-cycle. This is included in this presentation and well
worth understanding.
Remember, this is a guide and will not include everyone’s favorite pattern. Basic fly patterns can
be varied using different materials. Some flies can serve more than one purpose as we’ll discuss.
This is an interactive presentation, so please ask questions.
Mayfly Life Cycle
Egg matures to nymph.
Nymph lives on bottom growing in stages till it matures, called instars*.
Mature nymph (emerger) swims to surface (swimmers) . Note: Some Mayflies crawl out of the water to stones, brush, etc. on the
banks of the stream (crawlers).
On surface sheds husk to become a dun and floats till wings are dry enough to take flight. Scientifically referred to as Subimago
Dun flies to trees, and bushes along stream where it sheds it’s skin becoming an adult (spinner). Imago stage
Spinner leaves shore to begin mating ritual.
Female spinner dips her eggs on the water surface where they fall to the bottom.
Both male and female spinners fall to surface and die.
*As invertebrates grow they shed their exoskeleton numerous times and these periods of growth are called instars
Mayflies demonstrate an incomplete lifecycle, because they don’t undergo metamorphosis
Common Western Mayflies Species
There are over 700 species of Mayflies in the United States, dozens of which exist here in
the Rocky Mountains. Here are a few common species you’ll hear about or see on most
Western Hatch Charts.
Blue Winged Olive & Tiny BWO (Baetis)
Brown-Olive, Mahogany & Margarita Dun
Pale Morning Dun (PMD)
Tricos (Tricorythodes)
Western Green, Gray & Brown Drake
Callibaetis Americanus
Flavs (Small Western Green Drake)
Pink Lady (Epeorus)
Western Quill
Western March Brown
Green Drake
Basic Mayfly Patterns
BWO’s, Adams, PMD’s, Light Cahills, Trico’s, Blue Duns, Gray & Green Paradrakes, Gulper Special
Varieties: Comparadun, Parachute, Sparkle, Cripple, Spinner, Traditional
Colors: Dun, Dark/Light Olive, Green, Cream, Brown, Tan, Rust, Sulphur, Light Pink, Black
Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear, Barr’s Emerger, Copper John, Prince Nymph, RS2, WD40,
Rainbow Warrior,
Colors: Dun, Dark/Light Olive, Cream, Brown, Tan, Black, Peacock
Most dry flies can be tied in a variety of different materials and in most cases CDC can be used in-lie-of
hackle. Most pictures of nymphs are shown with bead heads, which is optional on some nymphs. Colors
come in a variety of combinations, e.g. olive-brown, olive-dun, yellow-brown, rusty-brown.
Caddis Life Cycle
Egg matures into a larva.
Larva lives on bottom growing in stages called instars (typically 5) until it matures: A. Free living caddis, B. Caddis larva with a
portable case, C. Free living caddis in it’s retreat near it’s catch net.
Larva then either seals it’s case, or retreat, or builds a case where it pupates (undergoes metamorphosis).
Mature pupa cuts itself free from case and swims or craws to the surface, where it sheds it’s pupa membrane and emerges as an
Adult caddis flies into trees, and bushes along stream where it stays for 2 or 3 days. Also know as Sedge.
Mating takes place either on ground or in vegetation along stream. Mating activity begins, adult caddis using bush or tree as a
landmark, or focal point to gather.
Female flies off to deposit eggs.
Methods of egg laying (ovipositioning): D. On bushes or trees where rain will wash eggs into stream, E. On the stream surface,
F. Above the stream surface, G. Swimming or crawling to the stream bottom.
Unlike Mayflies, Caddis fly off to live another day for a varying length of time.
Caddisflies demonstrate a complete lifecycle, because they undergo metamorphosis
Caddisfly Case Types
1. A free living Hydropsychidae larva.
2. A free living Rhyacophilidae.
3. A free living caddis retreat attached to a stone.
4. Stone tube case of Psilotreta.
5. Stone case of Mystacides attached to twigs.
6. Apatania carrying it's portable stone tube case.
7. Tube or log cabin type case of Brachycentrus appalachia.
8. Tube or log cabin type case of Lepidostoma.
9. Stone case of Neophylax.
10. Tortoiseshell or saddle case of Glossosmatidae
Common Western Caddisfly Species
There are over 1200 species of Caddisflies found in North America. Here are a
few common species you’ll hear about or see on most Western Hatch Charts.
Brachycentrus (Grannom - Mother’s Day Caddis)
Hydropsyche (Spotted Caddis)
Helicopsyche (Speckled Peters)
Glossosoma Montana (Little Black Short-Horned Sedge)
Oecetis (Longhorn Sedge)
Cheumatopsyche (Little Sister Sedge)
Lepidostoma (Little Plain Brown Sedge)
Arctopsyche Grandis (Great Gray Spotted Sedge)
Hesperophylax (Silver Stripped Sedge)
Rhyacophila (Green Sedge)
Microsema (Little Grannom)
Mystacides (Black Dancer)
Basic Caddis/Sedge Fly Patterns
DRIES: Elk Hair Caddis, X-Caddis, Iris Caddis, Hemmingway Caddis, Mottled Caddis, Goddard Caddis, Royal
Colors: Tan, Olive, Grey, Black, Brown
EMERGER/PUPA: Z-Wing Pupa, Beadhead (3 Dollar Dip) &Traditional Serendipity, Peeking Soft Hackle Caddis,
Partridge Soft Hackle Caddis, Beadhead Hares Ear Caddis Pupa, LaFontaine & Traditional
Sparkle Pupa
Colors: Bright Green, Lime, Olive, Tan, Cream, Brown, Chartreuse, Peacock, Yellow-Brown,
Black, Red
LARVA: Chamois/Buckskin Caddis, Net Builder, larva Lace Caddis, Brassie, Zug Bug, Caddis Larva
Colors: Bright Green, Lime, Olive, Tan, Cream, Brown, Chartreuse, Peacock, Yellow-Brown, Black
Stonefly Life Cycle
Egg matures into a larva.
Nymph lives on bottom growing in stages (instars*) until it matures, which could take up to 3 months to 3 years.
As the nymph nears maturity it migrates to the edge of the stream.
Nymph crawl out of the water, and up into the streamside vegetation, usually at night. In the vegetation the final instar is
completed as the stonefly sheds it’s husk becoming an adult. Adult stonefly life span varies from a day or 2 to a few weeks.
Adult stoneflies mate either within the vegetation or on the ground.
Females fly out over the stream to deposit eggs.
Females drop their egg sack into the into the water either by dropping it from above or dipping their abdomen into the water
surface while flying above it, crawling across it or crawling down the bank and depositing under the water.
Eggs drop to stream bottom.
Stoneflies demonstrate an incomplete lifecycle, because they don't undergo metamorphosis
Common Western Stonefly Species
There are over 500 species of Stoneflies found in North America. Here are a
few common species you’ll hear about or see on most Western Hatch Charts.
Salmonfly – Pteronarcys Californica
Golden Stonefly
Little Yellow Stonefly (Yellow Sally)
Golden Stone
Salmonflies Mating
Yellow Sally
Basic Stonefly Fly Patterns
Sofa Pillow, Stimulator, Yellow Sally, Madam X, Clarks Stonefly, Henry’s Fork Golden
Stone, Henry’s Fork Salmonfly, Orange/Yellow Chernobyl Ant, Yellow Elk Hair Caddis
Colors: Yellow, Orange, Gold, Amber
Bitch Creek, Montana Nymph, Kaufman’s Stone, Black Rubber Leg Stonefly,
Biot Epoxy Golden Stone, Copper John, Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, Prince
Nymph, Brooks Stonefly Nymph, Halfback, Birds Stone, Girdle Big
Colors: Black, Brown, Peacock, Gold, Yellow, Orange,
Other Trout Food
Mormon Cricket
Midge Larva
Terrestrial insects are not aquatic but tend to spend a lot of time in the meadows and banks surrounding
bodies of water. Due to wind, hanging on a tree a little to close to the water, or a clumsy jump, many of
them end up trout food. This is a list of most common Terrestrials.
Grasshoppers – Dave’s Hopper, Joe’s Hopper, Parachute Hopper, Whit’s Hopper, Madame X, Letort Hopper, Yellow
Stimulator, Yellow & Black/Tan Chernobyl Ant
Ants – Black Chernobyl Ant, Sailor Ant, Black Fur Ant, Black Foam Ant, Parachute Black Foam Ant, Hi Vis Black
Ant, Black CDC Flying Ant
Colors: Black, Brown, Cinnamon, Red
Beetles/ Crickets/Cicadas – Black Hi Vis Foam Beetle, Black/Tan/Brown Chernobyl Ant, Letort Black
Cricket, Dave’s Cricket, Black Foam Cricket, Mormon Cricket, Elvira Cicada, Cards Cicada, Hi
Vis Black PMX Cicada, Black Madame X, Black/Tan Fat Albert, Mutant Ninja Cicada, Black
Other Aquatic Trout Food
Other food sources are just as important to the trout diet and take many forms in the lakes and streams.
Aquatic Worms - San Juan Worm
Color: Red, Brown, Wine, Pink, Amber
Scuds (freshwater crustacean or shrimp) – Flashback and Shellback Scuds
Color: Olive, Amber, Gray, Orange, Tan, Pink, Rainbow, Pearl
Sow Bugs – Ray Charles and Shellback Sow Bugs, Sunset Sow Bug
Color: Gray, Brown, Tan, Olive
Leeches – Woolly Bugger, Egg Sucking Leech, Bunny Leech, J. J. Special, Mohair Leech
Color: Black, Brown, White, Olive, Yellow
Minnows and Sculpins - Woolly Bugger, Woolhead Sculpin, Marabou Muddler Minnow, Zonker, Clouser
Minnow, Bow River Muddler, Matuka Sculpin, Mickey Finn
Color: Black, Brown, Olive, White, Yellow, Natural, Purple
Other Aquatic Trout Food
Eggs – Glo-Bugs
Color: Pink, Orange, Salmon, Red, Yellow/Gold
Cranefly – Giant Cranefly larva, Western Cranefly Larva
Color: Olive, Off-white, Tan, Blue-Gray, Dingy Orange
Dragonfly and Damselfly - Seal Fur Damsel, Bachmann’s Damsel , Marabou Damsel, Whitlock Damsel,
Dragon Nymph, Woolly Burger, Carey’s Special Dragonfly, Barr’s Damsel
Color: Green, Olive, Olive-Brown, Gray-Brown, Purple-Brown, Tan, Peacock,
Midges – Brassie, Disco Midge, Pheasant Tail Nymph, RS-2, WD-40, Zebra Midge, Rainbow Warrior,
Serendipity, Black Beauty, Griffith’s Gnat, Zelon Midge, Renegade, CDC Midge
Color: Copper, Red, Cream, Brown, Tan, Gray, Black, Green, Olive, Peacock, Rainbow, Pearl
Other Aquatic Trout Food
Attractors – Humpy's, Renegade, Royal Coachman, Royal Trude, Royal Wulff,
Tarantula, Royal Madame X
Color: Red, Green, Yellow, Black, Peacock,
Other – Woolly Worm, Spruce Moth
A little help from my friends
• (source for in-depth Entomology) (source for Basic Flies) (source for insect Life-Cycles) (source for Western Fly imitations & Entomology)
Naturals: A Guide to Food Organisms of the Trout – Gary Borger
Western Fly-Fishing Strategies – Craig Mathews
Fly Fishing the Henry’s Fork – Mike Lawson and Gary LaFontaine
Fishing Yellowstone Waters – Charles E. Brooks
Western Hatches – Rick Hafele and Dave Hughes
Tying Flies with Jack Dennis and Friends – Jack Dennis