The following flies – twelve of the best -are well-established, some for over a hundred years. They will certainly meet almost every dry fly river situation you may encounter, forming a nucleus of both imitative and suggestive patterns which no serious fly fishermen should be without. 1. Adams This is a fly which has many devoted enthusiasts – especially those who fish on southern chalk streams.
Ray Bergman created the Adams in the late 1920s or early 1930s, the exact date being difficult to pinpoint. With its blue-grey body and light brown hackle, it can pass as an iron-blue -though it wasn’t created to be an exact representation of a particular species. Some anglers claim the grizzle-point wings are one key to its long-lived success. 2. Pheasant Tail First invented by Payne Collier in the early 1900s, this is another general, nondescript fly that has accounted for many trout. Its body is made of pheasant tail fibres, ribbed with copper wire, with a honey dun or natural red cock feather for the hackle. 3. Iron Blue Dun Named after the natu ral, it is an imitative pattern which is useful from May to October. The natural iron blue nymph emerges during the daytime and is commonly found in most unpolluted, weedy, alkaline rivers. The Iron Blue’s red tag gives it an extra flair that attracts a fair share of trout every season. 4. Red Tag An excellent fly which doesn’t look like any natural, the Red Tag has taken thousands of grayling since its creation in 1850. To limit it strictly to grayling, however, would be a mistake: it catches many trout, too. 5. Grey Wulff This pattern is known world-wide and can easily pass for spinners of upwinged species. Lee Wulff devised a whole series of patterns with thick, beefy bodies and wings and tails made from hair rather than feather fibres. He claimed the chunky flies offered trout more of a mouthful, compared with the quill-bodied flies which were being used. 6. Walker’s Red Sedge Created by Richard Walker, this represents not only red sedges but also many other species. The naturals are on the water from May to the end of July. Because sedges hatch during the day, use the Red Sedge as a searching pattern if nothing is rising. The artificial’s orange tag represents an egg sac on a mature female. When females lay their eggs on the top of the water, some remain motionless, while others skitter about the surface. Fish this fly according to the circumstances. Cast it upstream, and allow it to drift back drag free. If that fails, cast upstream again and when the fly is across from you, lift up the rod, skating the fly across the surface. 7. Terry’s Terror Though it seems that it wasn’t created to imitate a particular natural, this fly can pass for many upwinged and sedge species. The original called for a hackle of a natural red cock; this pattern varies slightly in that the hackle is a dark red cock. 8. Wickham’s Fancy is over a hundred years old. Veteran fly fishermen swear by it. Even its wingless derivative has many followers. As the name implies, the fly is impressive with its gold tinsel body, starling wings and palmered ginger cock hackle -though it’s not overly ornate. In smaller sizes it works well as a general searching pattern; the gold flash helps to tempt fish up from below. 9. Coachman Another general utility fly that has caught hordes of trout and grayling is the Coachman. Though the fly won’t pass for most naturals, many river-fishing experts agree that the white wings and the bulbous peacock herl body provide the stimulating combination which few trout can allow to drift past untouched. 10. Black Midge On occasions you need the smallest of flies to convince stream-wise trout. Enter the Black Midge. When the naturals are hatching, or when the adult female flies return to the water to lay their eggs, this pattern – fished in the surface film — is the standard choice. The naturals often hatch throughout the trout season. With small flies such as this, use a very light, pliable tippet. 11. Beacon Beige One of the all time classics, this fly is highly regarded for freestone rivers — though on chalk streams it is even more acclaimed.
The Beige was created during World War I in the West Country as an imitation of upwinged flies. It was later renamed Beacon Beige. 12. Grey Duster In various sizes this
Welsh fly imitates midges, olives and even mayflies. It’s also one of the easiest flies to tie. Blue-grey rabbit fur for the body and a badger cock for the hackle are a simple yet deadly combination.