Most fly fishers will admit that brook trout fishing is hard to beat. The beautiful habitat, the aggressive takes, and the almost unreal fish coloration are all top-notch!
Fishing for brook trout, whether pursuing tiny, trickling streams way up in the mountains, larger rivers, or cold/clean ponds, having the right flies in your fly vest or fly box will help improve your success rate dramatically.
In the upcoming paragraphs, we’ll discuss brook trout, the best brook trout flies, and some strategies for getting more brook trout takes.
Table of Contents
- Brook Trout
- What Fly Patterns are Considered Brook Trout Fly Patterns?
- The 13 Best Brook Trout Flies for 2023
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The brook trout (aka brookie) is in the Salmonidae (salmon) family but it’s not actually a trout…it’s a char!
What’s the Difference Between a Trout and a Char?
While similar, a trout has a lighter colored body and dark spots (rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout) while a char has a darker body and light spots (brook trout, bull trout, arctic char, dolly varden).
Brook trout are native to eastern North America, from northern Georgia into eastern Canada. They have been stocked heavily, however, all over the continent. Brook trout tend to thrive in cold, clear, clean waters and have taken very well to mountain rivers, streams, and lakes in the higher western US elevations.
The intense coloration of a brook trout is one of the main draws for anglers. The deep green color with highly contrasting white bellies, yellow “worm tracks” on the backs from nose to tail, bright white striped edges on the pectoral and pelvic fins, and bright red dots with surrounding blue halos make them a prize species.
Brookies are known to be on the smaller side of the trout and char family. In small eastern streams or small western alpine creeks, the average brook trout may be only 5-8 inches with an occasional 12-inch fish.
In larger bodies of water, a 14-16 inch brook trout may be considered a great catch! A few specific western lakes hold brook trout that reach 20 inches and around 6 pounds. These are generally somewhat larger, fertile, spring-fed lakes.
Labrador, Canada however, is known for trophy brook trout that exceed the 20 inch/6lb mark. Here, landing brookies weighing in at 8-10 pounds is a definite possibility!
But that’s not all…
Brook trout are not only unbelievably beautiful and tend to dwell in beautiful places… IN ADDITION, aggressive char nature makes for great fly fishing and a feisty battle! There’s just something intrinsically aggressive and fierce in a char!
What Fly Patterns are Considered Brook Trout Fly Patterns?
In short, there are a few good patterns any brook trout fisher-person will want to keep on hand.
Standard and new patterns will but, either way you go, I would suggest leaning toward a brighter color version. There’s just something about colors like pink and purple (and even blue and orange) that trigger that brook trout/char aggression.
If you’re not going for color, look for flies that have an element of flash for attraction. Both color and flash work well together too.
Most brookies are 12 inches or less in length so small flies are generally needed. 12-18 should cover you well. However, with streamers, stone flies, and terrestrials (chubby Chernobyls, crystal stimulators), you might be surprised at how a small brookie will snatch up a bigger size 10, 8, or even 6 dry fly!
The 13 Best Brook Trout Flies for 2023
A Note on Brook Trout Fishing with Dry Flies
Brook trout and other char are aggressive in nature. Adding some twitch or flutter to your dry fly’s drift can draw fish out of cover or from afar.
Even a skating technique (dragging the fly across the water’s surface to produce a small wake like a swimming or fluttering bug) is a good bet when it comes to brook trout.
Purple Haze Dry Fly
A now classic workhorse dry fly, the Purple Haze, is almost always a good choice for brook trout. The shape accurately represents many hatches. The purple color represents a variety of real-world dark-colored flies well and adds a touch of “attractor” essence.
- Parachute wing floats well in calm water or moving riffle and lands softly without spooking weary fish.
- They’re generally an inexpensive pattern.
- Dubbing bodies do hold air pockets well for a while but will saturate eventually and won’t float even after applying floatant and dry shake. You may need to change flies often.
A must-have for your fly box… brook trout or any trout. Have a couple so you can change out when one stops floating.
Chubby Chernobyl Dry Fly
The Chubby Chernobyl might be the most widely used dry fly in the trout game today.
It now comes in a variety of sizes from huge salmon-fly size to baby or micro chubbies and more color combos than you can count. You can imitate big stones, hoppers, or even caddis. Plus, it floats any dropper you can think of… including small streamers!
- Rides high and dry.
- Simulates a multitude of insects.
- Floats pretty much any dropper.
- Lots of size and color options.
- Can be overused and fish can shy away…for a while.
There’s no reason under the sun to NOT have these in your trout box anyway. Have a variety of sizes on hand. Black/ blue is my number 1 brookie color. Black/purple also does great. Don’t be shy about adding twitch/motion.
Crystal Stimulator Dry Fly
For an attractor fly, the Crystal Stimi has a real “buggy” look.
Like the Chubby, this one can be used during a stone hatch (larger sizes), caddis hatch (smaller sizes), for terrestrials (various sizes), or as an attractor when no bugs seem to be on the water.
For small mountain streams, think of this one as your go-to!
- Buggy looking, floats well for a natural-materials fly.
- Legs add to profile and motion.
- You can’t suspend much of a dropper below this one.
- A small dry fly tandem will work great but, if you’re wanting to go dry-dropper, you’ll have to go small and light.
Again, your basic trout box should probably have stimulators anyway. Make sure you have the Crystal Stimi for a bit of extra punch… I love bright colors for brookies like orange, red or yellow.
Elk Hair Caddis Dry Fly
There probably isn’t a more recognized dry fly in the world. The elk hair caddis is a standard for all trout bums.
I like the “apple” caddis or olive caddis versions for brookes especially. Grab purple elk hair caddis if you can find some too!
- For a natural fiber fly, it floats really well.
- The elk hair is easy to see even in surface glare.
- There isn’t a fish alive who doesn’t love caddis.
- Can be skittered or twitched to induce takes.
- Won’t float forever.
- Light elk hair can get lost in the foam. You can use an “indicator” version with some bright colors on top of the elk hair wing but fickle trout may not like it.
Again, there shouldn’t be any trout fly box without a variety of elk hair caddis.
The apple or green colors seem to get the brookies riled up. These are great on small streams or bigger rivers and lakes.
Don’t be afraid to twitch or skitter your caddis, especially in the low light (early morning or late evening).
Foam Ant Dry Fly
Ants are often overlooked terrestrial dry-fly options.
Especially in late, hot summer conditions when not much is flying around, ants become an important part of a trout’s diet.
This foam version will float well for long periods and has a very enticing color!
- Foam floats well and the red color is easy to see.
- Will get eaten when no hatches are happening.
- Although it will float for a long time, when saturated, you’ll have to let the foam dry completely before using it again.
- Smaller size makes it harder to see.
- Fish won’t always key on ants and beetles.
Keep some foam ants on hand in the summer-to-early-fall period. Hot, sunny weather can keep other hatches at bay meaning brookies (and other trout) will key on terrestrials. Perfect for small creeks, big rivers at low flow, or anytime fished tight to banks/under brush.
Pat’s Rubber Legs Nymph
The Pat’s Rubber Legs has become the workhorse of the nymph game.
With a great range of sizes and colors available, you’ll generally be able to fish a Pat’s anytime during the year.
From small, early spring nemouras to giant salmonflies and golden stones, to late summer nocturnals and back to the cold-weather small stones again in the winter.
- Too many size and color options to count.
- Covers every kind of stonefly you can think of.
- Fish just seem to eat this fly on any freestone and sometimes on stonefly-rich tailwaters too.
- Fishing this on a double nymph rig as your big fly gives it good weight to get down to depths.
- Even if it’s not your most productive bug, a Pat’s fished consistently through the day often produces your largest fish.
- Can get over-fished in some waters (but after a lull, it will work again).
- Larger, heavier size gets snagged easily.
- Can’t fish it “dry dropper” without a big foam dry like a Chubby Chernobyl.
As lame as some think this fly looks, it still produces time and time again. You’ll have to fish the size according to the season (which stone is hatching now or about to start hatching?).
The legs move really great in the current so fish this under a big dry, under a nymph and bobber rig, or even drag it across the bottom behind a heavier streamer.
Go for purple or other “loud” colors to get that brookie to want to eat!
Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ear
The Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ear has become, well, a pro-guide favorite.
How did they improve upon a fantastic original like the Hare’s Ear? Add some soft-hackle for movement and you’ve got a real winner!
Fished in various sizes and colors, this beauty will have you covered for a variety of hatches… caddis, mayflies, stones… you name it! It’s just really buggy looking.
- Classic, proven design but improved movement.
- Heavy enough to get to deep pockets.
- Great color options to cover lots of different hatches.
- Larger, heavier versions can get snagged easily.
- Bad versions use cheap soft hackle that doesn’t move well in the current.
- Sometimes it’s too thick of a body – brookies and other trout often want something slimmer when keying on things like pale morning duns or blue winged olives.
Upgrade your old school Hare’s Ears to the Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ear. The second apostrophe will be worth it!
Great movement for a variety of hatches. For brookies, I like vibrant colors most days.
Sometimes the orange collar behind the bead (on a standard color like tan or gray) is enough of an enticement.
BWO Soft Hackle
Like all trout and char, brookies will key on specific bugs at specific times.
When a mayfly hatch is on… say PMD, BWO or mahogany, this “BWO” Soft Hackle will get it done.
Again, purple is just real enough to simulate a dark nymph/emerger like a usually-dark-green BWO or a dark brown PMD, and just vibrant enough to get the aggressive char to pay attention.
- Thin body for days when it’s appropriate… fat flies don’t always work.
- Soft hackle gives really great emerger style movement.
- Just enough color/flash to get noticed without being over-the-top flashy.
- Really lightweight… needs a split shot or to be fished behind a bigger/heavier nymph to achieve any depth.
- In big water or high water times, trout may ignore small flies in lieu of bigger meals (stoneflies, worms, other smaller fish).
This is the perfect “small” nymph for your brook trout box. It’s realistic enough to match many hatches but flashy and colorful enough to trigger that brookie aggression.
Rainbow Warrior Nymph
The Rainbow Warrior is a trout-fishing go-to, and I really like this jigged version.
The flash and color of this fly is glitzy enough to put it in the attractor category. But, let’s not forget, that emerging insects give off gasses that really do flash in the UV light underwater.
Trout, including and especially brook trout, will key on this flash. That’s what makes the Rainbow Warrior so deadly… the combo of “attractor” and realism.
- Jig hook gives great motion, especially when tied with an open-loop knot.
- The flashy look is both attractive and realistic to brookies.
- Barbless jig hooks keep us from mangling fish faces.
- Can be too flashy if trout are being picky.
- Barbless design means you’ll have to keep up good tension or the hook will fall out.
- Jig flies are often too heavy to fish under small or natural fiber dries.
- Often, foam dries are necessary.
Jig style flies are a great dry-dropper option. Even though barbless, the circle hooks help keep fish buttoned-up.
Fish this as an attractor when not much is happening or during a heavy hatch, especially caddis hatches.
The flash is a great emerging/off-gassing representation. Tie this on with an open loop knot and twitch away on your dry fly!
Psycho Prince Nymph
Here again, we’ve got an updated classic.
The prince nymph is a fantastic all-around pattern and is probably responsible for more trout catches than a lot of other nymphs.
The “psycho” part of the name brings flashier colors and materials. This is good news if you’re targeting aggressive species like brook trout and other char.
- Great “stone fly-ish” shape with fun, updated colors.
- Very attractive to trout, char, and whitefish.
- Some days, you can’t keep the trout, especially brookies, off the line.
- Can be too flashy on certain days when subtlety is key.
- Sometimes it’s a whitefish magnet… great for bending a rod but not necessarily when you’re targeting brookies.
Keep this on hand all year long. You’ll have luck with different colors at different times.
The green can work great for BWO nymphs and even caddis larvae or caddis condos. The yellow/orange is a great yellow sally nymph. The blue, purple, and pink versions are killer attractor colors that drive brook trout crazy.
Bead Head Wooly Bugger
The classic wooly bugger is one of the most versatile streamers out there. It’s old school but comes in lots of new-fangled colors and setups.
From big rivers to small mountain creeks, brook trout will generally annihilate these streamers.
Many times, a simple black wooly bugger can’t be beaten. Other times, more enticing colors and added rubber-leg movement are needed to get some chases and takes.
- One of the best all-around streamers.
- Comes in a lot of color variations.
- Can be fished in a multitude of ways.
- As streamers go, it can run a bit light.
- You may need to add weight to get down in deep spots.
- Maribou and rubber legs add great movement but other streamers have better movement than the bugger.
There are a lot of variations but black or bright colors are often best for brook trout. In small creeks and streams, fish them up close to structure, overhanging trees or in deep buckets. This works in larger rivers too, but you have more options here.
Sometimes you’ll want to them. Sometimes you’ll want to fish them under a bobber (or a small bugger under a big foam dry too!). Sometimes you’ll want to swing them in the current.
Try no weight, adding some split shot, or using a sink tip or sink line to vary your fishing depth.
Conehead Zuddler Streamer
The Zuddler has a great combination of two classic streamers: the Zonker and the Muddler Minnow.
Combining the best of both patterns, the Zuddler has a cone head for weight and a little flash, a great tapered hair body that makes noise (pushes water), a bunny tail with lots of natural wiggle, and some attraction with some silver flash along the sides and red “gills” on the bottom.
- Better movement than the wooly bugger.
- It looks good coming through the water and makes “noise” to the fish by pushing water with its tapered hair body.
- It’s heavier than the wooly bugger so it can get snagged up easier.
- It’s also generally going to cost a bit more than a bugger too.
For brook trout, I would recommend a small to medium sized Zuddler. Just like the wooly bugger, fish this by casting toward structure like overhanging trees, banks, or boulders.
Strip it and vary your retrieve. Swinging this fly is effective too. You can also fish the Zuddler under an indicator but with its heavier weight it’s hard to fish under a dry fly.
Black is your go-to in the beginning but a vibrant color like pink or purple may get that brook trout to show its char aggression.
San Juan Worm
The San Juan Worm is a well-known pattern that produces time and time again. When other flies won’t bring in the fish, this one can be a day-saver.
Again, the pink or purple San Juan seem to be brookie-getters. The movement of the chenille, the bright color, and the bead flash are a deadly combo.
- Great cold-weather go-to fly.
- When nothing seems to be working, try this one on.
- Can be used in warm weather too, especially in high water.
- Great movement underwater.
- All fish love worms.
- Some “purists” will make fun of you for using something that’s not actually a fly.
Even though purists may thumb their noses, fish eat worms. Real worms. Earthworms and aquatic annelids are an actual part of fish diets and brook trout are no different.
There are times when, if you actually want to catch something, you’ll need to use a San Juan worm.
Brook trout are beautiful trophies and live in beautiful places. No matter if you’re nymphing under an indicator, dry fly fishing, dry-dropper fishing, or streamer fishing, having the above flies in your fly box will help you have a more productive day on the water.
You’ll know you have the best brook trout flies ready to go.
Don’t forget to comment below! Share your brook trout experiences and techniques!