Ever stood in a stream in the middle of August? What do you notice? The top of the water is absolutely teeming with fly life.
It’s the ideal time to cast out a fly and try and match the hatch.
But what are the best trout flies for summer?
In this article, I’ll give you some great suggestions that really work.
I’ll even cover some of the basics when it comes to choosing your flies. Rods at the ready? Let’s go!
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I want something that floats easily, is highly visible, and looks realistic. The chubby duo hopper ticks all of my boxes.
This fly has a foam body, so it will stay on top of the water. It’s great for fast-flowing streams where a traditional fly might get quickly saturated.
When it comes to catching fish, the orange and black legs wiggle enticingly. This twinned with the poly wing makes it appear quite realistic to the trout, who seem to go nuts whenever this is on the water.
This fly can be used as a bit indicator while you suspend other sub surface flies beneath due to its buoyancy.
How to fish a Hopper: Fish this static on the top in slow moving water, or as the top fly on a team of flies.
“Cul de Canard”… Or in simple terms, a duck’s butt! CDC feathers are literal duck down, and as a result, they are highly buoyant.
That’s kind of handy in a trout fly. The fact that it makes for a super realistic-looking wing is only a good thing!
This fly is designed to look like a hatching midge and will sit suspended in the surface film until a trout happens to pass by and sip it off the top!
The pearlescent body seems to work as a good attractor and can create that little bit of extra interest when fished correctly. These are some of the best trout flies for late summer when the insects are running out of steam and dying on the surface of the water.
CDC flies always do well in my box. They are easy to dry with a few casts and work really well when paired with a few drops of a fly floater.
How to fish the CDC flies: Fish in back eddies and slow currents where there are collections of debris on the water.
When fly fishing in the summer, you are going to get a few bright days. When it’s bright, I find that strong colors and bushy flies can produce the goods!
Here’s an all-time classic.
The White Wulff is one of the oldest fly patterns around, and you’ll find a variation of this in most fly boxes worldwide. This fly rides high in the water and is designed to mimic a drowning mayfly that you’d typically find in the warmer months of June, July, and August. It’s definitely one of the best flies for early summer trout.
I like to fish this fly on large still waters, giving it the occasional pull to make a few ripples. It also makes an excellent choice for fast-moving water that would sink smaller flies.
How to fish the White Wulff: Fish this any way you choose. Pull it fast in still water or cast it into fast moving currents.
Sub Surface Flies – My Best Trout Catchers
Sometimes the trout just won’t play the game and are wary of anything on the surface.
Well, if the fish won’t come to you, then you’ll have to go to them.
Here are some really effective subsurface patterns.
Ask most fly fisherman what they caught their first trout with, and 90% will say a hares ear nymph. This fly is designed to represent various insect larvae, which form the bulk of a trout’s diet.
The great thing about this fly is that you can fish it in various ways to suit the conditions. The gold bead head ensures that it sinks quickly. This can be really useful if you are on a stream targeting deep pools in moving water.
The fly’s weighting causes a jerky up and down motion as you retrieve it on a floating line, which is exactly as the fly would behave in real life.
As imitative trout patterns go, this might be my all-time favorite fly for fishing in the summer.
How to fish the Hares Ear Nymph: I like to cast this out and let the drift of the current pull it around. It is best fished using a slow retrieve.
The pheasant tail nymph is another global classic. This version has had a paint job to make it even more effective. The addition of the ‘flashback’ really catches the trout’s attention, and the gold head means you can easily get it down to the level of feeding fish.
I like to fish this one relatively slowly and give it the occasional jerk to impart a bit of life into the fly. It is effective when fished slowly along weeds beds and rocks, imitating the nymph’s natural habitat.
How to fish the PTN: Slow and steady wins the race. Or use it to target individual fish lurking in deeper pools.
If you are fishing in murky water or it’s just tough going, you want to offer the trout an opportunity that is too good to miss.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present… “The Worm”
There are few fish on this planet that will pass up an opportunity to guzzle down a juicy worm. This is so effective that some anglers consider it cheating! The fly is designed to imitate a large bloodworm, which are the larvae of midges.
The rubberized body will thrash and twist in the water with the slightest of currents. It is this movement, along with the vivid color, that really gets the trout going. This fly has a tungsten bead head to allow the worm to sink really easily. It is also great for casting long distances.
How to fish the Worm: Fish this static with the occasional pull to make it wiggle.
They are super aggressive and will think nothing of obliterating tiny minnows.
Here’s a prime example.
The Schmidt’s mini Viking looks super realistic and has just the right combination of color and action to invoke a strike. The ‘tail’ is actually a separately articulated hook that swims in the current and the retrieve. When twitched at speed, this invokes super aggressive takes by the fish.
I really like the weighted eyes, for the lure fisherman among you, you’ll already know how deadly these can be.
This fly is often my ‘when all else fails option’ when catching summer trout.
How to fish streamers: A quick jerky retrieve is best. Get the tail really swimming and moving for maximum effect.
Top Summer Flies – Collections
If you are looking for a selection of wet and dry flies, you might figure that buying individually gets a bit expensive.
Well, for the money, you might find a preassembled collection that fits the bill.
When it comes to the best flies for trout, you may want to go as realistic as possible. These are that realistic that even I can’t tell the difference.
This collection of mosquitos and house flies comes in various sizes and colors and should do well when fished on the surface and slowly ‘twitched’ to make them look like an insect trapped in the surface film.
Here’s what else I like…
The body of each fly is constructed out of foam. This means they are unlikely to sink, making them perfect for fast-moving water. The foam body is pretty dense, so they should be really durable too!
Sometimes the classics are the best. When fishing in the summer months of July and August, you get many small black midges on most water bodies. Your best bet is to imitate them.
Here’s why these work…
Griffiths gnats are designed to look like a small clump of flies all trapped together. Think of them as a natural ‘big-mac’ for a hungry trout. Because this flies’ body is made out of lots of fibers, you’ll find that they stay up on top of the water easily.
And there’s more…
The same can be said of the 6 included parachute Adams flies you’ll also get. These flies float on the surface, but the body is beneath the water… Just like real flies. The Adams has been around since fly fishing began and could be considered one of the ‘originals’ for trout fishing.
When the water is warm, and the oxygen level is low, it sometimes takes a bit of movement to get a lazy trout up and about.
Here’s how to do it.
Elk hair is very buoyant and also moves well in the water. When you twitch these flies on a floating line, the ‘legs’ wriggle and swim, which trout find hard to resist.
The best thing about this assortment is that you can pick your size and color, so if you’ve got a bit of ‘local knowledge’ or want to really match what the trout would see on the water in summer, then you’ve got a go-to option ready in your fly box.
I can spend a full day choosing flies and then stowing them in my fly box.
But do you know what’s better?
Having a selection and a box ready to go. This assortment features 6 proven fish-catching patterns, and you’ll get a neat and compact box to go with it too! The flies come in a variety of sizes 12 and 14, which is around mid-range. Perfect for covering you in many situations.
The flies are a mixture of light and dark, so you’ll have a fly for the job regardless of whether it is cloudy or clear.
I really like the box’s size. It’s durable, fits easily into the pocket of my vest, and most importantly, it floats too!
A Quick Guide to Summer Trout Flies
So, you are here because you are updating your fly box and want to know what flies to use for trout in summer? Or perhaps you are new to the sport?
When choosing the best flies for trout in summer, here are a few things to consider:
What do Rainbow Trout Eat in Summer?
When the water is warmer, there is more activity both above and below the surface. You’ll find that trout tend to feed more on the surface from June and July onwards.
Check this video out to see them going mad for mayfly!
Basically, Trout will supplement their usual diet of nymphs and subsurface larvae with whatever happens to be hatching on the day, whether that is mayfly, midges, winged ants, or nymphs
How do You Choose a Fly for Trout?
The key to choosing the right fly for summer trout fishing is to ‘match the hatch’ as accurately.
What do I mean?
Well, even the most natural-looking artificial flies won’t be as authentic as the real thing. However, by catching trout off guard by presenting something that they are already eating, you increase your chances.
Do some reconnaissance and then choose which flies most closely match what you have seen.
How do you do this?
Pay close attention to the water where you normally fish and see if you can see what is floating around. There are probably a lot of clues if you know where to look.
Here, watch this video to see some great examples of what you’ll normally find in the river… Compare these creatures to some of my flies above. You’ll see they look pretty similar:
What Size Fly is Best for Trout?
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to summer fly fishing. Aside from the season, it depends greatly on where you fish, and how you intend to fish.
However, let me offer a little guidance when choosing the best-sized fly for fly fishing in the summer.
As a very general rule. The more active the fish, the larger the fly you can choose. Conversely, the best flies for early summer tend to be smaller, as the water is cooler. When it gets really cold, the trout change their behavior slightly. See my guide for the best winter trout flies.
If you are a new fly fisherman, I’d recommend choosing hook sizes between 14-18. This will offer you the opportunity to actually see your fly on the water, but won’t be so big as to put trout off.
What Color Fly Should I Use when Fly Fishing in Summer?
Again there are no hard and fast rules…
But here’s what works.
There is a general rule you can follow when fly fishing. A dark day? Use a dark fly. A bright day? Use a bright fly.
If you are fly fishing in summer, you’ll (hopefully) have more bright days, so look for lighter colors. Bright whites and yellows work particularly well.
Regarding choosing other colors than simply ‘light or dark,’ my advice to you would be to choose a pattern and select that same pattern in several colors, then you can work your way through your box until you find the color that works.
Often you’ll find that flies have a couple of colors anyway, so if you are struggling, get the best of both worlds by choosing one that kills two birds with one stone.
Should I Choose Dry or Wet Flies for Trout Fishing?
I’d go for a selection of both. I much prefer dry fly fishing. It’s fast, exciting, and really great fun, but if the fish aren’t biting ‘up top’ and all you have are dry flies, then you are out of luck.
When I go into my vest pocket, I find that I have about 70% dry flies and 30% wet, but that’s just my preference. If you want to see how many flies you can fit in a vest, check out my dedicated article about the best fly fishing vests here, I can take 6 boxes in one of them!
Cover yourself for all eventualities, and you’ll be in a really good position to catch trout this summer. The best way to achieve this is with a mix of dry and wet flies.
I could sit here forever listing the different types of fly, and of course, each angler has their own idea about the best trout flies for summer.
I’ve shown you what I’ve found to work best for me.
Trout haven’t read the rule book, so there is a little trial and error involved. Experiment with my suggestions and some of your own to see what works for you.
What’s your best trout fly? Let me know in the comments below.