Trout Flies Stillwater Anglerss

Everything You Need To Know About Trout Flies

Do you know the difference between different trout flies? When it comes to fly fishing, there are probably as many different kinds of flies as there are fish in the world. This article will focus on two different types of trout flies that anglers use the most – wet and dry flies.

It can be hard to know which fly to use – especially if you’ve only been out a few times or are new to the Montana area. Learning about the properties of different flies can give you exactly the edge you need to help you be successful. We know from experience that sometimes a bad fishing day comes down to bringing the wrong flies with us! Let’s discuss some of the flies you should use and when!

We all know different flies attract different fish, and using the right fly during any season can drastically increase your success on the river.

Trout Flies – Do You Know The Difference?

Before we get too deep into the difference between trout flies, let’s first talk about the importance of fly fishing flies in general . They are designed specifically to imitate the insects, baitfish, and invertebrates that are in season. Simply put, you want to catch fish!

Flies are traditionally made with natural materials like feathers, thread, and animal fur. Usually you’ll also see a range of synthetic and natural materials for both wet and dry flies.

Let’s discuss the differences between them, and when you might use each one!

Dry Flies

Especially if you’re just getting started with fly fishing, dry flies can be exciting to work with! Dry flies are flies that float on the surface of the water, which means that trout have to come to the surface to eat them. This type of fly fishing gives you a first-hand look at the fish feeding. It also means that your presentation has to be pretty precise.

Typically dry flies are made to imitate adult or just emerging insects like stoneflies, midges, mayflies, and caddis. We like dry flies because it presents a little more of a challenge, making it a little more suited for experienced anglers. These flies have to land accurately on the surface of the water, and drift drag free. That’s how you imitate what a real insect would do on the river. The fish that want to eat these types of insects are usually holding close to the surface, which means that they can easily be scared off by a bad cast!

Though using dry flies does present a little bit more of a challenge, and a more in depth knowledge of the insects in the areas and the hatch seasons, they are also really fun! You know right away when a fish hits the fly, and it’s that visual thrill that make fly fishing so exciting! Plus, since the fish are usually visible, you can tell right away if they aren’t attracted to your fly.

Wet Flies

Wet flies are great for introductory use. They are a little more forgiving so that’s typically where beginners start. Also, the majority of a fish’s food and feeding is sub surface. Wet trout flies are typically a little heavier than dry flies since they are made to be fished below the surface. They are made to imitate nymph-stage aquatic insects, fish eggs, and worms.

You’ll also hear the terms “nymphing” in reference to fishing wet flies.  One of the challenges that comes with wet flies is that it can sometimes be hard to tell if a fish has taken the fly, or if you’re snagged on the bottom.

When you book a guided trip with one of our seasoned guides, you’ll see them using nymphs. Nymphs are made of neutral colored materials, usually with the wings tied back so they lie back. Nymph flies are also considered to be some of the most productive flies you can use because trout feed about 80% of the time underwater. They are also fun to experiment with because just like most insects, they transform during different stages of their life cycle. Which means that your flies should change too. The nymph stage is usually when insects live along the stream beds or deep in the water. They are in abundance this stage, so the trout you’re trying to fish will be eager and hungry for them!


Though there are a lot of different fly types, we hope you feel a little more informed of the differences between some of the main trout flies. Wet and dry flies are fun for both novice anglers and more experienced fishermen. With hundreds of fly pattern variations, you will always have a wide variety to choose from, or make yourself!

Most trout flies require specific conditions. Usually you want to use them during peak hatch seasons, on an overcast day when the weather isn’t too hot! Check out our River Reports to see what local river conditions are. You can also call the Fly Shop to see what other anglers are reporting and what we find to be working best. We will probably even have good recommendations and advice for you if you stop by!

Wet and dry flies are the backbone flies that you want to have with you while taking a trip to any of our local Montana rivers. Over time you will become more familiar with each different type of fly and notice differences. It takes some practice, but if you love fly fishing as much as we do, you’ll pick it up in no time. If you want more guidance and advice though, feel free to stop by The Fly Shop or book a private instruction with us. We can go over basics or get in depth on what trout flies to use and when. Then we’ll help perfect your cast so you catch more fish.

The best advice we can give for how best to learn is just to get out on the water! Out there you’ll figure out what the fish are eating, and you might even see some insects you can copy!