Local Experts Pick Top 10 Trout Flies for Area Waters

By Gary Lewis

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When I was thirteen years old I left my fly box on the bumper of my grandpa's Ford at the Elk Lake boat launch. The accumulation of many evening's work at the tying bench was crushed beneath the wheels of grandpa's trailer. I didn't realize my loss until that evening back at camp, many miles away.

Heavy of heart and wise beyond my years, I passed a time of mourning, unable to hold a bobbin or look a bare hook in the eye. It was a full three weeks before I resumed my place at the bench and began to fill a new box with old favorites.

I'm careful now to keep a close watch on my fly boxes and never set anything on a bumper. But a couple of weeks ago I began to wonder just what I would do today. Which flies would I tie or buy to fill a box if I had to start again from scratch?

So I scribbled down some names, ending up with fourteen patterns; streamers, nymphs, wet flies and dries. Next, I rearranged them in order of importance and chopped off the last four to get down to my top ten. I still hadn't learned anything. What if I asked several local experts what they thought?

I started off by talking to Merrill Hummer of Numb Butt Fly Tying Company. His eyes lit up as if I had asked him the question that he'd been waiting all week to answer. My next victims were Bob Fitzsimmons at Deschutes River Outfitters and Gail Finley who was unlucky enough to be there when I arrived. At The Patient Angler, Peter Bowers and Shannon Alexander looked at me with some suspicion as if I might be planning to inform them of an impending audit. They soon relaxed and were happy to share their list of favorites adding an interesting twist. Bob Gaviglio at the Sunriver Fly Shop was kind enough to put together his picks for this article and I appreciated the time that each gave me. 

What I came away with was a delightful glimpse into the mental tackle boxes of a few of the area's most knowledgeable fishermen. As I asked the questions and scribbled down the answers I could see a definite pattern emerging.

Of course, there were many flies that couldn't make the list, patterns that fill specific roles in specific conditions. Some flies considered just didn't make the cut because, while effective, there were others that have proved more reliable in a diversity of situations.

I know people who fish almost exclusively with dries and others who are content with emergers. Fly fishing is a personal sport, it can be as simple or as complex as you make it. For the beginner this is a shopping list. The veteran might find something to think about.

  1. If you don't like to catch fish, don't put a Woolly Bugger in your box. The Woolly Bugger took first place hands down, being the first fly mentioned for 4 out of 5 lists. Keep a few of these in brown, black and olive.
  2. All agreed that you need a forage fish streamer. You get a choice here: The Muddler Minnow, Kiwi Spuddler and Matuka are all consistent producers. These work best for me at the "seam" of a riffle. Swing, swim and strip it in like a fish trying to reach the bottom in fast water.
  3. The Hare's Ear is one of the most effective flies of all time. Keep several different sizes including some with bead heads. An important variation of this nymph is the Soft Hackle Hare's Ear, a wet fly.
  4. The Prince Nymph edged the Zug Bug to make the list but it was generally agreed that any nymph with a peacock body was a good one. I've seen the Prince put to very good use in still water fishing over weed beds with a very slow retrieve. Be sure to have a couple of these with bead heads.
  5. Damsel nymph. No clear winner surfaced here but consensus was reached, putting them on the list. Try Dave's Damsel or the Marabou Damsel. These are best fished subsurface with a slow retrieve or dry close to the bank.
  6. Imitating a fresh-water shrimp, the Scud will work anywhere that trout feed on them. Fish it close to bottom on a dead drift.
  7. The Brown Hackle was the only wet fly to make the top ten. This pattern is constructed of a peacock body and soft brown hackle.
  8. The Adams, a dry fly, is a versatile pattern closely matching many different hatches. A popular variation is the Parachute Adams.
  9. The Elk Hair Caddis will produce almost anywhere for most of the season. Keep a few of these in tan and olive.
  10. The Blue Winged Olive is one that will produce all year long. Use smaller sizes in the winter.

These are the patterns that produce here in Central Oregon week in and week out. Maybe your list would look different, but as you prepare for the year's fishing this is a good place to start.

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