Salomone: Ten flies to keep you on top through fall

Michael Salomone
Vail Valley Anglers
Bob DeMott fishing dry flies on Brush Creek.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

My love of dry flies never seems to wane. Even in the dead of winter, if the sun is on the water and I see I rise, there is a little childish excitement that begins to pulse through my body. Given this fact, I choose to throw dry flies in the autumn as long as I can. The variety covers a broad selection. With these ten dry flies I can keep my fly fishing game on top well into autumn.

The game is changing quickly. Having this variety ready in your box streamlines riverside preparation. As a rule, I start off small and work towards larger-bodied dry flies as the day progresses. Some have increased performance in less-than-perfect weather conditions. With the beginning of autumn upon us, afternoon clouds become the expectation rather than the occasional happening.

Small dries belong early in the day. Tiny Parachute Adams in sizes 18-22 are the ticket for early morning dry fly action. A generic offering the Parachute Adams covers midges, small blue wing olives and looks attractively buggy in all the right ways.

Fishing in the Red Canyon section on the Eagle River.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Other offerings in the small, midge category would be the well-known Griffith’s Gnat. This cluster of mating midges grabs the attention of any trout looking up. Best fished in the softer side seams and flats, midges will increase their presence throughout the day. Skating across the surface with speed like a puck in an air hockey game, anglers should strive for a presentation where their midge flies have a free-flowing, disconnected presence on the surface of the river.

Anglers looking to up their game would be well rewarded when choosing an Orange Ascher for their midge dry fly. Increased visibility is one factor the Orange Ascher possesses. Another must be the slight difference in comparison to other midge cluster flies. Whatever the reason, trout seem attracted to the fly when the midges appear in high numbers.

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 BWO dries under the clouds. Monsoonal rain patterns bring predictable afternoon showers and cloud cover BWO-specific dry flies, not generic, like the Adams which relies on size and shape rather than color. Sparkle Dun is the best variation for finicky trout that have been hassled all summer long. Developed by John Juracek and Craig Mathews for the highly educated Henry’s Fork trout, the Sparkle Dun belongs in everyone’s fly box.

Mosquitoes are a fly that require increased attention or you might be left looking foolish, hold on. Dry or washed under and drowned a mosquito drives fish insane. Instigating quick aggressive strikes, mosquitos deserve more attention. The real bugs are disappearing fast with cooler nights. But trout have been eating them all summer long and are not about to stop.

Yes, I have colored a gray mosquito with a red Sharpie to imitate the blood-filled body. Both the natural and the red-bodied fly were eaten quickly off the surface. The trout were attracted more to size and silhouette. But color is a fun variable to play with.

Spent wing spinners belong on the list. A variety of bugs have successfully mated and fallen to the river with wings laid out to the side like a dragonfly in flight. Trout discovered sipping softly are feeding on dead bugs that float on the surface. The fish know the bugs won’t fly away like active adults so the take is slow. Take care not to get excited at the rise and pull your fly away from the fish.

A hatch of bushy caddis flies begin to hatch in small numbers but enough to warrant the use of an Elk Hair caddis or a small Stimi or Stimulator. Busy water can camouflage your flies from recognition. Fish small flies in tandem with a caddis to help track your flies. These bushy bugs imitate the October caddis.

Windy afternoons make ants and grasshoppers good choices. But it takes the heat of the day to get grasshoppers moving. Wait until the afternoon to throw your hopper flies. Ant flies with wings are a little easier to track but any ant in the water is going to attract attention.

Ten flies to ride into autumn, from terrestrials to bushy dries and down to the smallest surface offerings. With these ten flies, anglers can keep throwing dries and cover a lot of insects. Live bugs, dead bugs or don’t belong in the water bugs, keep throwing those dry flies. The season isn’t over yet.

Michael Salomone moved to the Eagle River valley in 1992. He began guiding fly-fishing professionally in 2002. His freelance writing has been published in magazines and websites including, Southwest Fly Fishing, Fly Rod & Reel, Eastern Fly Fishing, On the Fly, FlyLords, the Pointing Dog Journal, Upland Almanac, the Echo website, Vail Valley Anglers and more. He lives on the bank of the Eagle River with his wife, Lori; two daughters, Emily and Ella; and a brace of yellow Labrador retrievers.

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