Stay Fly: The top flies for summer fly-fishing |

Stay Fly: The top flies for summer fly-fishing

By Ray Kyle, Stay Fly
The selection of your flies can make or break your day and now with the water finally coming back down, the dry-fly fishing should really start picking up.
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What flies are working? This is the question that you hear most on the stream, talking to other anglers, and definitely in every fly shop. The answer is not an easy one, as it changes month to month, day to day and sometimes hour to hour. Flies change from river to streams and lakes to creeks. The selection of your flies can make or break your day and now with the water finally coming back down, the dry-fly fishing should really start picking up.

These flies will help you in most situations that you might encounter this summer on the river:

Guide’s Choice Hare’s Ear

This fly is a crusher for any trout that is keyed in on caddis sub-surface. This is a variation of the classic hare’s ear nymph. What makes this fly so deadly, besides its classic design, is that it has soft hackle wrapped right behind it’s beadhead. This soft hackle gives this fly more action and it also traps air to give it the look of an emerging adult.

Rainbow Warrior

The rainbow warrior is one of the best dropper flies to utilize in dry dropper rig (dry-fly with a subsurface fly hung behind it). It’s tied with a tungsten bead which makes it sink fast and gets in the zone quickly. It doesn’t replicate anything specific but works wonders for midge larva and pupa that are almost always present in the water.


The RS2 is a fly that every angler in Colorado or the West should have in their fly box. No questions asked. This fly can be used as a dry, a fly in the film or a dropper. It’s a very simple fly that imitates an emerging baetis. If you are having a tough day fishing, tie on an RS2 and in most cases, it’ll turn the day around.

Pat’s Rubber Legs

The first time I saw one of these flies, I scoffed at it. It is an ugly fly. It’s earned its nickname “Cat Poop” because it looked like a small cat turd with rubberlegs. However, tie it on your line when the stoneflies are present and it will quickly earn your respect as it did mine. This is a great lead fly in the two fly nymph rig because it’s wrapped in lead under its ugly fasade.

Elk Hair Caddis

One of the most iconic and classic dry flies in the game. The Eagle River is a fantastic caddis fly river in the early summer. Waves of caddisflies can be found most afternoons and evenings — enticing dramatic, splashy rises. The elk hair caddis is an amazing imitation of the natural adult. It’s easy to see, floats likes a cork and has fooled countless trout.

Extended Body Parachute Adams

It started with the Adams dry-fly, then it developed into the Parachute Adams by putting an easy to see post and horizontal hackle around it. It then evolved to a near-perfect imitation of a mayfly with the addition of an extended body. This is my go-to pattern for anytime that trout are rising to blue winged olive mayflies. Some of the most wary fish in the tailwaters of Colorado have fallen victim to this fly.


Parachute Madam X is one of my very favorite general attractor dry flies because it is a high floating, easy to see bug. It can be fished in fast water and imitates stoneflies or caddis flies. It also is an amazing fly to drop nymphs behind due to its ability to float extremely well. This fly can be dead drifted through riffles or twitched to trigger sudden strikes.


One of my all time favorite streamers. This quick sinking articulated trout slayer is tied in a variety of colors; black, natural and white are my favorite. This fly is a great sculpin imitation that can be used on small creeks to large rivers. It’s incredibly dangerous in a double streamer rig as the second fly behind a flashy attractor streamer.


Yes, trout eat mice. Mouse fishing can be one of the best times you can have with a fly rod in your hands. The anticipation and excitement can be addicting. The best time to mouse fish is dusk to dark and it can be a lot of trial and error to see what works best. Casting blindly into the dark can be frustrating at times however that frustration can quickly evaporate when the sudden burst of noise breaks the silence of a cool summer night. This is the essence of mousing.

Any fly your buddy ties for you

If you have a friend that loves to tie flies and offers you a couple to try out, take them! Sometimes the best fly to use is a fly that you’ll never find in a fly shop. When I tie a new pattern, I usually hand out a couple to friends for a test run. Whether it’s a little simple midge, a flashy nymph or a complex streamer that doesn’t have a name, it’s usually something the fish have never seen and might be the gamechanger.

When it comes to fly selection, if you have a box stocked with the flies mentioned above, you will be one step ahead of the curve. Take some time and read about what flies are present in the water you are fishing. A combination of that knowledge and these flies should be a recipe for success for even the novice angler. Get out there and fish!

Ray Kyle is the guide service coordinator and a guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 and

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