Top 10 Flies for Trout Spey

Written by: Drew Nisbet

Orvis Director of Design Shawn Combs swings Soft Hackles for wild brown trout on the Battenkill in Vermont.
Photo by Drew Nisbet

No matter how you fish or what you fish for, fly selection can be a tricky thing because there are simply so many choices. The task becomes even more daunting when you’re expanding your fly fishing repertoire with a new technique, such as trout Spey.

Trout-Spey fishing usually involves a classic down-and-across swing, a way to fish a fly often overlooked by modern anglers. Wherever there is moving water—from the riffles of your favorite trout stream to the tidal currents along a coastal jetty—this method of swinging flies with a light-line two-handed rod is a fun, easy, and highly effective way to catch fish.

This wild brown trout fell for a swung Muddler Minnow on the West Branch of the Delaware River.
Photo by Drew Nisbet

Although the technique and equipment are often referred to as “trout-Spey,” the neat thing is that the technique and all of these flies work just as well targeting trout as they do other river-dwelling species such as bass, shad, and carp—all worthy quarry for a trout-Spey angler.

Let’s break down our top 10 trout-Spey flies.

Wet Flies

Wet Flies are tied to represent emergent aquatic insects. As a bottom-dwelling nymph develops, it will emerge to the surface to undergo a new stage of its life cycle. During this emergence, as the nymph clumsily rises from the bottom of the river to the surface, they are easy, irresistible food targets for a variety of fish species.

Sparkle Soft Hackle, sizes 14 and 16

This particular soft hackle wet fly is an excellent pattern with a bit of flash added to make it that much more attractive.

Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear Wet, sizes 10-14

One of the all-time classic wet flies, the Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear is particularly effective swung as a caddisfly or swimming mayfly imitation.

Tunghead Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail, sizes 12-16

This is a standard go-to nymph on almost any river in the country. Guides swear by Soft Hackle patterns because they work. This one features plenty of movement and a tungsten bead to get it down quickly.

Bead Head Soft Hackle Caddis Pupa, sizes 12-16

A bead head and soft hackle is a killer combination. Most species of caddisflies swim to the surface, and this fly, fished on the swing and stripped up on the turn, offers a real opportunity for success.

Hornberg Wet, sizes 8-12

Designed by Frank Hornberg in the 1920s, this fly can represent a caddisfly or stonefly when swung down and across, or you can strip it in on the hang down to represent a baitfish. The Hornberg is one of the great flies from the golden age of fly tying.

Click here to read Shawn Combs’s story of how he became a trout-Spey convert.


Most fly fishers think that fishing a streamer involves little more than casting it out, allowing it to sink, and then retrieving it back across the current. However, the down-and-across swing can be very effective and offer a different kind of presentation. This technique imitates a wounded or fleeing baitfish struggling against the current and can trigger aggressive and violent strikes from trout and bass.

Montana Mini Intruder, size 8

Vibrant color and flash bring trout and bass out of sleepy lies. It’s a great pattern for stripping and pulling, but has become a great choice for the trout Spey anglers, as well.

Muddler Minnow, sizes 6-12

Perhaps one of the best minnow patterns ever tied, the Muddler Minnow was created by Don Gapen of Anoka, Minnesota in 1936, to imitate a sculpin. Gapen developed this fly to catch Nipigon-strain brook trout in Ontario, Canada. It is now a popular pattern around the world and is found in nearly every angler’s fly box.

Moto’s Minnow, sizes 6-10

Flash, movement, and the ability to go deep make the Moto’s Minnow a great choice to draw strikes from trout or bass in most any type of water. It is also effective for getting down deep in faster runs. Even the conehead on Moto’s Minnow helps attract fish.

Franke Shiner, sizes 4-10

From the vise of famed Catskill tier Floyd Franke, this little shiner imitation has been catching fish for years in the Northeast. This pattern is a must for any streamer box, especially in olive/blue.

Stonefly Bugger , sizes 6-10

This is an excellent fly for swinging down current. The combination of the stonefly profile and the movement of a pulsating Wooly Bugger tail is sure to draw strikes from big trout and bass just as the fly reaches the end of the swing and begins to move upstream. Heavy materials help get this Stonefly Bugger pattern down quickly to the feeding area.

Click here to see the Orvis Trout Spey Collection.

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