Written by: Dave Brown, Dave Brown Outfitters
Once our guide season rolls around, we tend to cover a lot of rivers in both Alberta and British Columbia. The character of these streams varies from fast-moving alpine freestones, such as BC’s Elk River, to slow-moving prairie tailwaters. I can find myself fishing dry flies to non-selective westslope cutthroats and then twelve hours later be fishing to the sometimes finicky and large rainbows and browns of Alberta’s Bow River. Dry flies must float well, be easy to see, and easy to tie or easy to buy. With the exception of the floating part, the same criteria hold true for the nymphs and streamers.
I also think presentation trumps imitation: as long as you are close to matching the food source–with size being the priority–I feel you have it covered. Despite the fact new flies are added to catalogues each year, I find myself going to these tried-and-true patterns that get it done on whatever river I may find myself on.
1. Chubby Chernobyl (sizes 6-12)
The “Chubby” is a great fly because it floats well, it’s easy to see, easy to tie, and covers a wide variety of stoneflies found in our rivers.It’s also a decent hopper pattern. Color-wise, I like gold, purple, orange, and red.
2. PMX (sizes 8-14)
The Parachute Madam X is another great impressionistic pattern that can imitate a variety of small stoneflies, caddisflies, hoppers, and (with an olive body) green drakes.
3. Bloom’s Parachute Caddis (sizes 12-18)
This a a great caddisfly and small stonefly and/or hopper pattern in tan or olive. Even in small sizes, it’s easy to see due to its hi-vis post. When there are both caddisflies and PMDs on the water, I will often use this as my point fly and tie a small Pheasant Tail or Parachute underneath it.
4. Dave’s Brownout Caddis (sizes 14-18)
This is my “take” on the popular Cornfed Caddis. I added a shuck and an orange poly overwing that increases the visibility and buoyancy of the fly, making it one of the few CDC patterns that can be effectively fished from a moving drift boat. If you don’t treat it with floatant, it makes for a great subsurface emerger. I tie mine in Tan and black.
5. Olive Haze (sizes 10-18)
This parachute pattern works great during any mayfly hatch, from BWOs to green drakes. I think the really slim body is the key to why this fly works so well.
6. Black-Post Parachute Adams (sizes 10-18)
A lot has been written about the virtues of the Parachute Adams, and the added black post makes it a great choice in low-light conditions. Click here for the basic recipe.
7. Beadhead Pheasant Tail (sizes 10-18)
The easy-to-tie Pheasant Tail is a great pattern, no matter where you fish. I use it on both rivers and lakes and feel the suggestive nature of the fly covers everything from small stoneflies, to mayflies, and damselflies(in lakes). I tie mine with black or gold beads.
8. Beadhead Caddis Pupa (sizes 12-18)
Caddisflies are an important food source on all rivers throughout the West, so when it doubt I often hang a caddis pupa underneath a high-floating dry fly with good results.I carry these in tan and olive.
9. Kreelix Streamer (sizes 6-12)
The Clouser-style Kreelix Streamer is my “go to” flashy baitfish streamer pattern. I have used it on largemouth bass in Arizona, smallmouth bass in Indiana, and trout from Arizona to British Columbia. I tie mine in combinations of gold/silver, gold/copper, and all black.
10. Slumpbuster (sizes 6-12)
This is another easy-to-tie streamer pattern that works everywhere. It’s the polar opposite of the Kreelix, as it’s not as flashy. The pine squirrel wing and collar make this fly move in a lifelike way, and it is suggestive of sculpins, leeches, and damselflies. I tie mine in black, olive, purple, and white. For the large flies, I use tungsten cones, while on the small sized flies tungsten beads.
Dave Brown operates Dave Brown Outfitters, and Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing and wingshooting guide service in Arizona and Western Canada.