Top 5 Subsurface Flies for Big Brook Trout

Written by: Mark Melnyk, The New Fly Fisher

Anglers flock to Ontario to catch the brook trout of a lifetime.
Photo courtesy The new Fly Fisher

Brook trout are arguably the most beautiful freshwater fish that swims, displaying levels of natural artistry, camouflage, color-within-color that are utterly astounding. But that’s just their skin. Underneath the gorgeous exterior of these magnificent game fish lives an angry, violent animal. That’s why we anglers love them so much. 

Fishing for brook trout is a pleasure, and many anglers travel the world in pursuit of these fish. Ontario, Canada has wild, pristine populations of brook trout that are accessible and are considered the stuff of angling dreams. We asked a few prominent personalities in the fishing industry what their favorite subsurface flies are for chasing brook trout, and here are their replies:

1. Zoo Cougar (Tan, sizes 2 through 6)

I just loved the Zoo Cougar, especially for skimming and skating in that super-fast water, but then with a sinking tip, I was also able to let the fly hang and dangle near logs and current edges. I had no idea how to use this big streamer when I arrived, but by the time I left, I was addicted to fishing with it.  

–Hansi Johnson, professional outdoor photographer

2. Slump Buster (Rootbeer, size 6)

A couple summers back, in a short stretch of river between a pair of productive pike-and-walleye lakes in northwestern Ontario, I had really good luck with size 6 Slumpbusters in a brownish-red, or “root beer” color. I think these flies imitated small baitfish, including baby walleye and maybe even baby pike.

–Mark Melnyk, producer of The New Fly Fisher tv show.

3. Muddler Minnow (Rootbeer, size 6)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I love throwing traditional flies for big Ontario brook trout. However, I also love the opportunity to see a trout eat a fly.  That’s why I’ll fish big Muddler Minnows on a floating line and will add gel floatant to the bug. This allows the fly to sit just under the surface of the water, still visible to the angler. The voracious attacks of big trout are addictive, so each and every one should be witnessed, in my opinion.

–Chris Hunt, Trout Unlimited National Digital Director

4. Scotty’s McFly (sizes 2 and 4)

Traditionally tied as a smallmouth-bass fly in Ontario’s north, the Scotty’s McFly is a deadly pattern for brook trout, as well. Either swung or stripped, the sparseness of the streamer coupled with the flash of the main body is brook-trout candy! They go crazy for this fly.

–Colin McKeown, host of The New Fly Fisher

5. Woolly Bugger (Black, sizes 4 through 8)

There are few, if any flies that consistently perform quite like your basic black Woolly Bugger. This fly emulates many different protein sources in the water–such as leeches, baitfish, and crawfish–depending on how you fish it. 

–Tom Rosenbauer, host of The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing

4 thoughts on “Top 5 Subsurface Flies for Big Brook Trout”

  1. The Zoo Cougar looks interesting, and closely emulates my own personal favourite. Swap the body for a white wooly bugger and keep the collar and head – presto – a white and natural Bow River Bugger. Its ghostly glow in the tannic waters of Nova Scotia seems to do the trick. It’s perhaps no surprise that a hybrid of two of the top five listed here would fish so well.

  2. Best day ever in wintertime was the wooly bugger in black and another in a dull green. The day was cold, overcast and in the high 20’s. Ice coated the stream banks. Never have I seen trout so aggressive! Just guessing about 20 on the day with the smallest being about 14 inches. South Branch of the North Fork of Potomac River in West Virginia. Unfortunately, the catch was rainbows, not brookies!

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