Pro Tips: Bill Tapply’s Top 10 Basic Flies

Written by: William G. Tapply


Bill Tapply fishes a Western spring creek.
Photo courtesy williamgtapply.com

Ever since I hung up my vest in favor of a pack, out of deference to my creaky back, I’ve carried just two fly boxes with me.

One box I load up with imitations of what I expect to encounter on the specific river or pond that I plan to fish at a specific time of year. On Rocky Mountain rivers in the summer, for example, I bring my Pale Morning Dun/Sulfur box, with emergers, duns, and spinners in various designs to match these two prolific and dependable hatches. For the early season in the East, it might be Hendricksons and Blue-Winged Olives.

The second box, I keep filled with tried-and-true general favorites, flies that work when a big specific hatch isn’t going on, or for streams where matching the hatch isn’t crucial. These are the ten (+/-) flies (each in two or three sizes) that I carry in that box:

Tapply’s Top 10

1. Adams

2. Elk-hair Caddis (dark and tan)

3. Foam Beetle

4. Deer-hair Ant

5. Rusty Spinner

6. Griffith’s Gnat

7. Pheasant Tail Nymph

8. Hare’s Ear Nymph

9. Soft Hackle Wet (dark and pale)

10. Woolly Bugger (olive and black)

Naturally, I sometimes find myself without the fly I need. Often, by trimming and barbering some flies that I do have, I can make do. (It’s easy to make a spinner out of a dun, for example, by clipping Vees out of the hackle top and bottom.)

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Editor’s note: When I was the editor of American Angler, I had the pleasure of working with William G. Tapply for ten years before his death in the summer of 2009. Bill’s wife, the author Vicki Stiefel, has graciously allowed me to reprint some of his columns and articles here. 

Check out these great e-books by William G. Tapply (available on all formats including iPad, Kindle, Mobi, etc.):

And visit Vicki Stiefel’s new website and facebook page to learn about her new book, Chest of Stone and the reissue of her Tally Whyte series.

5 thoughts on “Pro Tips: Bill Tapply’s Top 10 Basic Flies”

  1. Pretty good selection, but I think it needs some low-floating dry emergers. Maybe parachute adams instead of adams, and sparkle dun/comparadun and hackle stacker.

  2. Most of my training comes with clipping off hanging parts of streamer body that came loose in the fight or ripped my my hemos while trying to be speedy on the release. Love the usual, split the rabbit foot wing and pull down for a workable spinner

  3. Most of my clipping comes from snipping off stremer from body that got loose in the fight or my speedy attempt with a hemostat to release the fish. It can also get a more appropriate size for dries when they are keying I’m smaller. Sometimes I over tie a 16 and get them to take what appears 14 or smaller

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