What’s Your “Confidence” Fly? Here Are Two of Mine.


The Parachute Hopper is my go-to pattern for summer fishing on mountain streams.
Photo by Sandy Hays

One August afternoon on a southern Colorado river, my guide handed me one of the more godawful dry flies I’d ever seen—an abomination constructed entirely of foam, rubber, and synthetic fibers. Although hardly a purist, I do appreciate at least a nod to fur and feathers in a fly, and this thing looked like a science project. Seeing the look of horror on my face, Jason assured me that the fly was his favorite hopper pattern for the water and a pattern on which he had taken some real monsters. One of the important lessons I learned when I was a guide was “Always trust your guide,” so I didn’t argue.

For the next hour, I worked upstream, casting that monstrosity into every pocket, along every cutbank, and next to every seam, without a single hit. It was inconceivable, really, that the fly wasn’t producing under such prime conditions. There had to be trout in these spots, and they should be looking upward for a big, tasty meal. Finally, unable to take it any longer, I clipped off the foam pattern and tied on a Parachute Hopper—a fly I use to great effect from July through September on the freestone mountain streams of Vermont.

On the third cast, a gorgeous cutthroat smacked the fly, and as I brought the fish to hand, I felt vindicated. The rest of the afternoon was a bonanza. Cutthroats and cuttbows in side channels and along the banks eagerly attacked the Parachute Hopper, to the point where the savaged fly had to be retired to a place of honor at the center of the fleece patch on my vest.

Surely this was a victory for natural materials, time-tested patterns, and the traditional prejudices of the intellectual East, right?

Nah. The failure of the Foam Hopper was probably my own damn fault. I didn’t have confidence that the fly would work, and that turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The rationalists among us will pooh-pooh this notion as overly superstitious, but there’s just too much anecdotal evidence to ignore. How many times have you seen your luck change when you tied on one of your “go-to” patterns?


If I need a streamer that I know will work, I generally choose the Hawkins Triple Double.
Photo by Phil Monahan

The only explanation I can come up with is that it’s not the fly at all, but the fact that you fish better with a fly that you believe in. You cast more carefully, allow the fly to drift longer and are more prepared for a strike that you expect to come at any moment. There are certain flies in my vest that just feel more right than others in a given situation. Had Jason fished that foam nightmare over the same water, I bet he would have caught just as many fish as I did with my parachute version. It’s just another way that fly fishermen can all enjoy the same sport, yet each makes it his own.

So what’s your confidence fly and why?

31 thoughts on “What’s Your “Confidence” Fly? Here Are Two of Mine.”

  1. Dry – Blonde Humpy
    Nymph – Hares Ear
    Streamer – Black Wooly Bugger, what else?
    Salt – Chartreuse Deciever

  2. Dry: klinkhammer usually Adams color

    Nymph: Copper John 14, currently light green

    For the fall caddis hatch, a 8 to 12 caddis using CDC for wing, tying with hair is messy.

  3. Streamer: Olive wolly bugger size 8 or 10
    Striper: Chartreuse deceiver or blu/wt
    Dry EC, BWO
    Nymph: golden stone or dark lord

  4. Griffith’s gnat – fished wet or dry and sometimes in large sizes (e.g., 10). The pattern seems to be successful at imitating a large variety of insects, including terrestrials, such as ants.

  5. The best fly’s are ones that no one has heard of. They are hatched somewhere in the back of my mind catch fish and have my friends and family begging for the fly. So in answer the question what two fly’s are best?

    The ones with no names.

    1. Must be a Matt thing! I agree best flies are ones that hatch out of must match the hatch and what my mind comes up with. And without fail you better tie up a dozen of them, ur family is gong to want them! My answer to what flies are best?

      The names that my family comes up with after they use them and they become their confidence flies.

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