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10 Flies to Use in Early Spring Fly Fishing

Early spring fly fishing for brown trout with streamers
Trout Zone Anglers

Choosing the right flies for your early spring fly fishing trip will make all the difference.

Most fly fishermen look forward to early spring fly fishing when the first good hatches of the year begin and the fish awake from the winter doldrums. Knowing the hatches on your local water is essential to early season success.

Here are some flies that should be in every trout fisherman’s box and where to go to fish the best hatches.

1. Blue-winged Olive Parachute

This fly should be high on anyone’s list of best flies for use in early spring. As the water begins to warm early in the season, blue-winged olives will be one of the first significant hatches on many streams. When you find rising trout early in the season, there is a good chance that they are taking blue-winged olives. To make it even easier to see, choose a hi-vis version.

Best choice for an early season olive hatch? Try the Green River tailwater in northeast Utah.

2. RS2

The RS2 is one of the top fish-catching machines year-round and really shines in early spring fly fishing because it is one of those great patterns that covers a couple of different hatches. Fish it as both a blue-winged olive nymph or emerger, as well as a passable midge imitation in the smaller sizes.

Developed for fishing on Colorado’s South Platte River, you would be hard-pressed to find a better place to fish this fly. It is a fish vacuum anywhere you try it.

3. Zebra Midge

The Zebra Midge is one of the best midge patterns you can have in your fly box. Simple to tie, this little fly catches trout year-round. In the early spring, the fish have been largely subsisting on midges through the cold months and are dialed in to any fly that resembles these insects.

One of the top rivers in the country to fish the Zebra Midge is the Colorado River tailwater at Lees Ferry in Arizona where midges are a staple of the resident trout’s diet.

Nice rainbow trout on a Zebra Midge
The Trout Zone


4. Parachute Adams

Early season hatches follow a color progression from dark to light in many places. Wherever you find bugs like quill gordons and blue quills in the eastern United States, you can rest assured that the Parachute Adams in an appropriate size will fool some quality fish.

To chase the early season hatches in the southeast before things thaw up north, consider a trip to Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Quill Gordon and Blue Quill mayflies kick off the early spring fly fishing season as early as late February in some years.

Early Spring brown trout
The Trout Zone


5. Black Elk Hair Caddis

One of the best early spring hatches is the famed Mother’s Day caddis hatch. Coming off as early as late February in the southern Appalachians and as late as May in the Colorado Rockies, this hatch can provide some of the best early season action for fly fishers. A black elk hair caddis does a good job of matching the adult insects when the hatch is on.

Hit this hatch on the Arkansas River in Colorado or the Watauga or Holston Rivers in Tennessee for a day to remember.

6. Royal Gorgeous

During the caddis hatch, a good pupa pattern will often catch fish when a dry will not. Colorado guide Juan Ramirez invented the Royal Gorgeous to cover the famed Arkansas River caddis hatch, but this pattern will work great anywhere there are good caddis hatches around the country.

Tie your own flies? Here is a good tutorial on this pattern.

Facebook/Hopper Juan
Facebook/Hopper Juan


7. Light Hendrickson

In the eastern United States, one of the early season hatches that really gets anglers excited is the Hendrickson hatch. Usually starting in mid-late March in the southern Appalachians before slowly progressing north with the season, the Hendricksons provide some of the more dependable early season dry fly action. The Light Hendrickson is a classic Catskill version of the female Hendrickson.

To hit this hatch, consider a trip to the famed Delaware River or one of its branches.

8. San Juan Worm

While a worm is not exactly a hatch, early season anglers should consider carrying a few imitations in their box. The early season streamflow is often high and the San Juan worm is a good attractor pattern.

Most streams have good populations of aquatic worms so it makes sense to fish one. The river this pattern is named after, The San Juan River, is a good place to fish. But this pattern will work just about anywhere that there are trout where you go early spring fly fishing.

9. Sculpzilla

Looking for the largest trout in the stream? Streamers usually catch some of the largest trout each season. By matching the dominant forage species in your favorite water you can enhance your odds of hooking a trophy. Sculpins are prevalent in many good trout streams and the largest fish will learn to watch for them.

Rivers like Tennessee’s South Holston offer up great streamer fishing early in the season.

Early spring fly fishing produces a big brown trout on a streamer.
Trout Zone Anglers


10. Pheasant Tail Nymph

No list of top 10 early spring fly fishing flies would be complete without the Pheasant Tail nymph. This classic trout pattern has probably caught more trout than just about any other fly and for good reason. The darker color of this fly matches a plethora of early season nymphs if you carry it in several sizes. You may even be surprised by the size of the fish that will eat this fly. Add a bead head to fish this as a dropper underneath your favorite dry fly such as a Parachute Adams.

Fish this fly anywhere you find trout.

Bead head Pheasant Tail nymphs
The Trout Zone


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10 Flies to Use in Early Spring Fly Fishing