Fly Tying

Beginner Fly Tying – 14 Easy Patterns




Are you motivated to tie your own flies, better yet have the thrill of catching fish on something you created yourself?  If so, here are 14 of the easiest beginner flies to tie – that are also proven and reliable fish catching machines.  With details for each beginner fly, here’s why they are easy to tie, and how to go about it.  Or if you prefer, consider  whether you want to Tie It, or Buy ItTM ?

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Overview

These flies catch fish, staple flies proven over time.  They are straightforward to tie, making them great for beginners or to refine your skills.  Need we say more?

So let’s get down to business.  Here’s an overview table of the flies we cover below, with links to more detail on how to tie them.  While these are some of the best trout flies, most are also great to use for panfish and bass flies.  If you’re tying you certainly don’t need to buy any.

Some tiers like to have an example on hand, or once they’ve mastered the fly, buy in bulk at a discount to save on time.  If you’re not sure which beginner fly to start with, never mind because we’ve given these careful thought – just close your eyes, pick one, and you can’t go wrong!

Name Image Tie It Buy It
1. Beetle, Basic Foam
2. Bivisible
3. Blue Wing Olive
4. Black Nose Dace
5. Caddis Soft Hackle Pupa
6. Egg Pattern, Glo Bug
7. Griffith’s Gnat <arel=”nofollow, noopener” href=”https://amzn.to/3prm0UQ” target=”_blank” style=”border:none;text-decoration:none”>
8. Mop Fly
9. Puff Daddy
10. Rainbow Warrier
11. San Juan Worm
12. Woolly Bugger
14. X-Caddis
13. Zebra Midge

Why Tie Your Own Flies?

Tying your own flies is a great way to:

  • Master a creative skill you can have fun with life-long
  • Better understand what fish are looking for when you are fly fishing, how to “match the hatch”
  • Build a skill that’s valuable if you aspire to be a guide or work at a fly shop
  • In fact, tying flies will help you improve how to catch trout and other species – gets you thinking more about presentation
  • Save money?  The debate is on, but in any case it depends on how many you make, and use
  • Share this great sport with others

When Fish Your Own Flies?

This article shows you simple flies to tie from every category: dry, wet, streamers, nymphs, terrestrials, attractors.  So, you’ll have a fly for every fishing season, time and condition actually.  Use the nymphs and streamers early in the season.  Use drys when you see that hatches are underway.  Use the terrestrials later in the season, or when you don’t see any hatches under way.  And all of these are so proven, most you can use at any time, in any case.

How To Tie Your Own Flies?

Each of our mini-reviews below contains a link to a page with more detail on how to tie that specific fly.  We cover the basic tools needed in another article, Beginner Fly Tying – 3 Steps Under $100.

Related Article: Fly Tying For Beginners – 3 Steps To Start Under $100

Beetle

Type:  Terrestrial, dry fly

Why Easy: 2 materials, basic wrapping

Skills: Wrapping thread, working with foam

Works Towards: other foam patterns such as grasshoppers

Why It Catches Fish: fish in many streams eat as many terrestrials as they do aquatic insects, this one is easy to fish and easy to see.  Also fish a small dropper off the back so you are doubling your offering to the fish, because this fly floats so well.

The foam beetle by itself is a super-classic pattern that is easy to tie for beginners, and effective for trout, bass, and panfish. If you want to keep this one even simpler, you can just tie it with a foam body, that’s all.  The only between the most basic version, and hi-viz is to add a small piece of foam on top for easy visibility.  If you do add foam on top, don’t worry about it much, just use your favorite color – white, yellow, orange, and red are most common – and keep it small.  It’s for you, not the fish who can’t see it from below anyway, or may think they are wings who knows.

You can also skip the rubber legs and underbelly materials if you like, again the most basic version of this beetle works absolutely fine.  We wanted you to see the next step up in case you want to give it a shot after tying several of the most basic beetles.  If you do add the other components, use peacock herl for the underbelly (easy to just wrap), two pieces of rubber legs tied in the middle result in 4 legs on the fly.  Trim them to about the same length but this fly is forgiving so don’t worry about how exact they are positioned at all.

 

Bivisible

Type:  Terrestrial, dry fly

Why Easy: 2-3 materials, basic wrapping

Skills: hackle

Works Towards: dry flies with tighter hackle, wet flies with soft hackle

Why It Catches Fish: represents several small terrestrials, such as caterpillars, crickets, flying ants, and crippled moths, as well as midge clusters and other aquatic insect forms.

What can we say – just wrap away!  Brown hackle for the back 2/3 of the hook shank, white for the front 1/3.  Finish off the head and off you go fishing!  Originating in Canada, this fly has worked its way well south of the border to more widespread use in many parts of the USA.

Blue Wing Olive

Type:  Dry fly

Why Easy: 3-4 materials, basic wrapping

Skills: dubbing, hackle

Works Towards: dry flies with more materials and tighter hackle

Why It Catches Fish: it doesn’t only imitate just a single bug, but instead a whole bunch of bugs.  As it turns out, quite a number of mayflies out there have both olive bodies, and dun- or gray-colored wings.   Not to bore you, but they are in the genus Baetis, a name you’ll probably encounter more and more as you tie flies.

Moreover, another great thing about these mini-mayflies, is that they hatch more during the shoulder months – late fall and early spring.  In fact, they are known to be present in some rivers all winter long!  So, fishing this trout fly pattern is a terrific way to not only beat the crowds, but also to claim more river to yourself.

The most important thing to get right, before you use this one fly fishing for trout, is the size of your fly and hook.  In this respect trout can get picky during a hatch.   Not only a straightforward dry fly pattern to tie, but you can also drop the wings if you don’t want to bother.  We know there are gasps coming from the audience right now, but that’s right, check out the photo.  Since the wings don’t differ appreciably from the color of the hackle or even the height of it, you can easily drop them for beginner flies.  Don’t worry, we’ve tried it ourselves, and it still catches fish!  Just proves they can’t always see the top of the fly – even through profile can matter a great deal, we’re not giving up on that.

Black Nose Dace

Type:  Streamer

Why Easy: straightforward materials, basic wrapping techniques

Skills: wrapping, trimming, hair wing placement

Works Towards: many more streamers, bucktails, and early stages of dry fly wing placement

Why It Catches Fish: both an imitation of the Black Nose Dace minnow, which are prevelant, and also an attractor pattern

Bucktail streamers are terrific for beginner fly tiers, as they are about as simple to tie as streamers get.  The use of this streamer is increasing from the from “rediscovery” and rising popularity of traditional, classic streamers including bucktails. 

This is perfect fly to practice on – and catch fish with – before tying more refined bucktails such as rainbow trout and brown trout imitations, the Mickey Finn, and many many other streamers for trout, salmon, and steelhead. In that sense it’s one of the best streamers you can tie.

The actual minnow has several varieties that all share a black stripe down the body (hence the bit of darker hair worked into the middle).  Depending on where you are from, they have varying degrees of pinkish red color on the belly, so it wouldn’t hurt to look up a photo of your local variety.  As an attractor pattern however, this is a very forgiving fly if you don’t tie it exactly to match, it’ll catch fish anyway!


Related Article: 101 Proven Patterns – The Best Trout Flies

Caddis Soft Hackle

Type:  Emerger, soft hackle

Why Easy: 2 materials, basic wrapping

Skills: Dubbing, hackle

Works Towards: Many soft hackle & emerger patterns, also Hairs Ear & Pheasant Tail nymphs

Why It Catches Fish: realistically emulates movement of an emerging caddis pupa

This is simply one of the most realistic caddis emergers we’ve ever seen, in spite of its simplicity.   This is a good one to swing through pocket water, and also deeper pools, and to fish below a larger dry indicator fly.  They key thing is to get the right motion – remember emergers are rising, not dropping. This may be contrary to your habits especially if you enjoy nymph fishing.

So you’ll want to first swing it across the stream and down into position where you want to be fishing.  Then, to get the correct motion, lightly strip it so it rises up just like a real emerger trying to get to the surface.  If you haven’t yet tried to tie under-recognizing soft hackle patterns, then this pattern is a terrific one to start with, one of the best flies for trout you can use..

Glo Bug Egg

Type:  Wet fly, egg pattern

Why Easy: 1 material, basic wrapping

Skills: shaping

Works Towards:  Many more egg patterns – double eggs, eggs with spawn, Ragg Egg, Sucker Spawn, etc.

Why It Catches Fish:  lightweight design tosses and turns in the water, just like a real loose egg floating downstream looking for a hungry fish to eat it.  During spawning season, simply the best fly you can use as fish may ignore all other offerings.

This traditional egg pattern is one of the most basic flies there is, and yet still highly potent.  Tie this in many alternative colors – including yellow, chartreuse, orange, pink, and combinations thereof.  Check with your local shop to see what colors work best on the streams near you, then tie this first as a beginner fly that nevertheless catches trophy fish.

Of course, because it is so lightweight, you’ll need to add weight either underneath the egg with wire, or weight on your line, split shot, tippet ring, etc.  While those who euro-nymph prefer the weight of the fly on the hook, for this pattern, don’t make the mistake of tying it with weight underneath the egg pattern!  This will severely compromise the otherwise super realistic action.  In this case, split shots 18-24 inches above the fly are much better than weight-on-the-fly approaches.

Griffith’s Gnat

Type:  Wet fly, terrestrial

Why Easy: 2 materials, basic wrapping

Skills: wrapping, hackle, working with smaller hooks

Works Towards:  Woolly Bugger, beginner nymphs

Why It Catches Fish:  it realistically represents a gnat, when tied in small sizes (#16-24 hook), and larger terrestrials such as a caterpillar when tied in larger sizes (10-14)

The Griffith’s Gnat is like soooooo simple – just wrap on peacock herl for the body, then wrap on grizzly hackle around that.  Just don’t forget to tie on the grizzle hackle at the same time as the peacock herl, then wrap your thread forward before you wrap each materail in succession.  That way you won’t need to bring your thread back through the herl – which would mat it down – to get back to where the grizzly starts.  This could be the fastest fly you tied, ever.  So, if you have any hesitation about how to tie flies, never mind it’s about as easy a beginner fly as there is, so start with this one!

Mop Fly

Type:  Wet fly or nymph

Why Easy: 2 materials, basic skills

Skills: trimming, shaping, wrapping

Works Towards: intermediate nymphs

Why It Catches Fish: Debate’s on!  While many people believe it’s an imitation of a caterpillar, many others think it’s a good emerging caddis imitation in smaller sizes given the proportions of head vs. body.

Well, here’s another fly that very few people can explain why it works, but it just does so why argue?  Our preference is to fish it as a weighted nymph moreso than as a wet fly, on the smaller side.  It can also be fished jig style like Euro-nymphing.  While first timers can be skeptics, because it really doesn’t look like any other type of fly, they will change their mind especially when it catches fish while other flies aren’t working.  You can also add a conehead for extra weight to really sink it fast.  Give it a try when you are starting to realize you might get skunked, and see if it makes a difference – it often does.

Puff Daddy

Type:  Emerger/ dry fly, soft hackle

Why Easy: 2 materials, basic wrapping

Skills: Dubbing, soft hackle

Works Towards: Many soft hackle & emerger patterns, also intermediate nymph patterns

Why It Catches Fish: it imitates crippled mayflies, duns, and other knocked down aquatic insects.  Tied in different colors and sizes, you can fish them during many hatches including Blue Wing Olives, Green Drakes, and other mayflies. While it looks like an emerger, part of the reason it’s so effective is that it actually sits in the water film like a dry fly.

Tied with a thin body of dubbing, the Puff Daddie is also sometimes called a Puff Diddie, or Puffie.  Ironically, its simplicity is also perhaps what makes it realistic.  It is completed with a few thin turns of a stemmed CDC feather.  You may notice that in contrast to most other patterns, the Puff Daddy doesn’t have tail features, any sort of wing, or other attributes.

When fished, it actually floats on its side, almost like it wasn’t tied correctly but it was!  This in turn helps disguise the hook, because the tip of the hook actually floats above the water film.  The materials help make it water resistant, however you will need to refresh it with fly floatant after you land a fish – one of many we’re sure.  Be sure to use a “desiccant” fly floatant, not silicone, because in this case silicone will have the opposite effect of what you actually want.

Rainbow Warrior

Type:  Nymph, attractor

Why Easy: basic wrapping, with a little shaping

Skills: trimming, wrapping, shaping, finishing

Works Towards: Euro-nymphs and intermediate level nymph patterns

Why It Catches Fish: It’s almost ironic that the Warrier works so well – even for very large trout in spite of its smallish size.  In fact, this one doesn’t look like anything natural, as far as we can tell.  And yet it works across the entire continent and internationally as well.

Some don’t think of this as a beginner fly, but we disagree.  While it has more material types than the other flies we highlight, it is relatively easy construction.  And, we want you to have a stepping stone to work towards tying euro-numphs.

The Rainbow packs in many different attraction types, including a glass bead head, a thorax made of rainbow colored ice dubbing, and a body wrapped in bright tinsel.  It’s pretty gaudy, but for trout it’s actually a turn on.  There are a number of varieties that have developed over time, in different colors, but what you see here is the original.  If you want to impress not only your friends with your trout fly tying, but also the trout, tie the Rainbow Warrier.

San Juan Worm

Type:  Wet fly or streamer

Why Easy: 1 materials, basic wrapping

Skills: trimming, wrapping, shaping

Works Towards: Woolly bugger, other terrestrials

Why It Catches Fish: imitates both terrestrial and aquatic worms, known as annelids
Universally used for trout, panfish, bass, and even landlocked salmon, what can we say other than – it works!  While this pattern originates from the San Juan River are in New Mexico, it is now used virtually everywhere. When it comes to easy flies to tie, you can’t get more simple than this one.
A good year round pattern, because worms are always present or get swept into waterways, this fly has a simple construction yet realistic form.  While some anglers believe the main time to use this fly is during and after rainfall that washes many worms into the water, in fact aquatic worms are always present to use it any time!

 

Woolly Bugger, Basic & Enhanced

Type:  Streamer

Why Easy: 2 materials, just wrapping, or more materials if you feel ready

Skills: wrapping, trimming, hackle

Works Towards: many woolly bugger variations, including bead head, cone head, tinsel, crystal, etc.

Why It Catches Fish: is demonstrated to effectively emulate several big meals that fish like to eat – leeches, crayfish, and woolly caterpillars.  Not to mention the maribou waving in the water drives fish crazy!!!  Certified to catch both big trout, and bigger trout.

For the basic version we recommend beginners try, all you need is marabou, chenille, and hackle in one or more colors.  Buggers are typically tied in black, brown, olives, and combinations of these and other colors.  You can read more about the prey they emulate and the color variations in our article More About The Woolly Bugger.

Everybody seems to highlight this one as one of the beginner flies to start with, but we like to show how the Bugger can be tied first more simply, and then in more complicated versions.  If you want to take it up a couple notches after you tie the basic bugger, try adding a bead head, cone head, or bug eyes for more weight and flash.  Also, Buggers are very effective as attractor flies as well.

The amount of flash you can add varies from just a few strands of tinsel (consider Flashabou), in different increments, all the way up to the much more gaudy Crystal Bugger which is practically all flash.  Common Crystal variations include white, orange, olive, and gray.  The bugger is one you’ll want to carry in several sizes, colors, and weights.  In fact, we carry a separate fly box just dedicated to Buggers and other large streamers.

X-Caddis

Type:  dry fly

Why Easy: basic materials, straightforward wings, materials float

Skills: dubbing, hackle, working with elk or deer hair, choosing sizes and colors, matching the hatch

Works Towards: Elk Hair Caddis (one of the best dry flies of all time), many other dry trout flies, patterns using deer hair such as poppers and mouse patterns

Why It Catches Fish: Caddis flies hatch pretty much everywhere, and trout love to eat Caddis, a killer combo!

This fly has one you-know-what-of-a-lot going for it.  In addition to being a close cousin of the Elk Hair Caddis (deer hair will do fine if that’s what you have), they are are super buoyant because the hair is hollow.  Because they float so well, they’re not just eash to see, but they also make great strike indicators for smaller droppers.

Some seem to think that size and color aren’t that important to match exactly in this pattern, but our experience is that it can make a big difference.  Since there are many varieties of the caddis fly, often even in the same watershed, be sure you tie and carry in your fly box several different sizes and body colors.  The most widely-used are tan, brown, olive, yellow, orange, and grey.

Zebra Midge

Type:  Emerger, wet fly

Why Easy: 2-5 common materials, basic wrapping

Skills: wrapping, shaping, proportions, working with smaller hooks

Works Towards: all nymph and wet fly patterns

How It Catches Fish: The Zebra Midge imitates midge pupae and emerging midges. 

The Zebra midge is commonly fished as an emerger, nymph, or as a dropper of a large dry fly.  Many large fish are fooled by this often tiny fly, so don’t let its size deceive you.  It is usually tied anywhere from size 16 to size 24.  The pattern is simple, only using a small scud or shrimp hook, then wrapped in one of several colors of thread, plus fine wire either silver or copper.  The bead head is usually 2 or 3 mm, with a finish that matches the wire, often tungsten which gives it extra weight to overcome its small size. 

This pattern is carried at almost every fly shop on the continent, and throughout the world.  This is because midges are universally present insects.  The consistent ability of the Zebra Midge as one of the best flies to take trout make it a standard pattern to carry in several sizes and colors.


Related Article: The Best Flies For Salmon

Wrap-Up

If you are just getting started with beginner fly tying, or wondering how to fly tie, then start with these 14 patterns.  These are hands down some of the best flies to tie, and easiest flies to tie.  The great thing is you won’t just tie trout flies, but most of these flies are also well suited for bass and panfish.  No matter that these are easy flies to tie, they are proven producers and you can count on them to catch fish.

FAQs

TBA


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