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hopper fishing


Simple, but effective Dry Fly Patterns that should be found in your Fly Boxes

simple dry fly

When I think about the many traditions found in the fly fishing world, images of dry fly fishing for trout quickly come to mind.  Dry fly fishing is truly an artistic pursuit that is usually the first fly fishing experience a trout angler will encounter.  In Northern Michigan we are blessed with many miles of quality trout water that provides excellent dry fly fishing opportunities for trout.  Our streams have several hatches that attract feeding trout to the surface during the peak times of May and June.  Although most of our hatches occur during this period, dry fly fishing opportunities are not limited to this point in time and are by no means lacking throughout the entire trout season.  In this article we will discuss some of the key regional flies that anglers fishing Michigan should have in their boxes to be successful throughout the entire trout season.  We have also included step by step tying instructions for each of the patterns (some coming soon) we will be discussing.

There have been several great patterns that have evolved in our region and arguably the most famous of those patterns would be the Adam’s dry fly.  One other local favorite that is really important and provides the essential basic May fly template is the Borcher’s Drake.  This pattern can be tied in a variety of sizes and colors to imitate just about every May fly species we will encounter.  When tied in sizes ranging from #16 to #10, we can imitate a variety of bugs from Hendrickson’s and Sulphurs to Brown Drakes and Isonychia.  This is by far one of our most important go to flies throughout April and July.  Most of our early hatches are dark bodied Mayflies, which this pattern was originally designed to imitate.  This is truly a versatile pattern and should be a mainstay in your fly boxes throughout the season.

Stoneflies are often overlooked as an important hatch and sometimes their abundance on the water can appear minimal to non-existent.  Other Stone fly species may seem overly abundant at times making it sometimes questionable as to how important these insects are in trout diets.  One of my favorite Stonefly hatches occurs from Mid-May to early June.  The Medium Brown Stone (or Yellow Bellied Mattress Thrasher) is very abundant in most of our streams and can often be observed in large numbers at times.  Trout will key in on these larger Stone flies and a Stimulator pattern can be a very effective representation that will often elicit vicious strikes.  Tying a Stimulator in various sizes and colors to imitate the more abundant species we see during the peak hatch season is a must for any serious trout angler.  Stone flies are great patterns to search the water with when nothing seems to be happening.  One word of caution, however, be on your toes as larger fish will often take these flies when you least expect it!

brown drake The latter part of May and early June is the turning point of our dry fly season as our larger May fly species such as the Brown Drake and Isonychia begin to emerge.  These hatches will change the scope of our dry fly fishing and dramatically increase the frequency of big fish encounters as these insects constitute a bigger meal! The timing and overall size of these insects is very similar and often sympatric in nature, especially during the spinner falls.  The All Purpose Drake pattern is a great representation for both the Brown Drake and Isonychia spinners.  This pattern will work well as a searching pattern in the evenings or if you find yourself on a piece of water where both the Brown Drake and Isonychia spinners are present.  Tie one on and let the fish sort it out!
As we wrap up our peak dry fly season with the Hexegenia hatch and we turn the page on the calendar to July, our terrestrial season is just heating up.  If you love the explosive hit of the top water grab, then fishing larger terrestrial patterns will provide you with some exciting fishing.  As the food supply is shrinking, the terrestrial component will provide the needed protein to fill a dietary niche for our trout.  Grasshopper patterns like Chernobyl Ants and the Chernobyl Hopper will provide some violent strikes and make for great and durable searching patterns for this time of year.  Tying this fly in a variety of sizes and colors to match the local Grasshopper species found along the streams you are fishing will help the angler to zero in on one of the most exciting times to dry fly fish in Michigan. simple trout flies

The abovementioned fly patterns are some of the most important flies we use on a daily basis that provide us with the most success throughout the trout season.  Narrowing down your fly selection so it will all fit in a few boxes is always the hardest task we are presented with at the start of each fishing season.  If you keep your faith in some of the simpler, but effective patterns mentioned in this article and vary the size and color of these patterns, you can effectively fish our streams throughout the entire trout season.  While it is fun to match the hatch and have a pattern for every insect and life cycle stage you encounter, it is important to remember the candor of the old fly tying acronym “KISS” (Keep It Simple Stupid).  Focus first on having effective patterns that match the size and silhouette of the bugs we are imitating.  More elaborate creations should be reserved for situational occurrences where fish become very cautious and selective in their feeding behaviors.

Ed McCoy