10 Best Wet Flies For Trout (2023 Buyer’s Guide)

Don't head out to fish with wet flies without reading this article. It's a detailed description that will set you up for success.

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When you’re in the mood for a certain meal, there are few things that can stop you from getting it. No matter how well another meal is cooked, it won’t fulfill those specific cravings. It’s important to keep this in mind when you’re fly fishing for trout. They find themselves with specific cravings and you need to fulfill them!

Choosing the proper flies can be a challenge. With thousands of patterns to choose from, anglers often feel overwhelmed when trying to make a decision. Don’t fret. While it takes some time to learn, you’ll eventually find a few patterns that work regardless of where you fish and also understand how to research the bodies of water you’re fishing.

What is a Wet Fly?

A wet fly is a bait that has been created to fish under the surface. They’re supposed to imitate any sort of food a fish might find below the surface. You can find three main types of wet flies.

top fly Box full of wet fly fishing flies


Streamers are the largest of the wet fly patterns. Streamers are supposed to imitate baitfish, crayfish or some sort of leech pattern. You’ll find these anywhere between size 0 and 6. These flies are heavy and require a 5 or 6-weight to properly fish.

Also, make sure when you use streamers that you’re using 0 or 1x leader to ensure that you don’t break the fly off or lose one of those trophy fish that hit it aggressively. Anglers most often drift these flies through pools or undercut banks.

Anywhere where baitfish or larger prey sit, go ahead and use this fly! Fish are willing to travel to any part of the river if they find a piece of bait they want to eat.


Nymphs are perhaps the most common type of wet fly. Nymphs are created to imitate hatching insects. They also can imitate any sort of insect that lives the entirety of its life under water. Nymph fishing is some of the most technical fishing possible. It requires extreme patience and skill.

Most nymph patterns can be found between size 10-20. It’s smart to fish nymph flies with indicators because it can be difficult to detect when you’re getting a strike. Make sure the indicator is high enough on your leader to ensure that you can gain a full understanding of what is happening with your fly.

Nymphs can be fished in riffles, pocket water and any sort of seam you see throughout the river or stream. They’re extremely versatile, but can be a challenge to operate if you don’t understand the currents of the water you’re fishing. It’s important to remember to keep as little slack in your line as possible when fishing nymphs.


Emerger patterns are the forgotten child of the wet fly family. Emerger flies are extremely productive, but timing their productivity can be a challenge. These are most useful right before a hatch. They’ll sit a few inches below the surface and imitate a fly that’s entering the adult stage.

fly fishing emerger flies

As soon as fish start looking towards the surface of the water, it’s time to start throwing an emerger pattern. You can fish these 3o minutes to an hour before the hatch and land plenty of fish. Once the fish start fully breaking the surface, it’s time to put them away and throw the dries.

Why Do Trout Love Wet Flies?

Trout love wet flies because they do about 80 percent of their feeding under the surface. Larger prey often lives under the surface as well. Since the fish are looking down and around the majority of the time, you can’t go wrong throwing any sort of wet fly.

10 Best Wet Flies For Trout

An anglers choice of fly often depends on where they are fishing and the type of water. There are, however, a few wet flies that have proven to work in almost any situation you find yourself. Make sure you visit some local fly shops before you visit a body of water to make sure you’re fully prepared for the excursion.

Wooly Bugger

Wooly Buggers have been around for decades and are lethal for trout. These range anywhere from size 4 to 8. You can swing these flies, dead drift them and they’ll work in all bodies of water. They can imitate everything from bait fish to crayfish! The versatility is key.

woolly bugger fly
Pheasant Tail

Pheasant Tail Nymph

The Pheasant Tail Nymph is a wonderful pattern to use in any sort of tailwater that you fish. These nymphs are a versatile option that can also imitate a variety of insects.

However, if there is a may fly hatch on that body of water, this is one of the best nymph options available!

Clouser Minnow

The Clouser Minnow doesn’t need much explaining. You can find a variety of imitations of this pattern depending on where in the world you’re fishing. Make sure you use this pattern with the dumbbell eyes. These are the most tempting aspects for the fish!

Clouser Minnow Fly in a Vise different color
Bunny Leeches on top of table

Bunny Leech

The Bunny Leech is a great pattern to use if you’re fishing a lake or pond for trout. Leeches thrive in still water and trout love to feast on them if they have the opportunity.

This fly has a bit more material than the bugger so there’s some more activity with these below the surface.

San Juan Worm

The San Juan is a staple within the trout fishing industry. This simple pattern is killer in almost any type of body of water.

Don’t overcomplicate things! Worms have always worked and don’t expect that to ever change. Never leave your house without a few of these patterns.

Photo of the sanjuan worm
zebra midge fly

Zebra Midge

The Zebra Midge is another must have for any fly angler. These patterns work great if you focus on the middle of the water column.

Since they’re a smaller pattern, they don’t often sit on the bottom of the river. They often float around in a more free flowing way.

Prince Nymph

The Prince Nymph has grown in popularity year after year. You can fish this with either a brass or tungsten beadhead. If you’re fishing riffles or cut banks, this is the fly for you. You can find them between size 10-16.

Make sure you fish these with an indicator! If you don’t, you’ll miss out on strikes.

how to tie a prince nymph
Crayfish on the sand


Crayfish fly patterns are great for rivers across the midwest. Crayfish sit up near the banks and in the shallower portions of the river. These patterns are great to fish from a drift boat.

Cast them up near shore and use short little strips to see what the fish want. This requires some special skill, but it’s worth it!

Tungsten Missile

The Tungsten Missile is a great fly to use if you’re fishing late in the fall or in the midst of runoff. This is a small, compact fly that’s going to land you some impressive fish. You can use this as the dropper in a dry-dropper pattern.

If you’re searching for new water, use the missile. You can’t go wrong.

Newbury’s Dirty Hipster Jig

The Dirty Hipster is a classic jig pattern. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself snagged a few times when fishing this pattern. However, if you can get this bouncing along the bottom, trout will slurp this up as quickly as they can.

It’s heavy and another great fly to use on a multi-fly rig. It always seems like the bottom pattern works best.

What Do Wet Flies Imitate?

Wet flies can imitate almost anything that you would like them to imitate. These flies offer the most versatility and you can find one to match any type of species living in the water.


Wet flies can imitate minnows or other forms of baitfish. You’ll find baitfish and other forms of prey tucked up against the banks. Spend time drifting these through pools and seams. You’ll have plenty of success landing fish when using minnow imitations!


Nymph patterns can imitate the pupa of mayflies, caddisflies and a variety of other insects. As the flies mature, they begin shedding their casings and drifting higher in the water column.

When To Use a Wet Fly For Trout?

Any time you see trout not feeding on the surface is a great time to use a wet fly. After the hatch, the fish continue to feed, but it usually happens lower in the water column in the deeper portions of the river or stream.

An angler fishing using a wet fly for trout

Also, as the day warms, the fish are going to dive to the deepest portions of the river. As a result, you’re going to need to use some heavier wet flies. Streamers or large nymphs are going to fall in the pools and meet the fish at their level. Sometimes you need to hit the fish directly in the head to catch them!


The world of wet flies can be a complicated world to maneuver. There are a multitude of options that will work in a variety of situations. Working through these patterns and flies is well worth your time. If you can create a rotation of wet flies that produce fish, you’re in for a lifetime of wonderful fishing opportunities.

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My name is Danny Mooers and I’ve been fly fishing for five years. As soon as I went to college, I dove headfirst into my obsession for fly angling. Every spare weekend or long break was dedicated to finding fish. I’ve fished all over North America in search of trout, salmon, steelhead and everything in between. I currently write articles for Guide Recommended and Reel Adventure Fishing. Fly angling is one of the most challenging yet rewarding hobbies any person can have. Don’t be afraid to give it a try.  It’s an addicting activity that tests everything from your fine motor skills to your patience, but it’s well worth your time.

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