A Comprehensive Fly Type Chart?

Ike47

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Hi. I've been fly fishing for a month now (12 days of fishing), still looking for my first catch. I keep trying to learn more, and one important area I feel totally at sea about is what flies to use under which circumstances. I've gotten lots of (good) advice, from stores like Little River Outfitters and from experienced anglers I meet while fishing, but invariably the advice is along the lines of 'I like this fly on this river at this time of year' or 'here are some good fly types if you are fishing in the Smokies' or '...at the Norris Dam tailwater', etc.

As a result, I have perhaps 50 or more different types of flies, but I don't know what they are imitating (if anything), either species or stage, with only a few exceptions (e.g., I have learned that wooly buggers imitate leeches, zebras imitate midge nymphs--I think). So what I have searched for, without success either here on the forum or by googling, is a comprehensive chart that lists the major insect types and other types of flies (midges, mayflies, caddis, stone flies, leeches, terrestrials, attractors, eggs, others?), distinguishes the various life stages where appropriate (nymph, emerger, spinner, etc), and then lists all the common flies that fit each category.

With such a chart, and knowing what's hatching, and the time of year, I could make better choices of why fly to use in any given situation. I could also look at my flies, and realize, "Oh, that's what that fly is imitating!". There are lots of hatch charts available online and in books, but I haven't found any chart of fly types based on what they imitate. Any suggestions? Thanks!
 

planettrout

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This chart explains the insects and some other creatures one encounters fly fishing the Eastern Sierra. It is loaded with hot links:

Hatches-Eastern Sierra

This is a listing of bugs and other patterns one can tie and use for waters throughout the Sierra and they work in many other locations too :

StevenOjai's Flybox

Do a google search for the waters that you most frequently visit...


PT/TB
 

JDR

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I cannot answer your question directly, but a nugget that I recently realized is that almost all Mayflies look alike, except for size and color. Same for the other two categories of aquatic insects that interest fly fishers (Caddis and Stonefly). I can also tell you that the color of the natural (and therefore the imitation) will change as the season wears on. Lighter colors in the spring and darker later in the summer. I am sure you will get far more comprehensive answers from others, but this little bit of information might help you recognize what some of your flies are meant to imitate.
I have a hard time also trying to figure out what a fly is supposed to imitate, especially with some of the new fly names that are meant to be cute.

Here is a hatch chart for the Smokies. Other streams in the region will be similar.
Fly Hatch Chart North Carolina Smoky Mountains

Welcome to the board.
 

Rip Tide

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"I look into... my fly box, and think about all the elements I should consider in choosing the perfect fly: water temperature, what stage of development the bugs are in, what the fish are eating right now. Then I remember what a guide told me: 'Ninety percent of what a trout eats is brown and fuzzy and about five-eighths of an inch long."
~~~ Allison Moir
 

Ike47

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Great stuff! Thank you. The flybox is exactly what I was looking for! Haven't found anything like it specific to the Smokies or East Tennessee in general, but I'm still looking.

(In response to Planettrout.. more replies came in while I was posting this.)
 

silver creek

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Hi. I've been fly fishing for a month now (12 days of fishing), still looking for my first catch. I keep trying to learn more, and one important area I feel totally at sea about is what flies to use under which circumstances. I've gotten lots of (good) advice, from stores like Little River Outfitters and from experienced anglers I meet while fishing, but invariably the advice is along the lines of 'I like this fly on this river at this time of year' or 'here are some good fly types if you are fishing in the Smokies' or '...at the Norris Dam tailwater', etc.

As a result, I have perhaps 50 or more different types of flies, but I don't know what they are imitating (if anything), either species or stage, with only a few exceptions (e.g., I have learned that wooly buggers imitate leeches, zebras imitate midge nymphs--I think). So what I have searched for, without success either here on the forum or by googling, is a comprehensive chart that lists the major insect types and other types of flies (midges, mayflies, caddis, stone flies, leeches, terrestrials, attractors, eggs, others?), distinguishes the various life stages where appropriate (nymph, emerger, spinner, etc), and then lists all the common flies that fit each category.

With such a chart, and knowing what's hatching, and the time of year, I could make better choices of why fly to use in any given situation. I could also look at my flies, and realize, "Oh, that's what that fly is imitating!". There are lots of hatch charts available online and in books, but I haven't found any chart of fly types based on what they imitate. Any suggestions? Thanks!
Buy a used copy of Dave Whitlock's "Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods."

Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods by Whitlock, Dave: Littlehampton Book Services Ltd 9780941130646 - Idaho Youth Ranch Books

It is an excellent introduction to the major aquatic insects and their life cycles AND patterns that imitate them.

Secondly, you need to be able to catch and examine the foods at the specific location you are fishing. So you need a method of sampling the hatch during hatches AND sampling the immature insects that are on the stream bottom during non hatch periods.

Read these posts:

Need on stream guide to identify bugs - Page 2

https://www.theflyfishingforum.com/.../364829-crushed-henrys-fork-2.html#post768816
 

Ike47

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I cannot answer your question directly, but a nugget that I recently realized is that almost all Mayflies look alike, except for size and color. Same for the other two categories of aquatic insects that interest fly fishers (Caddis and Stonefly). I can also tell you that the color of the natural (and therefore the imitation) will change as the season wears on. Lighter colors in the spring and darker later in the summer. I am sure you will get far more comprehensive answers from others, but this little bit of information might help you recognize what some of your flies are meant to imitate.
I have a hard time also trying to figure out what a fly is supposed to imitate, especially with some of the new fly names that are meant to be cute.

Here is a hatch chart for the Smokies. Other streams in the region will be similar.
Fly Hatch Chart North Carolina Smoky Mountains

Welcome to the board.
Great chart for the Smokies, thanks!
 

Ike47

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Buy a used copy of Dave Whitlock's "Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods."

Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods by Whitlock, Dave: Littlehampton Book Services Ltd 9780941130646 - Idaho Youth Ranch Books

It is an excellent introduction to the major aquatic insects and their life cycles AND patterns that imitate them.

Secondly, you need to be able to catch and examine the foods at the specific location you are fishing. So you need a method of sampling the hatch during hatches AND sampling the immature insects that are on the stream bottom during non hatch periods.

Read these posts:

Need on stream guide to identify bugs - Page 2

https://www.theflyfishingforum.com/.../364829-crushed-henrys-fork-2.html#post768816
Thanks. I've ordered the book.
 

strmanglr scott

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Great Smoky Mountains Hatch Chart for Fly Fishing

Nothing beats experience on the water. If you see a hatch going on, grab one of them and get a good look at it, take a pic if you can. Another good thing is to take fine mesh netting that has decent amount of surface area. Set it up with two sticks and have someone upstream a little kick up the bottom. After holding the net downstream scoop it up and go to the bank and lay it out and see what you have. If your by yourself, roll some rocks over and see what's living beneath. Take pictures of that and go into your local fly shop and ask them about what you found if you don't know.
 

DonW

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Look for a fly hatch chart from Trout Unlimited for your area, our local state T U prints in the newsletter and has online a fly hatch chart which also list flies to imitate by season. Helped me immensely, I'm also of the mindset just get a fly that's close and work on presentation,stealth.
 

boisker

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Hi. I've been fly fishing for a month now (12 days of fishing), still looking for my first catch. I keep trying to learn more, and one important area I feel totally at sea about is what flies to use under which circumstances. I've gotten lots of (good) advice, from stores like Little River Outfitters and from experienced anglers I meet while fishing, but invariably the advice is along the lines of 'I like this fly on this river at this time of year' or 'here are some good fly types if you are fishing in the Smokies' or '...at the Norris Dam tailwater', etc.

As a result, I have perhaps 50 or more different types of flies, but I don't know what they are imitating (if anything), either species or stage, with only a few exceptions (e.g., I have learned that wooly buggers imitate leeches, zebras imitate midge nymphs--I think). So what I have searched for, without success either here on the forum or by googling, is a comprehensive chart that lists the major insect types and other types of flies (midges, mayflies, caddis, stone flies, leeches, terrestrials, attractors, eggs, others?), distinguishes the various life stages where appropriate (nymph, emerger, spinner, etc), and then lists all the common flies that fit each category.

With such a chart, and knowing what's hatching, and the time of year, I could make better choices of why fly to use in any given situation. I could also look at my flies, and realize, "Oh, that's what that fly is imitating!". There are lots of hatch charts available online and in books, but I haven't found any chart of fly types based on what they imitate. Any suggestions? Thanks!

My suggestion would be to wind it right back... if you have been fishing a month and have 50 different patterns I’d say you have at least 40 too many.

I probably use 6 dry / emerger patterns for 95% of my dry work, and a similar number for my nymph fishing. But I would happily pull that back to 2 dries, 1 emerger and 2 nymphs... and I doubt there would be much difference in my total season catch.

So, my advice would be settle on a couple of dry patterns, an emerger and a couple of nymphs and learn to fish them well. You won’t catch more carrying loads of flies, you’ll just spend more time changing flies and worrying if you have the right pattern on.

Keep it simple and you’ll progress far quicker:)
 

silver creek

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So what I have searched for, without success either here on the forum or by googling, is a comprehensive chart that lists the major insect types and other types of flies (midges, mayflies, caddis, stone flies, leeches, terrestrials, attractors, eggs, others?), distinguishes the various life stages where appropriate (nymph, emerger, spinner, etc), and then lists all the common flies that fit each category.

With such a chart, and knowing what's hatching, and the time of year, I could make better choices of why fly to use in any given situation. I could also look at my flies, and realize, "Oh, that's what that fly is imitating!". There are lots of hatch charts available online and in books, but I haven't found any chart of fly types based on what they imitate. Any suggestions? Thanks!
Here's the deal with hatch charts. They can be very useful helpful BUT they also have their limits. Therefore, you have to know the best way to use them.

Specific species of aquatic insects prefer certain water types and flows. So if you have a river like the upper Madison that is controlled by Hebgen Dam specifically for fishing AND it is mostly composed of a specific type of water (mainly riffles in the case of the Madison), THEN a hatch chart is more valuable because the specific species of insect in the chart will likely be present in most areas of the water.

However, most rivers and stream are NOT like that. They have all kinds of water types. They can have rapids with pocket water, riffles, runs, pools, shallow flats, etc. The insect in the hatch chart will live in a specific type of water.

Furthermore, where you fish for the emerged adults may NOT be where the immature nymphs live. For example, the Hendrickson mayfly nymph lives in riffles and when it hatches, I frequently fish the adult in the next pool or flat below the riffle. But if I fished the nymph in the pool, I would be less successful than if I fished the nymph in the riffles. So it important to KNOW where the immature insect lives as well as where you will find the adults for the best fishing.

So that is why I say that sampling is the best way to tell what insects, both immature and mature are present. Furthermore, sampling gives you the SIZE, as well as the color and shape of the natural. Some species like the Pale Morning Dun (Ephemerella dorothea) will vary considerably in color from region to region. So a hatch chart will tell you that there are PMD hatches but not the specific color. Below are two adult "PMDs" that are in hatch charts as PMDs.





If that was not confusing enough, some mayflies will hatch for a very long time. As the hatch progresses through the summer months, the hatches will get smaller. So again actual sampling gives you the hatch size at the time you are fishing.

Where and what you sample also matters. If you sample only the bottom structure, you may miss the insects that live in the vegetation like scuds which tend to live in aquatic vegetation.

The more specific your information, the more closely you can match the natural. So even if you choose NOT to sample, you can use the hatch chart by googling the specific scientific insect name to find out in what specific microhabitat in the river it is found. For example, the Hexagenia Limbata is a major hatch in my area and it occurs usually about the first week of July. So it is found in local hatch charts. But where can I find it?

By googling Hexagenia limbata, I learn that the "Hex" has a multiyear life cycle and it lives in the mud. So it will be found in the silty areas of the river usually in low gradient areas of the river. So I also learn that it hatches at night so I know where to go and when to go.

Mayfly Species Hexagenia limbata (Hex) hatch & pictures

I know this adds more complexity to figuring what pattern and the correct size and color. But this complexity is why fly fishing is a lifelong sport. There is always a way to get better. I think knowing where you can go wrong will help you in your future fishing.

https://www.theflyfishingforum.com/...ting-fly-size-fly-hook-size-2.html#post779619

Then if you want to document your sampling you can do so as I did using the BCS (Borger Color System) or a home made variation of it,

https://www.theflyfishingforum.com/...ting-fly-size-fly-hook-size-2.html#post779619
 
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denver1911

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Sounds complicated. In the Smokies, I use a size 14 Thunderhead. If they aren’t hittint that, I step down to a size 16.
 

Ike47

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Here's the deal with hatch charts. They can be very useful helpful BUT they also have their limits. Therefore, you have to know the best way to use them.

Specific species of aquatic insects prefer certain water types and flows. So if you have a river like the upper Madison that is controlled by Hebgen Dam specifically for fishing AND it is mostly composed of a specific type of water (mainly riffles in the case of the Madison), THEN a hatch chart is more valuable because the specific species of insect in the chart will likely be present in most areas of the water.

However, most rivers and stream are NOT like that. They have all kinds of water types. They can have rapids with pocket water, riffles, runs, pools, shallow flats, etc. The insect in the hatch chart will live in a specific type of water.

Furthermore, where you fish for the emerged adults may NOT be where the immature nymphs live. For example, the Hendrickson mayfly nymph lives in riffles and when it hatches, I frequently fish the adult in the next pool or flat below the riffle. But if I fished the nymph in the pool, I would be less successful than if I fished the nymph in the riffles. So it important to KNOW where the immature insect lives as well as where you will find the adults for the best fishing.

So that is why I say that sampling is the best way to tell what insects, both immature and mature are present. Furthermore, sampling gives you the SIZE, as well as the color and shape of the natural. Some species like the Pale Morning Dun (Ephemerella dorothea) will vary considerably in color from region to region. So a hatch chart will tell you that there are PMD hatches but not the specific color. Below are two adult "PMDs" that are in hatch charts as PMDs.





If that was not confusing enough, some mayflies will hatch for a very long time. As the hatch progresses through the summer months, the hatches will get smaller. So again actual sampling gives you the hatch size at the time you are fishing.

Where and what you sample also matters. If you sample only the bottom structure, you may miss the insects that live in the vegetation like scuds which tend to live in aquatic vegetation.

The more specific your information, the more closely you can match the natural. So even if you choose NOT to sample, you can use the hatch chart by googling the specific scientific insect name to find out in what specific microhabitat in the river it is found. For example, the Hexagenia Limbata is a major hatch in my area and it occurs usually about the first week of July. So it is found in local hatch charts. But where can I find it?

By googling Hexagenia limbata, I learn that the "Hex" has a multiyear life cycle and it lives in the mud. So it will be found in the silty areas of the river usually in low gradient areas of the river. So I also learn that it hatches at night so I know where to go and when to go.

Mayfly Species Hexagenia limbata (Hex) hatch & pictures

I know this adds more complexity to figuring what pattern and the correct size and color. But this complexity is why fly fishing is a lifelong sport. There is always a way to get better. I think knowing where you can go wrong will help you in your future fishing.

https://www.theflyfishingforum.com/...ting-fly-size-fly-hook-size-2.html#post779619

Then if you want to document your sampling you can do so as I did using the BCS (Borger Color System) or a home made variation of it,

https://www.theflyfishingforum.com/...ting-fly-size-fly-hook-size-2.html#post779619
Thanks. Lots of helpful info!
 

Ike47

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Sounds complicated. In the Smokies, I use a size 14 Thunderhead. If they aren’t hittint that, I step down to a size 16.
wow, I haven't even heard of that fly. But I looked it up, see it's a dry fly, so I'm guessing it's more of a spring/summer fly?
 

trev

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Then if you want to document your sampling you can do so as I did using the BCS (Borger Color System) or a home made variation of it,
Any chance of Gary or anyone else publishing that again? And how would one make a homemade version of something like that if never before seen? Maybe there is an online version that I haven't found? TIA
 

silver creek

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Any chance of Gary or anyone else publishing that again? And how would one make a homemade version of something like that if never before seen? Maybe there is an online version that I haven't found? TIA
What Gary did before he published the BCS is to go to a paint store and collect paint color chips. Collect color spectrums in insect color shades For example, the one below is the beige spectrum.



This was well before compact cameras and before cell phone cameras. Now all that is needed is a small ruler and a piece white plastic for a background. Take a macro photo with a cell phone. Here's one important point. You need to photograph the BOTTOM side of the natural emerged adult as well. When the fly is on the water, the BOTTOM is the side that the trout will see and it will be a lighter shade than the top side which is the side that we most often notice.



You can even take your cell phone to the fly shop and ask them for the fly to match that hatch. There are also hatch chart apps for cell phones.
 

smoke33

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Great stuff! Thank you. The flybox is exactly what I was looking for! Haven't found anything like it specific to the Smokies or East Tennessee in general, but I'm still looking.

(In response to Planettrout.. more replies came in while I was posting this.)
Another option would be to hook up with a guide in your area who would not only be willing to guide you but teach you.
Little River hooked me and my son up with Rob Fightmaster. I asked him to just spend the day with my son teaching him and he was awesome. He’s a great guy.

Smoky Mountains Fly Fishing Guide - Fightmaster Fly Fishing


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Ike47

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Another option would be to hook up with a guide in your area who would not only be willing to guide you but teach you.
Little River hooked me and my son up with Rob Fightmaster. I asked him to just spend the day with my son teaching him and he was awesome. He’s a great guy.

Smoky Mountains Fly Fishing Guide - Fightmaster Fly Fishing


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Thanks for the recommendation. I've been thinking that a half-day or day with a guide acting primarily as a teacher would be of great benefit to me. However, getting essential gear for fly fishing has depleted my bank account for the time being. Might be a practical option come this summer. I'll certainly keep Fightmaster in mind.
 

smoke33

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Thanks for the recommendation. I've been thinking that a half-day or day with a guide acting primarily as a teacher would be of great benefit to me. However, getting essential gear for fly fishing has depleted my bank account for the time being. Might be a practical option come this summer. I'll certainly keep Fightmaster in mind.
If you don’t have wading gear he does supply that as well along with any other needed items.


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