18 Best Trout Flies for March, April, and May: Spring Fly Fishing

18 Best Trout Flies for March, April, and May: Spring Fly Fishing

For most of us, spring means warm weather and abundant hatches. From Pennsylvania to California, you’ll start to see stoneflies, dark-toned mayflies, and caddis coming off. Spring offers so much action and plenty of thrills between seeing that first rise to watching that trout engulf your perfect presentation. But with so much buzz spring can demand a large variety of flies to choose from — which is why we’ve expanded our selection to give you a full range of patterns that you need to match what’s hatching.

CDC Elk Hair Caddis Size 14 – 16

A high profile caddis pattern with CDC feathers, which are naturally waterproof and buoyant. Not only that, CDC makes for excellent lifelike movement on the water. Accurately present this to feeding trout when caddis adults are emerging and or returning to the water. For a drag-free drift, cast to allow a controllable amount of slack on the water. Towards the end of your drift, pick your rod tippet up and gently skate this fly along the surface for a few seconds. Often times reluctant trout will fall for a skating caddis rather than a “dead-drift.”

Tunghead Pheasant Size 14 – 16

This variation of a Pheasant Tail Nymph features a tungsten bead, which is extremely valuable for deep, fast water. Use soft hackle patterns like this to imitate a large variety of emerging mayflies and caddis.

Soft Hackle Hare’s Ear Size 14 – 16

A deadly duo of a natural Hare’s Ear Nymph and the pulsating movement of a soft hackle pattern. Soft hackles are simple to fish. The whole idea is to cast your line downstream to the side and let the flies swing down and across the stream. Work this pattern through seams and pair it with a lighter attractor pattern on a multi-fly rig.

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Nick’s Blue Winged Olive Emerger Size 14 – 20

Although they look ugly, soft-hackled wet flies are like that boring guy in the office that is secretly a badass and fights crime at night. We all know who that is.

Soft hackles are amazing for two reasons. One, they allow you to cover a lot of water and two, imitate the tricky behavior of emerging insects. I was actually told multiple times to hold tight onto my rod because if I didn’t it would be ripped out of my hands. That goes to show how aggressively fish attack soft hackles. Incorporate the Blue Winged Olive Soft Hackle Emerger in with your nymphing rigs or drop it below a buoyant dry fly with a 9 to 12-inch piece of tippet.

Keep your rod at about a 45° angle to give it the ability to flex and bend as the fish takes.

Parachute BWO Size 14 – 18

A versatile early spring mayfly pattern. The Parachute BWO Dun features a bright white post for better visibility during mayfly hatches. Parachutes sit a bit lower within the water but its buggy silhouette works great for imitating all cycles of a Blue-Winged Olive’s adult stages — duns and spinners.

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Stimulator Size 12 – 14

Stoneflies do not hatch like most insects, they crawl out of the stream and emerge. Newly hatched stoneflies bask in the sun on the nearby brush, trees, and rocks to dry their wings. Once ready, they take flight to find a mate. During the whole process, stoneflies sometimes fall into the stream by accident only to be eaten by awaiting trout. Later the next day, female stoneflies skate across the water to disperse the egg clusters on their abdomen into the water. Use this stimulator pattern to imitate stoneflies that were clumsy and fell in or are returning to lay their eggs.

Green Weenie Fly Pattern

Green Weenie Size 14

The Green Weenie nymph is a simple fly pattern with just a few reps of chartreuse chenille around the hook. Although it doesn’t look like much and vaguely resembles a green sedge caddis larva, these little morsels work. That’s why we keep at least a dozen of these in our boxes in all sorts of sizes and colors. We fish our Green Weenies with a smaller trailing nymph to keep it close to the bottom. Don’t be afraid to slip on a split shot above or below the green weenie.

Pheasant Tail Nymph Size 14 – 18

The classic Pheasant Tail nymph imitates all sorts of aquatic nymphs such as stoneflies, mayflies, and even caddis. When attractor flies fail to do the trick, we use a more natural-looking pattern like the Pheasant Tail. Usually, when times get tough, we fish a multi-fly rig with the Pheasant Tail followed by a smaller midge pattern, like a Zebra Midge, in size 18-20.

Prince Nymph Size 12 – 18

From experienced to beginner anglers, the Prince Nymph makes top 10 for one of the most valuable fly patterns ever. It serves as more of an attractor fly and searching pattern but imitates a wide range of aquatic insects. We recommend fishing the Prince Nymph with a light indicator for soft takes. Our staff likes to add emerger flies and midge larvae patterns above the Prince Nymph in bigger water. Because of its flashy appearance, it draws fish in to take either the Prince Nymphs or the small and more natural emergers or midge patterns.

Rainbow Warrior Size 16 – 20

If you were trapped on an island and could only have 1 fly to fish with for food, the Rainbow Warrior should be among the top 5 you select from. This warrior is an excellent attractor fly in multi-fly rigs and is an even better searching pattern for trout.

Holo Midge Size 18 – 20

Midges represent over 50% of a trout’s diet in the winter months. As spring approaches and temperatures begin to rise, they become even more important. Frankly, they are fantastic year-round when hatches are sparse and infrequent. Use a 4x – 6x tippet and space flies 9 – 12 inches apart.

Zebra Midge Size 18 – 22

It’s best to fish midge larvae patterns in tandem or with a heavy fly either tied in below or above them. Use a small indicator and set on even the slightest of movement. Getting deep enough makes a world of a difference, so use a split shot or two to get down.

Elk Hair Caddis Size 12 – 18

With water temperatures rising to optimal levels, caddis are exploding. Typically water temperatures around 52 to 54 degrees trigger massive caddis activity. During the mid-day, feeding trout will mainly focus on the quick-swimming pupae that make their way to the surface. A simple rig of two to three soft-hackled wet flies swung through a pod of rising trout will surely get a strike.

Towards dusk, caddis will return to the water to deposit their eggs. This is your opportunity to target dozens of rising trout with few refusals. It is essential to present these Elk Hair patterns on the surface with minimal drag when your fly is pulled unnaturally. This is typically caused by your line getting pushed and pulled by the currents.

Mend your line as often as needed to present a fly dragfree. Use your rod to flick and reposition your line the opposite way the current is going.

Soft Hackled Caddis Size 14 – 18

When other flies fail, this soft hackle pattern has an uncanny way of surpassing our expectations. While it can be swung through pocket water and deep pools, the Caddis Soft Hackle is most effectively fished either below an indicator whether it be a foam strike indicator or a buoyant dry fly.

BWO Foam Emerger Size 18 – 22

Amidst all the chaos of larger insects hatching, trout may fool you and key in on something else — something smaller. This is what we call a masking hatch. Usually, it’s a smaller insect hatching amongst other larger flies. Trout will often only feed on the smaller insect because they are more abundant and or easier to catch.

Having a versatile emerger pattern like this BWO Foam Emerger is perfect for imitating not only Blue Winged Olives (BWO) but a wide range of tiny mayflies and midges.

There are two telltale signs that a masking hatch is occurring. Probably the most acclaimed sign is when fish seem to be rising to ‘nothing’ — because the insect is so small. And the other, when fish refuse your fly consistently. While they may refuse to take your fly for other reasons, considering all your options is always a wise choice.

Para Emerger Size 12 – 16

Hatches can always come early. There is a great chance that you’ll find large mayflies like March Browns and a variety of Drakes ‘coming off.’ This Para Emerger imitates a wide range of those emerging mayflies and could easily be fished as a mayfly spinner for late afternoon spinner falls.

Adams Parachute Size 12 – 18

I can’t imagine my fly box without an Adams Parachute. There are so many mayfly hatches in the spring that are dull or dark in color with a bit of size to them. The Adams Parachute is so versatile it can cover pretty much all the mayfly hatches from March into June. For example, I’ll use this pattern in a size #12 and #14 on Penn’s Creek in Pennsylvania for the March Brown hatch and 10 days later use a size #18 for a Blue-Winged Olive hatch on the Little Lehigh River in the Lehigh Valley. This fly is just a given.

Woolly Bugger Size 6 – 10

Streams will get deep and fast with the amount of rain or snowmelt Spring brings. And, sometimes, hatches will be delayed when water temperatures drop from cold spells, snowmelt, and or rainfall. While insects become less active, fish must still continue to feed. As a result, they will rely more heavily on easy and opportunistic meals.

Swinging a streamer through sections of a nice ‘run’ and striping in at a modest pace with timed pauses is an effective way to entice larger fish in poor and good conditions.

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