Whether you are a beginner or a vet, fly fishing for rainbow trout can be a challenge. These are a beautiful fish but they’re not very easy to catch. Rainbow trout are by far one of the strongest fighters in the trout category and are so much of a rush, in fact, that some anglers spend their entire lives only fishing for rainbows. For many, catching trout means tying on a spinner or a basic night crawler. But, you know us, we’re about doing it on the fly. So what are our top flies for catching rainbow trout? While it depends on the time of year, here are my personal favorites.
And remember, just because these are the flies I use, this doesn’t mean they’ll work in every situation. I have them in my fly box as they’re versatile year round, and fit my style of fishing. That said, if you do more fly fishing for rainbow trout around their spawning, you’re going to be using something completely different.
These flies work well in the spring time, as well as through out the summer. When there’s a hatch going on mid morning, I turn to a Parachute Adams or an Elk Hair Caddis. I’ve had great luck using a Pheasant Tail or a Copper John, or any nymph with a little bit of color underneath.
That being said, you can definitely increase your chances of bagging a couple with higher catch percentage flies. This post is a complete list of the absolute best rainbow trout flies that will help you catch a lot more fish on the river.
Ready? Let’s dive into it!
These are 5 of the Best Flies for Catching Rainbow Trout, period
- Parachute Adams
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Morrish Mouse
- Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear
- Pheasant Tail
- Rainbow Warrior Nymph
I don’t think that any list about the best trout fishing flies is complete without the parachute adams dry fly. Rainbow trout love these little guys. They imitate a wide variety of aquatic animals such as mayflies and caddis flies.
They work especially well during the Spring hatch and the during the Autumn fall. Trout are coming up to the tops of the water for bugs and can easily mistake your fly for a meal.
I wouldn’t recommend using this fly when the water you are fly fishing is very deep. The rainbows won’t be able to see your fly very well so you’re better off going with a gold ribbed hare’s ear or a pheasant tail nymph.
The Parachute Adams also works fairly well when the water conditions are clear.
When to use a Parachute Adams for Rainbow Trout
- Clear water
- During a morning hatch
Parachute Adams not working? Try these
- Blue Winged Olive
- Green Drake
There’s a reason the Parachute Adams is the main dry fly and a time tested option for catching rainbows on the fly. This fly flat out works. It’s one of my personal favorite dry flies of all time because it brings in fish. Fish it early, fish it all summer.
As always, if it’s not working and you know the fish are there, switch it out.
Elk Hair Caddis
The next fly on my list is another dry fly, but this time it’s the elk hair caddis. Similar to the parachute adams, the elk hair caddis has been a popular fly in fly anglers boxes for years now.
It imitates stoneflies and caddis flies, two popular rainbow trout meals. It works very well when the water conditions are turbulent and tumbling. This is because it makes the elk hair caddis look the most realistic to it’s actual meal.
Use this during the hatch especially and you will find yourself with a lot of rainbow trout jumping on your line.
The elk hair caddis dry fly is a very popular trout fishing fly.
Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear
Next up on my list of the best rainbow trout flies is the gold ribbed hare’s ear nymph. This is personally one of my favorite nymphs to use while I’m trout fishing because it does pretty well on the river.
It imitates a lot of different bugs and insects such as mayfly nymphs, scuds and sow bugs. All of which are Rainbow Trout meals.
This is a good rainbow trout fly to use when the water conditions are deep and dark. Since the gold ribbed hare’s ear is shiny, it’s much more visible to the fish.
The one problem with using nymphs when you are fly fishing is that they will get caught on logs and rocks much more frequently than a dry fly would.
That being said, if you are able to master nymphing, you will catch a lot of rainbow trout.
Overall, this is another great fly for catching rainbow trout.
The fourth fly on this list is the Pheasant Tail nymph. A staple in a lot of trout fishers fly boxes, the Pheasant Tail nymph has been a rainbow trout killer for roughly 60 years. There isn’t very many flies in the fly fishing game that have stuck around for as long as the Pheasant Tail Nymph.
It’s one of the best nymphs on the planet to imitate Mayflies and other aquatic larvae.
Sometimes you will find that some rivers have better results with different flies compared to another river. That’s why I love to have a variety of flies in my box.
The pheasant tail nymph is one of those nymphs that might be a complete dud in one location, but catch a lot of rainbow trout at the next.
It’s a numbers game really, and when the numbers are in your favor, fly fishing is a lot of fun.
Here’s when I use a Pheasant Tail for Rainbow Trout
- Colored Nymphs not working
- Early hatch
- Slower water and riffles
Overall the pheasant tail nymph has been around forever and for a good reason, it’s very successful on the river.
The Morrish Mouse is a new fly that has grown in popularity in recent years as one of the best trout flies available. This big fly is a combination of hair and foam to that rainbows like to take a chance on. This is a fly that you can use when a lot of the other flies aren’t working.
Situations where I use a Morrish Mouse
If a most of your favorite flies aren't working, throw on one of these flies and see what happens. You'll be surprised.
Rainbow Warrior Nymph
I hesitate to list the Rainbow Warrior Nymph as my 6th favorite fly for rainbow trout. When things aren’t working on the stream, try tossing one of these little guys.
Situations I use a Rainbow Warrior Nymph
- Muddy water
- Natural colored Nymphs not working
- Quick water
Those are the best flies for Rainbow Trout.
If you want my personal opinion, don’t go out to the river with one fly in mind. You’ll likely find that if one fly isn’t working here, another one will work.
Rainbow trout are going to eat, you just have to have enough options for them to find something that looks appetizing.
But at the end of the day, I would make sure to at least have some gold ribbed hare’s ear nymphs and some parachute adams flies. These are surely two of the most popular rainbow trout flies you’ll find on the market, and you’ll likely catch a lot of fish.
Especially if you learn how to use them correctly.
Regardless, best of luck to you and tight lines!