Choosing the Right Fly for Each Season

Many seasoned anglers know exactly what flies to use for each species. However, even experienced anglers might not know how to adapt their flies to the season. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an avid fisherman or just someone looking to get into fly fishing. Either way, you’ll need to know how to choose the right fly for each season.

This guide will cover the factors to consider when choosing the fly.

Target Fish

As always, what fly you’re going to be using obviously depends on what fish you’re targeting. Fly fishing is most popularly used to catch trout and salmon. That said, it doesn’t mean you can’t use flies for other fish. In fact, since flies can imitate so many creatures, they can even be used to catch bigger fish like bass, pike, and muskies.

The important thing about flies, as with any bait, is to imitate the target fish’s prey. When choosing your fly, always look up what your target fish is eating and identify prey that stay close to the surface.

What Insects Are There In Each Season?

Another factor to consider when choosing your fly is what insects are present in the waters. You’ll need to choose flies that imitate whatever insects are present. Of course, it doesn’t mean that if your fly isn’t an insect that is present in the water, you won’t be able to fish successfully. However, the safest way is always to imitate whatever’s present, because you can’t go wrong with that.

Generally, insects don’t reproduce seasonally, which means in most seasons, you can find both nymphs and adult aquatic insects. This is good news, as it means you won’t be limited to only nymphs or only dry flies. The only exception is winter. During winter, aquatic insects have a variety of ways to survive the cold. Adult insects either hibernate, seek shelter or migrate. Non-adult insects overwinter as eggs, larvae, pupae, and nymphs.

As you may have noticed, adult insects are often nowhere to be found during winter. Nymphs and larvae may still be active. As such, during winter, nymphs are often the best choice. All in all, when considering the insects present in each season, the only season you’ll really need to look out for is winter.

Fishes’ Behaviours In Each Season

Finally, the hardest factor to take into account is fishes’ behaviours in each season. Let’s start off with summer.

Summer

Summer is the hottest season. To some fish, the warmth is desirable, while others find the heat unbearable. This is why some fish tend to stay near the bottom, shying away from the heat. Others stay near the surface to seek warmth. The key is to understand the behaviour of your target fish. If your fish is staying near the bottom of the river, it doesn’t matter how attractive your surface fly is; the fish won’t see it.

This means during summer, if you’re fly fishing and your fish tends to shy away from the heat, you’ll need to fish deep or fish at night when the sun is down. On the other hand, if your target fish seeks the warmth of the sun, you’re better off fly fishing in the afternoon when the sun is brightest. At this point, your target fish will be crowding near the surface, making fly fishing easy.

Autumn

In the fall, in preparation for winter, fish will be trying to eat as much as they can to store more fats. This means your selection of flies can be looser, as fish will be less picky with what they eat. They will also be swimming around more, and even fish who usually stay in deeper water will be coming to the surface to find more food. This will make fly fishing easier too.

Winter

During winter, food is less readily available to fish. Moreover, fish will have already stored fat in their body.

As such, having already stored up fat, they won’t need as much food. This leads to fish being more “lazy” and searching for food less actively. Even if their usual prey were right in front of them, they may not bite, because they don’t really need it. This means you may need more tempting flies than usual. For example, while usually many flies may do the trick for trout, in the winter you might need to try something different, like dead drifting a streamer.  

Spring

Finally, in early spring, fish will be hungrier than usual after spending the winter with little food. Once again, similar to autumn, your selection of flies can be looser. However, in late spring, once fish have had their fill, they’ll revert back to their normal states and you’ll have to tighten your choices of flies.

Putting It All Together

To sum it up, when choosing flies for each season, you’ll need to consider which fish you’re targeting, what insects are present, and finally how the fishes’ behaviour will change during each season. For those who skimmed through the whole thing, you might want to stick with streamers, which almost always work.

Lastly, learn to choose the best time to go fishing, or the effectiveness of your flies will be diminished.

Since you’re here, you’re probably looking to get better at fly fishing. Check out these 10 tips for fishing to up your fishing game.


Reuben went on his first fishing trip when he was 9. That’s when he fell in love with fishing. When he’s not fishing, he’s searching for new gear and ways to fish better.


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