42 - 10 Classic traditional trout flies still catching!


Fashions come and go in life and angling, but some things never change.  Conditions and form might blow hot and cold, but class is permanent as they say! This not only explains why people still treasure great books, rods or reels from decades past, but why some of the oldest of fly patterns still make their way into boxes and creels all over the world. Where would we be, for example, without favourite patterns such as the Red Tag, Zulu or Black Spider?


So which favourite trout flies from history are still worth a cast today? Here are 10 of the best and most successful flies of all time, still doing the business on rivers and stillwaters decades on. Many of them are not just effective, but stylish and come with the added charm of a little fly fishing history to boot! Nor will these elegant fly patterns break the bank from just 50p each:


Red Tag (£0.50)

We wouldn’t be without this great little traditional dry fly. Long before modern sparkle materials and synthetic yarns, fly tyers would use good old red wool as a target point to great effect. Not only does this classic dry fly bring up trout, but is one of our must have flies for grayling.

TOP TIP: To make any bushy dry fly extra buoyant, try applying floatant twice. The first time, as soon as you tie it or buy it, the second time on the water. You can’t go far wrong with Turrall Premium Dry Fly Floatant. A tiny amount is all you need and bottle should last several seasons.



Wickham’s Fancy (£0.50)

Whether used as a sedge fly with a bit of bling or an out and out attractor, this is still a wonderful fly, whether it is tied and fished dry (as pictured) or as a winged wet fly. It’s a great fly for river fishing in windy, bright conditions-  or any occasion when the usual, more realistic flies are getting ignored.



Black Spider (£0.95)

What could be simpler than a thread body and a soft hackle? We’d take classic spider patterns just about anywhere in the world, they remain so useful and universal. There are many variants – including “Stewart’s Spider”. Here is a Clyde Style dressing, retaining a key simplicity with just a hint of peacock. You’d happily fish this on river or stillwater alike, in any hatch of small, dark insects.

TOP TIP: When you’re fishing slow flowing or still water and trout refuse to take  a dry, a small spider can be just the ticket. Try on a fine tippet, either with a small indicator or New Zealand style.




Hare’s lug and plover (£0.95)

Another wonderfully old fashioned fly pattern that is still deadly today. Don’t let the simple design fool you- the bugginess of hare and the sparse, mobile “legs” are timelessly attractive to trout and grayling. A must for the river angler



Tup’s Indispensible (£0.50)
You really couldn’t make the story of this one up! A “Tup” is a ram- and legend has it that the light, pinkish hued and slightly waxy dubbing for the original came from their nether regions! No sheep are harmed in the making of them today, we add with a slight snigger. The colour combination is still a killer, it’s an excellent dry fly and we love it even more because it was born just down the road from us in Tiverton, Devon, on the banks of the River Exe.



Butcher (£0.50)

If ever a fly suited its title, it has to be the Butcher. Not a natural copy of any fly, the colours represent the blue of the butcher’s apron, along with the silver of his knife and as for red… we don’t need to spell that bit out. It’s still a good wet fly to use on brown trout in any loch style team. Especially when there are tiny fry in the water.


Royal Coachman (£0.50)

Another fly you’d struggle to fit into any realistic category, it is nevertheless highly effective. The red “waistcoat” gives the fly its curious name. It looks a bit OTT, but works a treat to this day. Besides the dry variant shown, it’s also superb as a wet fly or even tied with a parachute style hackle- and we stock several versions like this.

TOP TIP: Colourful, attractor style flies are still well worth a try, especially for those who fish a team of three or four flies. One good piece of advice is to try a more garish fly or two on droppers, before presenting a subtler fly on the point. The thinking is that fish will often come and look at the brighter patterns, before accepting something smaller and subtler. Give it a try!


Invicta (£0.50)

Used by many as a sedge fly copy, this could more accurately be described as a general fit bushy loch style fly. It has a little of everything and is fabulous on wild waters for browns.


Zulu (£0.50)

Forget the Michael Cane movie of the same name, this is a fabulous wet fly for any wild trout lake. For anyone who regularly fishes the more rugged lochs and lakes of Britain, it’s a fly you wouldn’t want to be without.


Muddler Minnow (£0.65)

Tied by US angler Don Gapen way back in 1936, this fly is still catching big trout today! Meant to imitate a sculpin (or bullhead to British anglers) it’s semi-bouyant and should be fished aggressively. A great fly to try in flowing water, especially early or lake, anywhere you suspect a big, predatory trout to be in waiting.  That said, a shiny-bodied muddler is also worth a go on stillwaters for aggressive surface strikes at dusk.