A BAKER’S DOZEN – Fly Buying Made Simple!


By 5280 Angler professional Guide, Ron Pecore

It’s easy for novice or even intermediate anglers to feel overwhelmed when they walk into a fly shop. Scanning hundreds of bins of countless flies for sale can really create paralysis by analysis! Dry flies – nymphs –  streamers – terrestrials – eggs AHHHAHAHAHA! So, where do you start? One fundamental key to navigating all these flies is to remember that there are several patterns tied for each order of insect (mayfly, caddis, stonefly, midge make up the big four). So, by simply learning the 5 or 6 main insect hatches for your area/season,  you can easily shrink this huge selection to a handful, or a baker’s dozen (see below).

entomology for the fly fisherman

Sometimes the bugs let you know which fly to choose…

In our local South Platte River system, the main hatches are midges, blue-winged olive mayflies, caddis, yellow sally stones, golden stones , pale morning duns, tricos, grass hoppers and aquatic worms. There are a few more of course. However, these are the bugs I focus on most often, as they are most prevalent in the system most often – simple math really.
Some of these flies are present all year, while others make their brief appearance when the water temperature is just right for them to hatch. Most fly shops will have a current hatch list and their fly pattern suggestions posted for you.
One important piece of information often left out and unlisted: The time of day to use each pattern. Insect activity and the hatches transition throughout the day, so when you buy your baker’s dozen make sure to ask what time of day you should use one of your newly purchased flies. This is the question most anglers forget to ask, so they may use the right flies, or correct life cycle imitation, at the wrong time of day.

My personal baker’s dozen of preferred flies, from now through the rest of summer include:

1. Pat's Rubber Legs # 10 or 8 in either black or gold

2. Tan worm or chocolate worm

3. Juju Baetis. Size 18 or 20

4. Barr's olive emerger size 18 or 20

5. Black beauties, size 18, 20 or 22

6. Jail bird midge, size 20

7. Flash back pheasant tail, size 18

8. Barr's PMD emerger, size 16 or 18

9. Dorsey's top secret midge, size 20

9. Juju PMD, size 18

10. Parachute Adams, size 20

11. Parachute PMD, size 18

12. Tan Elk hair caddis, size 18

13. Hoppers - size 10 or 12
Remember, along different sections of the South Platte, the insect sizes and predominant hatches can vary somewhat. In addition to a list such as the one above, you may need supplement from time to time. For example, when the trout are keying on tricos, you’ll need some size 22 trico patterns to best match that hatch.
When in doubt,  make sure you check with your local fly shop. This basic selection of flies listed above should take you all the way through summer. Tie one on, Set the hook,  and Hold on!