Best Trout Flies to Cover your Fishing Season

//Written by Matti Härkönen
//Photography by Matti Härkönen

Every fly fisherman has his own all-star trout flies for his fishing season. He won’t head to the river without those patterns in the box.

Most of these arsenals have been developed over the years by trying countless trout flies on the water. The same goes for me and now I’ll open my box to show you my all-star trout flies for the summer fishing season in Finland. I’ll cover summer fly fishing in central and eastern Finland and my selection is limited to streamers and dry flies. Why? Because I have quite an obsession to fish with them and there are better fly fishermen than me to tell you about nymph fishing in Finland.

Late May and June

This time of the year water levels are usually still quite high from the spring floods but the water in rivers has already started to get a little warmer. That warmer water welcomes bleaks and perch to rivers and right after them come the big trout from the lakes. Because of the water level, fishing can be quite difficult from time to time but in my opinion this is the best time to hook big trout.

Usually perch arrive first and they swim deep down close to the bottom. That’s why you need to weight your flies so they can reach these areas. A sinking line or sinking tips/leaders and heavier trout flies make that quite easy. Even though perch like to stay at the bottom it doesn’t mean you should only fish deep. Sometimes trout can misjudge a fly in the surface for a wounded perch. That’s why I have two perch patterns I always keep in my fly boxes.

The Perch Trout Flies

A Perch Trout Flies Streamer
A Perch Streamer for Trout

The Conehead Zonker Perch is a savior I came up with many years ago. I wanted to make a sinking perch fly which would go deep and still maintain a fish-like shape. A lot of weighted wire on the body and the conehead give the fly the ability to sink right to the bottom and still look lively. I use deer hair as a collar because I believe it maintains the shape better than dub-looped hare etc.

Apart from the deer hair collar this fly is very easy to tie and effective throughout the year. You should also try it without any weight and with the head made of antron. That weightless version has been one of my best trout flies early in the spring when there’s still snow around and trout hang around in mellow parts of the river.

The Rainbow Perch Trout Flies Streamer
A Rainbow Streamer for Trout

The Rainbow is a fly that most Finnish fly fishermen know. It was originally developed by Erkki Norell, a man who has been the marketing chief at Rapala and has written many books about fly fishing. I fell in love with the fly right away when I tied it the first time many years ago. Even though the fly takes its time to tie it is worth it. I also managed to catch my first lake run brown trout with it.

When the cone-headed Zonker Perch does its magic in the bottom The Rainbow does it near the surface. In the original recipe, the front of the body is weighted with a little bit of lead wire but the fly also works without it. I can remember so many great moments when I have seen the trout take the fly right under the surface.

The Bleak Trout Flies

Tinseli Trout Flies Streamer
The Tinseli Streamer for Trout

The Tinseli is maybe the most used bleak imitation fly in Finland. It is quite easy to tie and you can easily make it 4 inches or 6 inches long. I think the most important aspect of this fly, as well as in the other flies, is its shape. You have to make the head in a way that it stands out especially when you’re fishing in tougher rapids. This fly works whether you’re fishing deep down or in the surface and during summer you might want to try it in a golden version.

Fly Fishing Season Finland V
The Surfboard Streamer for Trout

The Surfboard is the most exciting streamer for trout pattern there is. The original pattern was developed by Pertti Kanerva, a famous finnish fly fishing author. Nowadays there are numerous versions of the fly all around Finland but everyone of them has the same original idea; a floatant fish pattern.

Fishing with it is like fishing with a dry fly except this “dry fly” is usually over 4 inches long and imitates bleaks or other small fish. You can fish it in a dead drift or make it swim on the surface like hell when you strip it fast. Either way trout usually take the fly with beautiful high jumps. That’s what makes this fly the funniest one to fish with.

Fly Fishing Season Finland I
The Black Monster Streamer for Trout

The Black Monster is the fly for rapids. When it might be a pain in the ass to cast it’s really effective when fishing tough rapids. This fly isn’t actually a bleak pattern but I have gotten the best results with it when bleaks have arrived on the river. It’s very easy to tie because basically all you need is black zonker and black antron. UV resin and eyes are a new thing for The Black Monster. I also like to tie some red hair into it and some silver flashes on the sides but I don’t think they matter that much because I mostly use this fly during the night. That’s why the fish-like shape is the most important thing here.

Late June until mid August

As much as I love to fish a streamer for trout, I love fishing a dry fly. There is nothing more satisfying than making a trout rise to your dry fly in a warm summer night. In Finland the dry fly fishing season starts around mid June. Sure, there is a short period of dry fly fishing during spring time but I won’t focus on that now. Usually July is the best time for dry fly fishing with lots of caddis and mayflies hatching. Hatches from little caddis to big mayflies make you wanna have many options in your dry fly box.

The Caddis Flies

Fly Fishing Season Finland VIII
The Nelson’s Caddis Trout Fly

The Nelson’s Caddis and especially the parachute hackle version of it is my number one caddis fly. It floats quite low so fish can also perceive it as a pupa. You can tie many variations in terms of colours and sizes to match the hatch. My personal favorite is the one tied on a size 14 hook with a green body to it.

I can still clearly remember last summer when I was fishing a series of little rapids deep in the woods. First I managed to spot a number of trout and landed a bigger one with the Skater fly. I let the spot calm down about an hour. Then I went back for an even bigger trout. I made my way to that little pool very quietly and almost crawling. I tied a size 14 Nelson’s Caddis to the leader and very carefully made the first cast. It floated perfectly over the fish but nothing happened. Next cast, same spot and this time I made the fly drift just a little bit. And the trout took the fly! With a light rod the fish gave me one hell of a fight in those little rapids. After the battle and a quick measurement the trout regained its freedom.

Fly Fishing Season Finland IX
The Nalle Puh Trout Fly

The Nalle Puh (Winnie The Pooh in english) is also a fly that is recognized by every finnish fly fishermen. The original pattern was developed by Simo Lumme and the fly itself is our National Fly. It is also the fly I caught my first trout with. The original recipe uses bear in the wings and the body is made by hare and seal dubbing mixed together.

Nowadays bear hair is hard to get from stores here in Finland so I replaced it with poly yarn. It’s important to shape the wing like a letter V to imitate a caddis on the surface flapping its wings. You can call me lazy but I usually replace the dubbing mix with some light brown dry fly dubbing. While this fly is normally tied in brown colors you should try it an all black and gray/grizzle version.

The Mayflies

Fly Fishing Season Finland IV
The Little Mayfly Trout Flies Pattern

The Little Mayfly is my number one fly when I’m sitting on the river bank and watch little mayflies dance on the water. It is simple to tie and maybe because of that it is deadly when the time is right. A couple of years ago this pattern turned a good early summer day into a great early summer day. In the middle of the day trout started to feed off something from the surface and the only fly they accepted was this simple fly tied on a size 16 hook.

Fly Fishing Season Finland III
The Idaho Tourist Dry Fly for Trout

The Idaho Tourist Fly was a pattern I found in an old finnish fly fishing book. I don’t think this pattern is much of a mayfly imitation but it’s a great fly to irritate trout and spot them. Because of my addiction to dry fly fishing I like to fish with dry flies even in the middle of the day when you can see no fish rising at all. That’s when I use this bad boy. Just cast it a bit upstream and mend your line downstream so the fly starts drifting faster than the current. Usually it makes trout show from where they’re hiding with an aggressive take on the fly.

These are the trout flies that I always take with me to the river in the central and eastern Finland. Sure there are many other ones but these guys have been with me the longest time and earned their places in the All-Star line. The other trout flies are still doing their internships.