Fly fishermen have a knack for gear, whether it’s new rods, reels, waders, boots, or nets. The unfortunate truth for most is that no matter how nice your equipment is, it won’t catch you the fish. That is where fly selection is critical. Choosing the right pattern can make or break the day regardless of what you target. More times than I care to admit, I’ve worked a run without a bite, only to change flies and start catching fish immediately. A wide selection of patterns and sizes is the ticket to putting more fish in the net. Luckily, new and innovative flies hit the fly bins every year, giving anglers the edge over fish that have seen it all. Here are my picks for the best new flies of 2023.
Check Out The Patterns Below:
- Best Nymph Pattern: Umpqua Tailwater Sowbug Jig CDC Tungsten
- Best Dry Fly: Umpqua Foam Spinner
- Best Saltwater Fly: Umpqua Danger Muffin Crab
- Best Attractor Fly: Umpqua Twister Worm
- Best Streamer: Umpqua Foam Gut Minnow
- Best Classic: Fulling Mill Tom Rosenbauer’s Deep Caddis Pupa
How We Chose These Patterns
Flies are one of the most debated topics amongst fly anglers. Some anglers will fish any and everything, while others have their ideas of what draws the line between flies and lures. Regardless of where you land, the best flies consistently put fish in the net regardless of conditions. After countless hours on the water, we landed on a selection of flies for various fishing styles that repeatedly resulted in fish. In testing new patterns, a few things set the best out from the rest. They caught fish and featured quality hooks, beads, and materials that held up to abuse, especially when fly prices are nearing four bucks a piece.
- Sizes: 14 and 16
- Colors: Sow bug with silver or pink bead
- Hook Type: Barbless jig
- Mimics a wide range of sowbugs and scuds
- Jig-style fly rides hook point up
- Tungsten bead
- Best used in tailwater fisheries where sowbugs are abundant
Sowbug patterns are a hidden gem amongst fly patterns. They don’t get the love that fancy mayfly and stonefly patterns get, but they’re incredibly effective. In practically every river, you can find a population of sowbugs. These tiny crustaceans are packed with protein and are found year-round. Umpqua’s newest sowbug pattern, the Tailwater Sowbug Jig CDC Tungsten, is simple but effective. Designed by legendary fly designed and competition angler Lance Egan, it is an excellent impressionistic fly. The sow scud dub body and a CDC collar create ample movement and a realistic color scheme. It’s available in sizes 14 and 16 to match most sowbugs and with two different bead colors—the natural silver bead fishes best in clearer water or areas with pressured fish. The pink bead option is a sure bet for off-color water or aggressive stocked fish.
- Sizes: 10, 12, and 16
- Colors: Green drake and pink lady
- Hook Type: Standard dry fly hook
- Minimizes line twist
- Floats well
- A wide range of sizes mimics a majority of spinners
- It can be hard to see in low light
When a good mayfly spinner fall is happening, it’s hard to look in any direction and not see a rising fish. While fish are abundant, so are anglers, and fish, especially on pressured waterbodies, catch on fast. Umpqua’s Foam Spinner is one of the few patterns I’ve found that consistently fools wary trout. Its closed foam cell body floats well on the water, even in larger sizes. Anglers can imitate just about any spinner fall with a wide range of hook sizes and two color options. The Umpqua Foam Spinner pattern looks incredibly realistic in part to the hackle wings. Most spinner patterns on the market utilize synthetic wings, which work well but can be a pain to cast with light tippets. The hackle wings reduce the chance of line twists on fine tippets, resulting in delicate presentations.
- Sizes: 02, 04, 06
- Colors: Ghost Tan, Golden Brown, and Sandy Olive
- Hook Type: Saltwater jig
- Incredibly realistic
- Lands softly
- Various sizes and colors
- It can be hard to cast in strong winds
Permit fishing is the ultimate test of an angler’s will. They are wary, powerful, and, unfortunately for us, incredibly particular. On moving tides, they cruise flats and channel edges looking for crabs, where anglers hunt for them, throwing their best crab imitations. One that stands out amongst the rest is the Danger Muffin Crab. This incredibly effective pattern is similar to other impressionistic patterns but features an added level of realism. The genius behind this fly is the mixture of deer hair and rabbit for the body. It creates a realistic mottling effect and lets the fly land softly in the water. It’s offered in three colors and multiple sizes, so anglers can match the hatch and imitate any crab. When the permit push onto the flats, make sure this pattern is in your box.
- Sizes: 16 – 2.5mm bead, 16 – 3.0mm bead
- Colors: Pink and red
- Hook Type: Jig hook
- Great action
- Finesse option to traditional worm patterns
- Jig hooks hold fish well
- Best for off-color water
Love it or hate it, the San Juan Worm and its offspring are one of the most effective trout patterns anywhere. This iteration of a worm pattern, the Twisted Worm, takes its effectiveness one step further. It’s made with furled spanflex that has great action in the water and is much more durable than traditional squirmy material. The slim profile helps this fly get down fast, and is available with two different bead sizes. Fished on a euro rig, this is a great anchor fly to draw streaks from fish. Even when traditional worm flies don’t work, the small size and natural movement draw strikes more often than not. So rest assured; this is a pattern you can always find floating around my fly box.
- Sizes: 01
- Colors: Black/purple, Chartreuse/fluorescent Yellow, and White/red
- Hook Type: Nickel-plated streamer hook
- Draws consistent reaction strikes
- It gives anglers a visual fishing experience
- Multiple colors imitate a variety of baitfish
- Can’t target deeper fish
Over the years of pressure, saltwater fish, especially those in the Florida Keys, have become much more selective and wary. Small flies and ones that land softly are essential to target these fish effectively. The Foam Gut Minnow is a prime example of a fly designed out of necessity. This streamer pattern lands softly and has a sparse look in the water. It fishes just below the surface to imitate wounded baitfish. Whether targeting cruising tarpon or trophy trout, the combination of action and profile makes this a deadly pattern.
- Sizes: 14 and 16
- Colors: Tan caddis
- Hook Type: Barbless nymph hook
- Already established pattern with updated hardware
- Sinks fast
- Realistic impression of a caddis pupa
- Only offered in two sizes
For a good reason, Tom Rosenbauer’s Deep Caddis Pupa has earned its spot in countless angler’s boxes. It’s incredibly effective and can be fished in a variety of ways. Whether deep-dropped or swung, this fly draws consistent strikes when fish are keying in on caddisflies. The Fulling Mill version offers the same pattern with proven hardware. The barbless nickel-plated hooks are amongst the sharpest and strongest on the market. There’s a reason competition anglers turn to Fulling Mill. Paired with a black nickel bead and available in two sizes, it’s a worthy investment for anglers wanting an all-around caddis pattern.
Every angler has their idea of what fly is the best. While I certainly have a few I gravitate towards, fishing them with confidence is critical. Plenty of times, I worked a hole top to bottom with the “so-called” hot fly only to put on my go-to and instantly hook up. Knowing how and where to fish your confidence patterns leads to more hookups. Still, new flies flood the market yearly, and many are worth trying out. The best way to find the right fly is to look for patterns similar to what you’re used to. These new patterns will fish like your go-to but with new materials and action that will fool wary fish. So next time you’re at the local fly shop, look around the boxes and see what’s new and interesting – it never hurts to change things up.