Attractor Flies for Fly Fishing

What is an Attractor Fly in Fly Fishing [12 Favorites and Setting it Up]

There are few things more exhilarating in fishing than feeling a massive strike on the end of your line. It’s a high that sucks you in and refuses to let you go. The anticipation of those strikes keeps anglers going back to the water for their entire lives. While these strikes aren’t always common, there are a few flies that can give you confidence an opportunity like this is going to happen on your next cast.

Striking a Fly
Fish Striking a Fly

These flies are called attractor flies. They’re big, flashy and created with the purpose of attracting the attention of the nearest trophy fish. Attractor flies are most often dry flies, but they can also be nymphs or streamers.

Attractor Flies 1 - 4
Attractor Flies 1 – 4

1. Stimulator in Size 14

The Stimulator should be a go-to fly in the midst of any dry fly bite. It will work especially well if you aren’t quite sure what you should be throwing. The fly is tied with deer hair so it is guaranteed to float for a long while.

Be sure to use some floatant on this fly to guarantee those perfect drifts. It will sit high on the surface so you’ll have no problem seeing when a fish slurps this underwater. If you’re in the mood to catch anything and everything, this fly is going to work well. Fish of all sizes will strike at it if they get the chance.

There are few dry fly patterns that work as well as the Stimulator. If you have no idea what to use, it’s at least going to give you an idea if the fish are looking at the surface. Don’t ever shy away from throwing this fly!

2. Madam X in size 12

The Madam X is one of those flies that appears to imitate several insects. At first glance, it looks like a hopper imitation, but with some more studying you realize it could be a stonefly, damselfly or any other sort of large water insect.

The Madam X is also tied with deer hair so you won’t have any trouble seeing it on the surface of the water and you don’t have to worry about this fly getting too soggy. Floatant is always smart to use to guarantee that you won’t have any unnatural drifts.

This pattern is perfect to use if you’re wanting to fish a hopper-dropper rig. The hopper-dropper is ideal later in the season as the temperatures are warm. The extreme floatability of this fly is going to allow you to land some impressive fish.

Fish this under cut banks and through some overhanging grasses and you will catch fish. Plus, it entices strikes that you rarely get with any other dry pattern.

3. Michigan Skunk in size 12

The Michigan Skunk or the “Skunky” has played the role of savior to a slow day on the water for years. Anglers often refuse to use it until they know nothing else is working. Once the Skunk is on, it’s game over for the fish who had refused to bite.

The name comes because of the color scheme. This fly was introduced right around WWII and has continued to succeed ever since. While it doesn’t look like much, it’s going to treat you right and land you a nice amount of fish.

The rubber legs, Calf and Kiptail along with the other materials have something to them that trout love to eat. They will hit this fly with all of their might. It’s amazing some of the strikes I’ve felt on this fly.

Use this fly if you’re starting to see the shells of stoneflies. It is a fairly solid imitation of the stonefly so if you know they’re on the menu, it’s a great idea to throw one on and see what you can find. Don’t take flies like these for granted! They’re some of the most tried and true patterns in the entire industry!

4. Skopper in size 12

The Skopper is a lesser known attractor fly that deserves much more credit than it currently receives. This fly is a great combination of some sort of foam hopper and a Skunk pattern. The foam body of a hopper combined with deer hair makes for a lethal pattern.

I stumbled into this fly in Wyoming late in the season a few years ago. A true fly angling veteran was using it and landing some amazing fish. He said he tied them himself and gave me a few of them. These are saved for a special occasion when I know a monster is staring at the surface looking for a big bug.

If you’re into fly tying, this is a great pattern to try! There are few rules with this fly. Whatever desires or interpretations you have, run with it. The fish will rarely say no. The less manufactured a fly looks, the more likely it is that you’re going to catch a fish!

Attractor Flies 5 - 9
Attractor Flies 5 – 9

5. Parachute Adams in size 14

The Parachute Adams fly deserves the ultimate respect. While it’s a simple imitation of a mayfly, it’s been around for nearly 100 years and continues to catch some amazing fish. It floats well, works on almost any body of water in the world and lands trophy fish.

This is a wonderful attractor pattern to use when you’re experimenting with larger patterns. When you see a Mayfly hatch occurring, don’t hesitate to tie on this fly. Fish it anywhere you see a rise. It’s not going to act as a great searching pattern, but once the hatch has started, it’s going to perform extremely well.

6. Wooly Bugger in size 8

No attractor fly list is complete without the mention of a Wooly Bugger. No matter the time of year, water temperature or water level, the bugger has proven to work. There is perhaps no more of a versatile fly than this one. It’s almost as if you can force it to work regardless of the conditions you are fishing.

You can dead drift, swing or strip this fly. Do some experimenting with what the fish might want. While it might take awhile to learn, it’s almost a guarantee that the bugger will eventually win and land you those trophy fish you’re wanting.

This fly might be at its most successful when it’s swung through a pool. Cast into the riffles above the pool, let it swing and drop into it and then begin to strip. This stripping motion is going to entice fish out from the depths. On warmer days when the fish tend to hide deep, this is a wonderful option.

The bugger is forever on the Mount Rushmore of flies!

7. Royal Wulff in size 14

The Royal Wulff is a fly that is meant for people searching for massive strikes. It’s bright, vibrant and too attractive for the fish to turn down. The Wulff is a great option if you’re fishing faster water that has the tendency to pull dry flies under the surface.

The calf and elk hair allow for it to stay above the surface regardless of how strong the current might be. Use a little floatant and you’ll find yourself with a beautiful opportunity to land those picky fish.

Use this fly on brighter days! The purple thread attracts the flies and makes it easy to see regardless of the color of the water!

8. Chubby Chernobyl in size 12

The Chubby Chernobyl is one of the most durable dry flies you can find. No matter what, this fly is going to fight to stay on the surface and attract flies. The rubber legs, Dub and Krystal Flash are the perfect combination for those slower moving bodies of water that attract large insects.

This is also a great pattern to use if you would like to try a dry-dropper rig. The beauty of the Chubby Chernobyl is that it can work with droppers up to size 6. This is one of the bigger dry-dropper rigs you would want to use when targeting trout, but the large fish love to see it!

You can find this fly is almost every color that you would like. It’s one that every angler should keep in their box regardless of the time of year!

Attractor Flies 9 - 12
Attractor Flies 9 – 12

9. Prince Nymph in size 14

The Prince Nymph is another classic in the world of fly fishing. The white wings, flashy body and bright bead head make it the perfect combination for trout fishing on a sunny day in clear water. Go ahead and dead drift this fly through riffles and shallow pools.

You’ll need to fish this fly with some sort of indicator. While the fish will often smash it, it’s also susceptible to small strikes. Do yourself a favor and tie on an indicator!

10. Holo Humpy in size 10

The Holo Humpy is one of the more bizarre looking flies that you will find, but it’s the perfect recipe of an attractor fly! It has rubber legs, a variety of hackles and a bright underbelly. Don’t let the looks of this fly deceive you! You’ll appreciate it once you start pulling in massive fish.

The Humpy has a variety of patterns and colors, but the Holo version from Orvis has proved its worth over and over again. Use this as the dry fly on your dropper rig. If you’re searching new bodies of water and have heard big dry flies work, then this is a great place to start!

11. Yak Caddis in size 14

The Yakcaddis is a wonderful imitation of a Caddisfly as well as a hopper. It’s one of those flies that represents a variety of insects so the fish can’t help but strike it just out of pure curiosity. This fly is extremely popular on the west coast so if you ever find yourself in need of an attractor there, give this one a try.

It’s going to consistently float and has just a buggy enough look that you can use it in a variety of scenarios.

12. Klinkhammer in size 12

The Klinkhammer is a perfect option for an attractor fly if you’re fishing any sort of Mayfly or Caddisfly hatch. It almost sits in the water like an emerger fly, but has all of the necessary aspects to attract those large and curious fish!

When to use an Attractor Fly Fishing

Attractor flies are great to use in a variety of circumstances. First and foremost, if you know the fish are biting but aren’t quite sure what to use, throw on an attractor and see what happens. These flies act as great searching flies on those bright sunny days!

The deep diving streamer attractors are great to use at any point of the day. As the day progresses, the fish usually dive deeper in the water column so you’ll want to throw those flies in hopes that one catches the eye of a monster lurking in the depths.

Don’t, however, force attractor fly patterns on fish. If they aren’t looking towards the surface, don’t expect to entice them to do so with a dry attractor. Do your best to match the feeding patterns of the fish, but do so with a bit more of an obnoxious fly.

How to Setup a Fly Rod for Attractor Flies

Attractor flies can be used on a variety of setups. However, a 3 or 4-weight rod with Weight Forward floating line is a perfect way to start. You don’t want your attractor flies being pulled down too low in the water column.

Also, tie on a 7 or 7.5 foot leader with 4x tippet and see what happens. This is going to set you up for success! You won’t find yourself with too little power, but still be discreet enough to land a nice amount of fish.

Dry Fly Setup
Dry Fly Setup

My Favorite Attractor Fly Techniques

            Be Willing to Move

Attractor flies aren’t meant to be fished over the same spot countless times. Hit your spot two or three times and if you don’t land anything, feel free to move. Many anglers will finish a long day of fishing with one of these flies. If you’re on your way back to the car, tie one on and hit those “fishy” looking spots. Chances are you’ll find a fish or two waiting for one last meal.

            Don’t Shy Away From Action

Attractor flies are meant to attract. This doesn’t mean that dead drifting them over certain areas is always going to work. Don’t be afraid to be more aggressive with your retrieve. Move the rod tip, change up your retrieval speeds and see what happens.

Not every body of water is going to react the same way to your flies. The fish might want a certain action that you’re not used to using! This doesn’t mean that it is wrong. Fly fishing is all about experimentation.

Last Cast Using an Attractor Fly

Using attractor flies can add an extra layer of excitement to every fly fishing excursion. They’re created to anger fish and force them to strike out of pure aggression. Be sure that you’re always ready. You never know when the monster you’re after is finally going to make up its mind to hit your fly!

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How to Fly Fish

Scroll to Top