Lake Trout Fly Fishing

5 Favorite Fly Patterns for Lakes (Rainbow and Lake Trout)

While we all think of a trout’s native environment as a stream or river, lakes are extremely productive and often provide the best chance for a trophy.

Lakes offer a unique challenge, especially when it comes to selecting the right fly. Unlike the dynamic currents of rivers, lakes require a more thoughtful approach, one that I’ve honed over years of experience.

In this article, I’m sharing my go-to fly patterns for lake fishing. These are the flies that have consistently delivered results, helping me reel in the fish and memories.

Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just starting out, these patterns are sure to enhance your lake fishing adventures.

Okay let’s fill your fly box!

Rainbow Trout Fly Fishing
Rainbow Trout Fly Fishing

Through some trial and error and quizzing some guides, if I had to point to a single fly, it would be Todd’s Wiggle Minow. Combined with a high rate sinking line and some different techniques, I can almost promise success. (The fish still need to be willing😉)

Let’s fill your fly box with some great flies that are primed to get trout in a lake biting.

The 5 Best Patterns for Lake Trout Are

1.    Todd’s Wiggle Minnow – The Best Overall

Lake trout fishing can be tough, the fact that the trout are cruising deep in the water column necessitates the use of sinking lines and usually a weighted fly.  With high sink rate line you can use a “count down method” to get the fly down deep. 

Todd's Wiggle Minnow for Lake Trout
Todd’s Wiggle Minnow for Lake Trout

While searching for a reliable fly to get deep, I stumbled on Todd’s Wiggle Minnow, which is designed for top water action, but with a sinking line will provide exceptional wiggling motion while diving. You have to cast your fly and let it sink to the bottom for a few seconds.

The Todd’s wiggle minnow’s slow and long strips give it one of the most realistic-looking actions. And when you strip, you’ll realize that it’s wiggling back on forth. While moving, this fly will move some water, giving it an outstanding baitfish representation. The Todd’s Wiggle Minnow is one of the few flies that every fly angler must-have if nothing else works.

This fly is available in 3 colors; therefore, depending on the color stain, you should get an option that matches the baitfish in the lake you plan on fishing and the color of the water in the lake. If you plan to fish in still clear water, then a green and pink color pattern can come in handy. But if you want to catch more trout, you should go for stained water as they love a lake that can offer them protection. (source)


  • Favorite Color: Brown Trout with red and white a close second.
  • Favorite Size: 2
  • Brand: Umpqua


  • Great action
  • Simple design that is durable  
  • Many colors to choose from
  • Floats, but this provides action stripping up from the water depths.


  • Requires weighted lines to sink.

Guide Pro Tip: Diverse Dry Fly Selection: Equip yourself with a variety of dry flies, such as callibaetis, chironomids, damselflies, and caddis. These are especially effective in the mid to late summer seasons.

2.    Bennett’s Lunch Money – Most Versatile

Bennett’s Lunch Money is another exceptional baitfish streamer pattern that can guarantee you a catch most of the time. While it is not the most extensive pattern available, it is pretty realistic. Its exceptional dumbbell eyes can help you fish anywhere in the water column but the surface. So if surface fishing is your goal, this is not the best option for you.

Lunch Money Fly
Lunch Money Fly

The initial iteration of Bennett’s Lunch was named (Liano Critter) after the place where the first production took place, River Liano. Initially, it was a tail tied to the hook with a spun craft fur head and massive legs. Initially, the white/tan colors worked perfectly with bass, but I discovered it works perfectly after trying it with trout. You can also try the Shad and Craw color patterns on trout.

Luckily, there are many color patterns for you to try, but most anglers prefer the tan and white design, which is the best and simplest pattern to use. Generally, they have short rubber legs that can guarantee you more than enough action.


  • Favorite Color: Rainbow Trout
  • Favorite Size: 2
  • Brand: Umpqua


  • Available in a wide range of colors
  • The legs and hair body create action
  • Prominent eyes


  • Not ideal for shallow water fishing

Guide Pro Tip: Streamers Strategy: Don’t hesitate to try a range of streamers. Options like wooly buggers, leeches, sculpin, crawfish, and minnows can be effective, varying in size and color depending on the situation and time.

3.    Beadhead Hare’s Ear Nymph Pattern – Best All-Round Nymph Fly 

The Hare’s Ear is an exceptional fly for lake fishing. I will often fish this using long leader (15 or more feet) and multi-fly nymph setup below an indicator.  It can be tough to cast, but with the right depth setting from the indicator to nymph trout it slams the fish.

Beadhead Hare’s Ear Nymph

The Hare’s Ear is a traditional nymph pattern that should be in your fly box, I call the hare’s ear a foundational fly pattern. You can use this nymph for fishing below the water’s surface; therefore, it’s a nymph or flies.

An older pattern imitates many aquatic life, including caddis larvae, mayfly nymphs, sowbugs, and scuds.

Its stiff fibers stand out when immersed while imitating an insect’s legs. So, you can fish it below the water surface without or with a split-shot and strike indicator to sink it. it’s, therefore, an effective pattern that you can use all year round because its design imitates a wide range of prey.

Hare's Ear Nymph
Hare’s Ear Nymph without a beadhead
Jighead Hare's Ear Nymph
Jighead Hare’s Ear Nymph


  • Favorite Color: Darker browns with brass beadhead
  • Favorite Size: 10 to 16
  • Brand: most brands will be good, this is a perfect fly to tie!


  • Buggy proven pattern
  • Simple and Durable
  • Wide range of sizes and weights


  • Limited color selections (the traditional color is brown)

4.    Copper John Fly – Best for A Murky Lake

If you plan trout fishing in deeper still waters, you should go for this exceptional nymph fly. Created by Barr John in the 1990s, the Copper John is quite popular among fly tyers.

Copper John Fly
Copper John Fly – great for fishing deep pockets

The modern adaptions use a tungsten bead makes this tiny nymph drop quickly to the depth where you can find trout. (source)

The initial fly was tied in Boulder in 1993 by John Barr. Over the years, this unique design has undergone several changes until its finalization in 1996. John tied the original flier without epoxy and biots for wings. The original fly was tied using copper wire, but the modern ones are connected using blue, pink, green, or any other colored wire that matches the size of your hook.

Fortunately, its thin profile and heavyweight allow it to sink faster; therefore, its at times used as a dropper fly in the dropper-hopper fly combination. The Copper John is the most helpful fly for fishing trout in a discolored lake. So the bigger version is used in the summer when massive flies are available, while you can use a small-sized version in Spring and Fall.


  • Favorite Color: Stay traditional with dark brown
  • Favorite Size: 14 and 16
  • Weight: with tungsten bead
  • Material: copper


  • Durable
  • Found at most fly shops and online stores
  • Easy to tie
  • You can use it in a wide range of water conditions


  • None

5.    Glo Bug – Best Selling

Glo bug is an option for trout and salmon designed to imitate eggs. It’s the best option for fishing at the bottom of the lake, where they can easily replicate eggs that have broken loose. Fortunately, there are different glo bug flies, with the most common ones having a red dot at the center.

Glo Bug Egg Fly
Glo Bug Egg Fly
Rag Egg Pattern
Rag Egg Pattern
Egg Fly Pattern
Egg Fly Pattern

Its exceptional design makes it almost impossible for the trout to attack; it’s more effective than most available patterns. Most anglers have caught many fishes with the Glo bug fly; therefore, it’s always good to have them in your arsenal; they’re pretty popular, especially from August to October.


  • Favorite Color: Chartreuse
  • Favorite Sizes: 6 and 8
  • Color: Dozens of colors available
  • Great for: Salmon, Trout

Guide Tip: Fast delivery, easy color selections and no worries about flies being out of stock. Amazon shortcut link – Glo Bug Fly Pattern


  • Durable
  • Affordable
  • It can easily attract trout
  • Available in a wide range of color combinations
  • It improves your chances of catching something
  • Lots of variations available


  • None

Looking to Learn the Tips and Techniques for the Fish You Love to Chase? I’ve Got You Hooked Up Below

Factors To Consider in Picking the Best Fly Pattern for Lakes

Lake trout fishing can be enjoyable with the right gear and tricks, but you need a different type of dry fly to catch something in the lake. After all, lake trout are known to hide deep in the water column, so you need something that can get their attention and even force them to come to the upper water columns. Here are a few factors to consider when fishing lake trout:

Fly Line for Fly Fishing in a Lake

If you’re going to be tossing streamers, seriously consider a full sinking fly line.  Using a count down technique you can hone in on the depth the trout are at. 

Scientific Angler Sonar Series of Fly Lines
Scientific Angler Sonar Series of Fly Lines

A favorite fly line is the Scientific Anglers Sonar.  Look for an 6 IPS (inches per second) sink rate.  Use that number to visualize the line dropping and once you get to within a couple feet of the bottom start stripping the line back.

Sinking Rate

Since the trout hides in the lower columns of the lake, you need a fly that can quickly sink to the bottom of the lake within the shortest time possible and attract the fish to it. It would be best to consider the sinking rate of the dry fly, which comes down to the design and materials used to make it. Luckily, many options in the market, including the Todd’s Wiggle Minnows, can even move the water while sinking.

Guide Pro Tip: Active Retrieval and Positioning: Work on mastering different retrieval patterns and be patient with them. Also, make sure to move around to cover more area, which can significantly increase your chances of locating active fish.

How to Figure Out What They’re Feeding On?

You can only get the trout’s attention by creating a perfect imitation of what it’s feeding on in the lake. Therefore, you should get an option that matches the flies it consumes, including its color and design. And even its movements in the water just like Todd’s wiggle minnow.

So before shopping for the fly, you should find out what food they are preying on in your fly fishing destination. If they’re feeding on fish eggs, you should have some egg fly patterns in your arsenal that resemble the eggs laid by the fish species in the lake.

Should I Use Any Fly When Fishing Lake Trout?

Generally, lake trout can hit all types of flies, but the best options for lake fishing are streamers. Streamers can land you some of the largest fish in the lake.

When Is the Best Time To Fish Lake Trout?

Trout can eat at anytime, but I’ve found two times best. The first is in the morning from a hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunrise. I have a complete article – When is the best time of day to fly fish. The next best is what I call “magic hour” just after sunset. Read the how’s and when’s to fly fish for rainbow trout in this article – A Complete Guide to Fly Fishing for Rainbow Trout

One More Cast to Trout in a Lake

Trout are pretty aggressive species that can give you some of the best fights in fly angling, but attracting them in the lake can be different from rivers and streams. Therefore, you need suitable streamers to get the trout’s attention; a perfect imitation of what it’s consuming in the water can help you catch more trout than expected. Luckily, there are many options, and with the above options, you can always catch something.

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


  1. Umpqua staff, Todd’s Wiggle Minnow, Accessed One May 22, 2022,
  2. Umpqua Staff, Bennet’s Lunch, Accessed May 22, 2022,
  3. Wikipedia Contributor, Hare’s Ear, Accessed May 22, 2022,
  4. Amazon contributor, Hare’s Ear, Accessed May 22, 2022,
  5. Wikipedia contributor, Copper John Fly, Accessed May 22, 2022,
  6. Amazon contributor, 12 favorite glow bug fly, and egg steelhead fly lure assortment, Accessed May 22, 2022,
Glo Bug Egg Fly
Glo Bug Egg Fly
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