Advice for Beginners – Fly Fishing

Advice For Beginners By Phil Surratt

What Fly or Lure?

The following scenario happened too many times in my beginning days of fly fishing for trout – more than I care to admit.

I would head off to the river, get the waders on, rig up a fly rod, get on the water and try practically every fly in my box and never get a strike. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy being out there, but back in those early days something was wrong that could be so easily corrected. Bottom line, are we using the kind of fly we like, or are we using what the trout like?

Many anglers have their favorite, me included, but sometimes it’s just the wrong pattern or color. Taking a few minutes to read the water and search for food sources will certainly make a better day of it. Sometimes it is as easy as turning over a rock in the stream or taking a look at what is hatching. Are the fish rising to the surface or are they staying close to the bottom. It doesn’t hurt to get a little help from the experts either.

So the big question comes up, what is the best fly or lure to use on our rivers and streams here in the Ozarks? I asked that question to several guides who spend time on the water year-round  and got a variety of answers.

Fly and Lure for the Ozarks


Fly Fish ArkansasChuck Gries, co-owner of  Anglers and Archery Outfitters in Branson, MO guides on Lake Taneycomo. Gries says his favorite pattern is a scud.   “It’s a big food source here,” he said. “I fish it under an indicator with split shot. It can be fished deep or shallow, it’s a perfect fly to dead drift for browns and rainbows with 5, 6 and 7X tippet in just about any water condition. Use darker colors on cloudy days in a variety of sizes.

Wooly Bugger

Fly Fish ArkansasGina Leitle who guides for River Run Outfitters in Branson says the olive Wooly Bugger with a little bit of flash in the tail is a favorite. Leitle said the best thing about fishing a Wooly Bugger is you can really feel the strike.  “I like to fish it with a sinking leader in a little bit of current, short or long strips depending on how the fish are acting,” she said. “I always try to throw it across the current and into a seam. When a brown or rainbow takes the fly you know it because you can really feel the hit. It’s a favorite for a lot of my clients.”


Fly Fish ArkansasPhil Lilley, owner of Lilley’s Landing Resort and Marina on Lake Taneycomo likes the Stimulator.   “I start fishing these dries in mid August when the grasshoppers, beetles and other insects are dropping off the trees into the edge of the lake,” he said. “And that’s where I target big trout.  Along bluff banks where trees are overhanging the water by as much as 20 feet, rainbows and browns both lay close to the surface, waiting on something to hit the water,” he said.  “Presentation isn’t subtle — I slap the Stimulator on the water to attract attention.  I use as large as a #6 fly and as small as a #12 in colors such as yellows, oranges and olives.  I have to say, most of the trout I do catch are larger than average fish.  It seems our trout have a pecking order . . . and the larger trout get the best spots for an easy meal off the trees.”

Outside of favorite fly fishing areas where the water may be deeper, spinning tackle is the method used.

Thomas Spoon

Flay Fish ArkansasLamar Patton, owner of Scotty’s Trout Dock in downtown Branson says the two lures of choice are the gold and red Thomas spinner and an olive and ginger 1/16 ounce jig.  “We cast the spinner and let it sink to the desired depth,” Patton said. “The return is moderate with an occasional twitch, both browns and rainbows really go after it. As far as the jig goes, we keep that off the bottom jigging it straight up and down in the water column, both of those lures are very effective on our part of the river.”  Sometimes we may try to put too much rocket science in our trout fishing tactics.

All of these guides agree that getting familiar with the surroundings and uncovering the food source will lead to success.

Just remember, the fly or lure you like best may not be a trout’s favorite. Practice and experiment, take notes, the end result will be rewarding.

Fly Fish Arkansas - Fly and Lure

Note:  Phil Surratt is an outdoor writer and former Ozarks trout guide and a friend.  He and his wife now live in Indianapolis, IN. but they still come back regularly for visits and some fly fishing.  Phil will be contributing articles and photos on a regular basis to “Fly Fish Arkansas.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *