Updated: Aug 1, 2019
With so many effective patterns available, narrowing down a list of "must have" trout flies for a BC river to 11 is extremely difficult (it actually started as 10 but just had to get one more in).
In this list we hi-light those that we feel you simply cannot go to a river without, with a lengthy list of honorable mentions. Whether you're on the Similkameen, Skagit, Fraser, Chilliwack, Adams, Squamish, or Thompson, these flies catch fish. Although time of year has a massive influence on what to swing, we've compiled a list that should broadly cover the essentials.
If you're looking for flies for BC lakes, you may want to check out our blog post 10 Must Have BC Trout Flies for Lakes.
If the list was down to only 1 fly this would be it. This incredibly versatile fly, looks like nothing, but represents everything. They can be a leech, a minnow, or a stonefly nymph. Better yet, they can just be downright annoying, and for a fish, annoying can be the best lure. If restricted down to colour, olive would be it, but black would not be a bad option either. The colour options are endless too, so don't hold back - white, brown, burgundy, pink, chartreuse, black, and olive to name a few.
A wonderfully versatile fly, no fly box should be without them. Although copper is the standard body colour, they are also available in chartreuse, blank, amber, brown, and red to name a few.
You'll want to stock up on these bad boys in sizes 18 to 10. When fish are slurping their food from the surface, having roughly the right size is critical. When they are being super picky, having the exact size is a must.
Elk Hair Caddis
Probably the #1 go-to dry fly caddis pattern. Available as small as a size 20, or as big as a size 4, having a selection of colours and sizes is essential.
Rolled Muddler Minnow
Cutthroat love a muddler, rainbows love a muddler, steelhead love a muddler, char love a muddler, coho love a muddler... heck, pretty much every species of fish in a BC river is a sucker (including suckers) for a swung or stripped muddler minnow.
This one comes with or without a bead, in many colour variations, and a wide range of sizes. Typically fished during a spawning cycle (although trout seem to not really care), the general idea is to match the eggs from the species of spawning salmon or steelhead.
Hairs Ear Nymph
Imitating a mayfly nymph, the hairs ear is a must. As with most patterns, a variety of sizes and colour options (natural and olive are the two most common) is always a good thing.
Pheasant Tail Nymph
Most BC rivers host mayflies, and the classic PTN is a must. Like all flies there are a number of variations on the theme. You'll usually only need a couple of sizes though, something small, and something in the size 10 - 12.
Again size (12 - 2) and colour (golden or black) matters here so go prepared. If you're on the Thompson and the fish are all over mature golden stones, then a big golden stonefly it is!
Egg Sucking Leech
A variation on the wooly bugger, egg sucking leeches are a fabulous option. Black or purple body with an orange or pink head in a couple of sizes are worth stocking up on (the chartreuse head version can also be effective).
A super versatile dry fly pattern, the CB always lands right side up, mimicking a stonefly, salmonfly, hopper, or even caddis. Having a good selection of sizes is critical, as sometimes fish can get picky about size.
Although these would be our must-haves, there are also a number of notable mentions that are worth having with you:
Royal Coachman (a great Skagit fly)
Bird of Prey
San Juan Worm
Chernobyl Hopper (a must have on the Thompson in the summer)
Chubby (another must have on the Thompson in the summer)
Be sure to leave a comment with any other must have flies you keep in your river box.