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Top Ten Flies for Backcountry Lakes

Top Ten Flies for Backcountry Lakes

There is nothing quite like hiking into a little, high elevation lake to seek out a little solitude and maybe a brook trout or two.  High elevation lakes are scattered throughout the West, and they can vary widely in size, depth, temperature, and the propensity to grow trout large or small.  One thing that does not vary is that most high elevation trout are more than happy to eat a smattering of flies with mediocre presentations (my specialty).  

For many of us, it really does not matter the most high mountain trout will never grow much larger than a frying pan.  It is the experience that brings the value.  Maybe that's not always true.  It could be a quantity over quality thing.  Either way, high mountain lakes are a ton of fun and here are ten of our favorite flies for high mountain lakes:

Mean Old Lady - We start off with a strange one.  It may look funny, but this fly produces!  I have fished it in at least 4 Western States and it has always been one of the first out of the box.  I don't know what it imitates, and I do not care.  I do not think that the fish care either.  They eat it.


Suspended Beetle - This is a great high elevation fly.  Simple, juicy, effective.  I use it all over the place, but it has a front and center role in my high mountain game.  Another similar fly is the Suspended Ant.  Both of these are players.



Humpy - Arguably one of the top dry flies, this one shines up in the mountains.  I love a yellow, size 14 or 16, but red or orange have also worked pretty darn well for me.  


Hazel Creek - A tried and true classic, this fly is an old favorite, but is catching on with a new crowd.  This was developed in the mountains of North Carolina, but has made a transition to western high lakes. A nice and simple fly that brings the fish to the surface. 



H & L Variant - Another classic fly with a storied history.  I have it on good authority (another fishing guide told me) that is 100% true that Teddy Roosevelt was fishing in Yellowstone and he was having an issue seeing the fly, so his guide tied up this pattern one evening.  It is called the H & L Variant, because it is tied with a pile of materials.  Back then, "house and lot" (H & L) was a common term for using a large amount of something.  Today, we say a lot.  Despite the unverified story, the fly works great.  I use it early and often.  


Royal Trude - Speaking of classic patterns, are we seeing a trend?  Really, there are not a lot of "royal" patterns that don't work well up at elevation.  I like the Trude up in the lakes because I know that they like it.  If I run into a picky fish (I have not seen too many), the Trude usually can push them over the top when a Royal Wulff may have not done the trick.  Whether it is a Royal Wulff, Royal Coachman, or Royal Trude, Royal flies certainly do the trick up in the mountain lakes


Parachute Hopper - If those fish are eating hoppers, its always a nice treat.  The Parachute Hopper is one of the best hopper patterns out there.  The second half of the summer is hopper time and most fish are happy to comply with  your request to eat a Parachute Hopper.  Several heated evening discussions have taken place on whether the Parachute Hopper outperforms Dave's Hopper.  I think it does, but you should pick up both and then decide for yourself. 




Renegade - Another simple, classic pattern on the list.  It is one of those incredible flies that gets overlooked so many times!  There is not much I can say except that this fly should be included on your next trek into the mountains. 


Mosquito - What would hiking be without mosquitoes?  They are so synonymous with hiking in the forest, but we often forget a good mosquito pattern when heading out to the lake.  


Parachute Adams - I mean, it would be quite silly to hike all that way without bringing a Parachute Adams with you.  I caught my first trout on a Parachute Adams in a high mountain lake.  It works everywhere, so it goes without saying that it works in mountain lakes as well.

While those are our top 10 dry flies for high mountain lakes, there are hundreds of other patterns that should work for you.  Whether you are backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail or heading out to your favorite little lake for an evening session, there are some fantastic fishing opportunities waiting for you up in your closest mountain range. 


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