Cutthroat trout are native to a variety of areas in North America and the 10 subspecies are some of the most beautiful trout on the planet. Due to their specific locations, there are certain fly patterns that they’re eager to eat. While some traditional trout patterns are effective with cutthroat, it’s important to match the hatch in their home waters.
In this article, we’ll provide you with the 20 best flies for cutthroat trout.
Best Dry Fly Patterns for Cutthroat Trout
Elk Hair Caddis- Size 18
Elk Hair Caddis flies are found all over the Western United States in the heart of cutthroat country. Elk Hair Caddis from size 18-24 are just about right for cutthroat. These caddis representations sit high on the water column and work great in the mornings and evenings during the hatch. Attach these flies to a 4x or 5x leader and throw them anywhere you see a rise.
Pale Morning Dun- Size 14
If you know the cutthroat are hanging out in slower-moving water, then dry flies are a blast to throw. The Pale Morning Dun is native to the western United States and they often hatch in that slow water. These Mayfly representations are easy to throw and a size 10-16 should land even the bigger fish.
Come July and late summer, Chubby Chernobyls are some of the best flies you can use because of the terrestrial insect hatches. They fall into the water along the shore and cutthroat wait eagerly for them. Fly fishing with chubbys is a guaranteed good time. Cutthroat trout hit these grasshopper representations hard. Feel free to fish them as the top of a dry-dropper rig as well.
Royal Wulff- Size 10
The Royal Wulff is a perfect attractor pattern. If you aren’t quite sure what the fish want, throw on a Royal Wulff. It doesn’t matter if it’s a series of mountain lakes or the Snake river in Yellowstone, these purple and pink size 8-12 dry flies attract the attention of a variety of fish. They’re especially effective if you’re fishing rough water. Fish can still see them.
The Best Nymph Patterns for Cutthroat Trout
Pheasant Tail Nymph- Size 18
Early in the spring, the Pheasant Tail Nymph is one of the best cutthroat flies. Blue Winged Olives are hatching and the Pheasant Tail is the ideal representation. Throw these below an indicator throughout riffles or shallow pools and wait for the fish to strike. The more you can bounce them along the bottom, the better.
Prince Nymph- Size 14
The Prince Nymph is an attractor pattern. The bright colors and buggy design are almost guaranteed to get fish excited. They’re extremely effective when you’re fishing new waters. Toss these in a fishy-looking area and get a feel for the response. They look like big meals compared to many other nymphs. They work especially well in pocket water.
San Juan Worm
Cutthroat trout love San Juan Worms. These patterns work great as the last fly in a nymph rig. Let it trail behind your others and wait for a curious cutthroat to eat it. If you want to fish it alone, using a small split shot to get it lower in the water column is a good idea. Red or pink San Juan Worms are the best options.
Pat’s Rubber Legs- Size 8
Cutthroat trout live in water with large Stonefly hatches. The vast majority of cutthroat will prioritize Stoneflies over just about every other fly. Pat’s Rubber Legs is a great representation with a large body and long legs. Pat’s acts as a stonefly representation as well as an attractor. Throw this through pools, seams, cut banks and riffles, and it’ll catch fish.
The Best Streamer Patterns for Cutthroat Trout
Woolly Bugger- Size 6
The Woolly Bugger is a perfect option for cutthroat in the Yellowstone or Snake Rivers in the Western United States. Before you hit the water, it’s best to check with a local fly shop to see what colors will work best, but black and olive are hard to beat. Dead drift or swing these through those deep pools and give them a few hard strips to see if the cutthroat will respond. It’s the perfect medium-sized streamer for a hungry cutty.
Sex Dungeon- Size 4
The Sex Dungeon is a favorite fly for guides on the Snake River in Wyoming. This fly is a hodge podge of material and attractive designs. The dumbbell eyes, deer hair head, and marabou/hackle-filled body fall quickly in the water column and it’s perfect for those deep pools. Give it a few quick tugs and hard strips and you’ll get trout to respond. Plus, it wakes up those sluggish fish.
Muddler Minnow- Size 6
The Muddler Minnow is a Sculpin representation. Sculpin sit in areas of slack water in pools and eddies and are often meals for cutthroat trout. Drift the fly into the slack water and let it bounce around along the bottom. It won’t take long for a cutthroat to pick it up and go on a run.
Double Deceiver- Size 4
The Double Deceiver is used in salmon fishing as well as steelhead fishing. It has two hooks and a great baitfish representation. If you’re fishing fast water or just need to cover water, then the Double Deceiver is your best option. It has a large presence in the water and a varying stripping pattern will make it look like a fleeing baitfish.
Best Flies for Sea Run Cutthroat Trout
Baitfish Minnow- Size 6
The Baitfish Minnow is a similar style to a deceiver pattern. It’s tied specifically by Pacific Fly Fishers and is meant to be fished for Sea Run Cutthroat in Puget Sound. The gray color with a bit of flash makes it stand out in that beautiful clear water of Puget Sound.
Bonito Magic- Size 4
The Bonito Magic is another small baitfish representation that drives sea-run cutthroat trout crazy. Anglers will also have success fishing for sea-run brown trout with the Bonito Magic. The beadhead helps it fall in the water column and the bright hackle gives it a nice bit of flash as it drifts and bounces along in the current.
Clouser Minnow- Size 2
The Clouser Minnow is at the top of the list for many fish species. It’s one of the best minnow representations you will ever find. If you want a large streamer that moves well and looks like a fleeing baitfish, then the Clouser Minnow is perfect for you. You can find it in a variety of colors that will work well in different water conditions.
Foul Free Herring- Size 2
Herring are a small and easy target for Sea-Run Cutthroat. As they’re heading up Puget Sound, they’ll feed on herring. The small beadhead eyes and long tail of rabbit fir and marabou is constantly moving in the water. Cutthroat will eat this as it dead drifts. Otherwise, you can swing and strip it. Either method is effective.
Other Great Cutthroat Trout Flies
Zebra Midge- Size 20
Sometimes all cutthroat want a small nymph. If this is the case, then stick with a Zebra Midge. Midge flies hatch all year round and don’t get hung up easily. Bounce it along the bottom and high-stick your way through riffles, pockets, and seams. Fish are eager to pick these up. Make sure you fish them below and indicator.
Salmonfly- Size 4
In the western United States, Salmonflies hatch in June. These extremely large bugs are like candy to cutthroat trout. They grow upwards of 2 or 3 inches long and make a scene when they hit the water. Salmonflies are the perfect choice to fish as the top of a dry-dropper rig.
Copper John- Size 16
If you’re fishing in the midst of a Stonefly hatch, the Copper John is an ideal buggy-looking fly that is on the smaller end of Stonefly patterns. Fish it along the banks, throughout pools, in seams, and all over the water column. It works well as a searching pattern.
El Camino Grillo Golden Stonefly
The El Camino is a beautiful dry fly pattern. It floats lower in the water column, but it has a large body that attracts all sorts of fish. It’s flash and has long rubber legs that hang in the water and add more to the appeal for cutthroat trout.