I spent some time this afternoon compiling a list of the top ten flies that I would recommend for Arizona anglers. The list will find its way into the next printing of Flyfisher's Guide to Arizona. I found it challenging to whittle the list down to ten flies to cover the majority of situations that an angler will see. I really wanted to include the likes of Rohmer's Diamond Hair Minnow, or a good hellgramite imitation, or the X-Caddis, or an adult damselfly pattern... the list goes on, but there just wasn't room for anything too specialized.
For those of you who won't have the pleasure of flipping through the pages of the aforementioned guidebook, here is a look at my top ten flies for AZ (in no specific order).
1) Cicada - Lee's Ferry has a productive summer bite, as do many of the Mogollon Rim waters. If you hit it right, this terrestrial's presence offers explosive topwater fishing with huge dries. The specific pattern isn't usually too important, think black foam, rubber legs, and elk hair.
2) Flying Ant - An often overlooked, but highly productive terrestrial. I like the offerings from the guys at Dry Fly Innovations... Bloom's produces nicely too. Apache trout love them, they're a must have if you ever make it to Christmas Tree Lake or the W. Fork of the Black.
3) Parachute Adams - AZ isn't blessed with prolific mayfly hatches, but it does get some - the para-Adams will cover those situations and works well for prospecting during non-hatch times.
4) Stimulator - Where doesn't it work? Caddis, stoneflies (AZ has the big bugs, but not many), hoppers, moths... general attractiveness.
5) Lightning Bug - It was tough to pick the LB over the Pheasant Tail, but I wanted to mix it up a bit, and the PT's flashier counterpart is awesome. A soft hackle version is deadly, as is purple... as is small, I like it in an 18.
6) Hare's Ear - It's just plain buggy. I like it in black and olive as well.
7) Thread Midge - Lee's Ferry. And everywhere else that trout swim.The Zebra Midge is famous, but the variations are endless, subtle, but endless.
8) Crayfish - Specifically, the Huz-Ur-Daddy pattern, but I mostly just wanted to stress the importance of crayfish in AZ. Rust colored is good, but so too are olive, tan, and blueish... Crayfish have probably connected AZ anglers with more big browns than any other type of fly.
9) Clouser - It's equally at home on AZ's small trout streams and desert bass lakes... it will move big browns, big smallmouth...
10) San Juan Worm - The bottom line is that it catches trout, lots of them. Fish it proudly, and try pink.
11) Little Round Ball of Pink Yarn - I've already compromised my reputation by including the worm so the egg didn't crack my top ten... and besides, we're not talking about what is in my box, just what I recommend for yours.