I had a question recently from a newer fly fisher asking for fly recommendations to fish a specific lake. I hadn’t fished that lake, but it made me think. What are the basic lake flies I always carry?

I started my fly fishing journey by fishing rivers. Much later I decided to fish lakes and honestly was quite lost because I didn’t know anything about the types of flies I would find in lakes.

So I could sympathize with the question.

East Lake Sunrise | www.johnkreft.com

If I were to fish a new lake, I’d carry the basics – flies to imitate various stages of Callibaetis mayflies, damselflies, chironomids, and leeches.

(Yes, there are other insects like caddisflies and other mayflies to consider, but I wanted to keep this simple.)

My experience is that each lake has their own strong population of one or more of these types of insects (OK, leeches may not really be an “insect”).

The question came at a perfect time as I plan to fish East Lake for the first time this year in about a week. 

So I decided to use the SEARCH function located at the top right-hand side of the page and typed LAKE to see what I had written previously. Turns out I use RiverKeeper Flies as a resource much like many of you.

Several posts came back with the most relevant one being Effective East Lake Flies. The flies I found there were a good start, but didn’t answer the question of what basic flies I carry with me to fish any lake.

The flies below are flies I have confidence in and have in my fly box to fish any lake.

My favorite searching fly pattern is Denny’s Stillwater Nymph using the burnt orange for tail, back and hackle.

Denny's Stillwater Nymph | www.johnkreft.com

And I’ll have several Beetle Bailey flies. I fish this fly close to shore where the wind might blow ants or beetles into the water.

Beetle Bailey | www.johnkreft.com

Callibaetis mayflies are a staple for most lakes, so I always carry imitations for the various phases…nymphs, emergers, cripples, and spinners. I’ve decided not to fish the typical dun imitation because they fly off so fast, fish don’t have much of an opportunity to eat them. I concentrate on the emerger/cripple phase instead. Here are the Callibaetis fly patterns I use.

Denny’s Callibaetis Nymph

Dennys Callibaetis Nymph | www.johnkreft.com

Fred’s Callibaetis Nymph – Variant

Fred's Callibaetis Nymph - Variant | www.johnkreft.com

RiverKeeper Callibaetis Emerger

RK Callibaetis Emerger | www.johnkreft.com

Callibaetis Spinner

Callibaetis Spinner | www.johnkreft.com

What flies do I carry to imitate damselflies?

Doug’s Damsel

Doug's Damsel Nymph - Top View | www.johnkreft.com

Braided Butt Damsel

Braided Butt Damsel | www.johnkreft.com

Here are a couple simple chironomid fly patterns. I carry olive and black versions.

Zebra Midge – Olive

Zebra Midge | www.johnkreft.com


Lastly, here are a couple of leech patterns in my fly box that have worked for me.


Denny's Seal Bugger | www.johnkreft.com

Claret and Black Bugger

Claret Bugger|www.johnkreft.com

These are the basic flies I carry. Do I have more fly patterns in my fly box? Sure. Others can be seen in the Lake Flies page.

I can’t wait until next week to see what the fish are eating.

Enjoy…go fish!

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One Comment

  1. Thanks John. Enjoyed the read and the challenge of tying a couple of flies previously unknown to my vise and I. Fishing East Lake in mid June and July. Looking forward to hearing about your success there.

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