You often hear the term among guides and in fly shops across the country… guide flies. These are flies that every guide has that they have created for the waters they fish. They are proven fish catchers.  So, what makes a guide fly so great and how can you tie your own?

Jeremy Hamilton’s Rainbow Warrior – Guide Fly Style

Jeremy Hamilton’s Rainbow Warrior – Guide Fly Style


The first secret is that there is no secret.  Guide flies are really just simple flies that are fairly easy to tie, and can be tied in mass quantities quickly.  Many people spend time trying to come up with the ultimate hatch matching fly, indiscernible from the real thing, even when looked at side by side.  The reality of those flies that is that they are really designed to impress fisherman, not fish.  A typical guide fly will mimic the general form, size and color of the natural insects, but will only take a minute or two to tie; since we have to replenish them on a regular basis.


Guide Worm

Guide Worm

Another thing that makes a good guide fly is eliminating unnecessary materials whenever possible.  When I tie my Rainbow Warriors, I eliminate the flashback over the top of the thorax.  Why? Because there’s already a ton of flash in the abdomen and that little bit of extra does nothing to improve catch rates.  I also use fluorofiber for my wing case and legs on a Barr’s Emerger.  It’s far simpler to work with than hackle fibers, it’s significantly more durable and it gives subtle flash when the fish may be spooked by a flash back version.A perfect example of a guide fly is the San Juan worm.  They’re basically just some chenille tied down to a hook with some thread.  The difference between a San Juan worm you buy in a shop and a guide San Juan worm: We might make them more durable by gluing the chenille down with super glue; then ribbing it with wire.  Another thing I do with my worms is simply leave the ends alone, without a tapered finish.  Why spend the time burning the ends to a perfect taper when the fish don’t care?  Again, it’s only the fisherman that cares.  Save the time!

Here’s my final tip when creating your own “guide” flies: always use some sort of head cement after you finish the fly.  Nothing is worse than creating the perfect fly that catches fish, and then it comes apart after the first trout.  It only takes an added second, but it allows you to catch more fish on each fly.  You also want to be sure that you don’t cover the hook eye with the cement.  It’s terribly frustrating to take that fly out of your box when you need to put it on quickly, and then it takes 20 minutes trying to clean the glue out of the eye of the hook.

I hope these tying tips help you create some more effective guide flies of your own.  Now fill your boxes and go catch some fish!

Today’s post comes from Jeremy Hamilton, a senior guide at 5280 Angler. We hope you enjoy and keep coming back for more fly fishing tips and tricks in the weeks to come!

If you’re interested in more? Their guided trips emphasize fun and simple ways to catch more fish.

2 Responses

  1. Ben

    For those who fish the South Platte River, check out Jeremy’s weekly video conditions report at the 5280 Angler YouTube channel.

  2. Michael B

    Great post. I’ve only been tying for about 3 years now and it’s amazing how many fishermen will scoff at my scraggly flies while the fish seem to love ’em. Any tiers out there who are trying to make perfect flies, don’t be too harsh a critic with yourself and your results. Put that “not so perfect” one on a tippet and you’ll be surprised at what a fish will eat. Decent silhouettes, colors, and representative sizes can get you on the water sooner than sitting at the vice trying to perfectly match a bug or someone’s pattern. It’s great practice to mimic a perfect pattern in the winter months and can help with refining techniques; but sometimes you have to just stock the fly box and go for it. Catch ’em Up!!


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