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Rainbow Warrior Fly Pattern – One Of The Top Producers

The Rainbow Warrior is one of the most productive nymphs around. Developed by Lance Egan, this nymph catches trout in just about any river. It is one of those flies that doesn’t look like anything in particular – it is very flashy and bright, and doesn’t look like a natural insect. However, trout go crazy for it – so I try not to question why it works.

I always keep several dozen Rainbow Warriors in my fly box. They are such good flies that I make sure I never run out. I fish them as big as a #16 and as small as a #22. With these varying sizes, Rainbow Warriors can cover most trout fishing situations. The smaller sizes are good for winter nymphing, and the larger sizes are better for summer fishing.

This article will cover the best things about this fly. Many anglers swear by the Rainbow Warrior, and I would highly recommend adding some to your boxes. They are available at most western fly shops, but they’re also easy to tie.

Rainbow Warriors Work Everywhere

This fly is used all over the world. America, Europe, New Zealand, etc. It just flat out catches fish, and there isn’t a trout fishery where it won’t work.

For this reason, the Rainbow Warrior is super versatile. Competition nymphers use it to maximize their catch rate, and guides use them to get their clients into trout. Fly anglers just trust this fly, as it has proven itself over the years. At first, fly anglers were critical of this fly – it looked too flashy and crazy to actually work. Once anglers tried it, they saw how well it really performs.

A True Attractor

Attractor flies are patterns that don’t look like any bug in particular. They can be interpreted as different insects, but trout eat them anyway. Some good examples of these are Prince Nymphs, Hares Ears, and Pheasant Tails. All of these flies can imitate multiple insects.

In smaller sizes, the Warrior definitely has a Baetis (blue winged olive) profile, but it is way flashier than any natural nymph. I think the tinsel just gets the trouts attention – they are curious as to what it could be. They often eat it purely out of reaction.

It is easy to get caught up in “matching the hatch”, but fishing attractor flies can be very productive as well. We don’t always have to fish perfect imitations.

Many Variations Of The Rainbow Warrior

In recent years, there have been many variations of the Rainbow Warrior, especially in the “jigged” category of flies. Perdigon style Warriors have become very popular, as well as other jig variations. Many tyers also add legs to them, which is called a “Sassi’s Solution”.

Although the original Rainbow Warrior works very well, there are endless variations to play around with. It is hard to go wrong with this fly, and the Warrior can always be improved and added to.

Black Rainbow Warriors have also become quite popular. With this variation, black tinsel is used for a darker profile. I have definitely caught fish on the black versions, but I think the original still works better.

Guide Tested

Fly fishing guides quickly took notice of how well this fly works. Since they are so quick to tie, guides can fill their boxes with Rainbow Warriors pretty easily. Most fly fishing guides in western states will carry Rainbow Warriors on their guide trips. They are especially popular in Utah and Colorado – but Montana and Wyoming guides use them as well.

The Rainbow Warrior meets all the requirements of a “guide fly”. It is quick and easy to tie, it catches lots of trout, and guides aren’t too bummed when clients lose them on snags.

Simple To Tie

The original Rainbow Warrior is very easy to tie. Pheasant tail, pearl tinsel, and rainbow dubbing. Thats really all there is to it. Red thread is used most often, but orange works well too. Traditionally, it is tied with a silver nickel bead – but you can definitely play around with bead colors.

The video below by Lance Egan (Fly Fish Food) demonstrates how he likes to tie this fly. One of the keys is to use the large size of pearl tinsel. The small and medium sizes are too brittle, and they can fall apart easily. Even on small, size #20 Warriors, make sure to use large tinsel.


Every once in a while, a fly is invented that changes how we view trout. The Rainbow Warrior has done that.

We are so concerned with bugs and hatches, but it is good to realize that trout eat crazy flies as well. The Rainbow Warrior is a perfect example, and hopefully it encourages you to try some louder fly patterns.

I love matching the hatch as much as anyone, but I am a huge fan of attractors as well.