If you’re looking to expand your fly fishing knowledge, or just brush up on the basics, you’ll want to check out our fly fishing terms list. This handy guide includes definitions for commonly used fly fishing terms, as well as key points about how to use them in your casting and fishing techniques.
Casting is the process of throwing a line out into the water and waiting for a fish to bite. The angler then uses an oar, pole, or fly rod to reel in the line until the fish is close enough to be caught.
Fly rods are an important part of any fly fishing arsenal. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced angler, knowing the terminology associated with fly rods can help make your experience more enjoyable. This Fly Rods Terms List is designed to provide you with a comprehensive guide to the different types of fly rods and how they’re used.
When choosing a fly rod, it’s important to consider your casting style and the type of flies you typically fish. Different fly rods are best suited for specific purposes, so it’s important to consult with a seasoned angler if you’re unsure which rod is right for you.
Here are some of the most common terms associated with fly rods:
- Reel – The reel is the mechanism that allows you to hold the line while casting. It usually has a number of gears that allow you to set the drag level, which affects how much power the line is pulled into the reel.
- Line – The line is the main component of a fly fishing system. It’s made from a variety of materials, including fluorocarbon and monofilament, and is typically weighted at either end.
This is a list of fly tying terms that will be helpful when tying your own flies. Here are some general fly tying tips to follow and some fly tying terms you may want to know.
- Thread: The thread used to tie the fly is called the “tie-off” or “tippet” and it is usually made from braided line, but can also be made from monofilament.
- Bait: The object or substance used to lure in fish is called bait. Common baits include worms, insects, cheese, meat, or even paint.
- Hook: The part of the fly that grabs onto the fish’s mouth is called the “hook”. There are a variety of different hooks available, including size 8 hooks for saltwater fishing and size 16 hooks for freshwater fishing.
- Tail: The part of the fly that hangs down below the hook is called the “tail”. The tail can be made from different materials, such as feathers, fur, or chenille cord.
Fly Reel Terms:
- Anticipation: The act of setting the drag on the fly reel in anticipation of taking a fish.
- Belly Up: When the rod is held with the line running off the end and the tip pointing towards the sky. This position allows for more casting range and lets you use your arms more freely to control the fly.
- Casting Distance: The distance between where you are standing or sitting and where you plan to release your fly.
- Drag: A device on a fly fishing reel that causes the line to be drawn back when a fish is hooked.
- Fish On: When you have hooked a fish and are holding onto it.
- Line Out: When the line from your reel is pulled tight and extends beyond the caster wheel. This position allows you to easily maneuver your boat while keeping your line taut.
- Padlock Knot: A knot that is used to keep a cord secured. It is made by tying an overhand knot around one end of the cord, then looping it around the other end and pulling tight.
- Line: The line used to suspend a fly rod, usually from a reel, above the water.
- Rod: The stick used to cast the fly.
- Reel: The device that holds the line and allows the caster to wind it in.
- Fly: A small piece of material, usually weighted, that is attached to the end of the line and allowed to drift through the air.
Fly Fishing Gear
Fly fishing gear can be quite confusing to those who are just starting out. There are so many options, and terminology can be quite confusing. This fly fishing terms list will help to simplify things for you.
When shopping for your first fly rod and reel, it is important to consider the length of your rod and the type of fly that you will be using. A short rod (8 feet or less) will work best with nymphs, streamers, and light flies. A long rod (9 feet or more) is better for heavier flies, such as tarpon flies and salmon flies. The type of reel you use also affects the type of fly you can use. A manual reel requires a lot of pressure to start the drag, making it difficult to use delicate flies. An automatic reel starts the drag when it senses a fish take, making it easier to cast delicate flies. Most beginner fly fishermen start out using an automatic reel.
There are also different types of lines available for fly fishing.Fly line is made from various materials, including nylon, tippet material, and fly line weights. Nylon line is the most common and is often used for trout fishing because it is very durable
Fly Fishing Locations
Fly fishing locations can vary greatly based on what type of fly you are using and where the water is. Here is a list of some common fly fishing locations.
- Streams: Streams offer many different types of rivers, creeks, and tributaries for anglers to explore. Some popular fly fishing locations include the Little Colorado River in Arizona, the North Platte River in Nebraska, and the Salmon River in Idaho.
- Canals: Canal flies provide an interesting challenge for anglers because they must fight wind and current while casting. Many popular canal fly fishing spots include the Erie Canal in New York, the Charles River Basin in Massachusetts, and the Tennessee River System in Tennessee.
- Rivers: Rivers offer plenty of opportunity to fish pools and riffles for trout or salmon. Some popular rivers for fly fishing include the Missouri River in Montana, the Yellowstone River in Wyoming, and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
Tips for fly fishing
Fly fishing is a sport that can be enjoyed by anyone. Whether you have experience or not, here are some tips to help you get started.
First, make sure that you have the right gear. Get a good rod, reel and line. A good fly rod will have a stiff action and a graphite or fiberglass core to help it cast well. Make sure to get a fly reel that can handle your weight and the size of your flies. A good line is also important; it should be tough enough to resist breaking but soft enough so that the fly stays in the water. Finally, get yourself some good flies. There are many types of flies available, so find ones that match the fish you’re trying to catch.
Casting is the act of putting a fly into the water to catch fish. There are many different casting techniques that can be used to improve your chances of landing a fish.
Here are some casting techniques to help you get started:
- The Basic Cast: This is the most basic casting technique and is used to place a fly directly into the water. To do this, you need to position your rod in the middle of your shoulder, with the reel in your hand. Then, take a short step forward and let the rod tip drop towards the water. Keep your eyes on the fly and wait for it to reach the bottom before Casting.
- The Overhand Cast: The overhand cast is similar to the basic cast, but with one important difference: The overhand cast allows you to extend your arm further out from your body than with the basic cast. This gives you more control over where the fly goes and makes it easier to cover more distance in less time. To do this, position yourself in a similar manner to how you would for the basic cast, but instead of letting the rod tip drop towards the water, bring it up above your head until it’s close to touching.
Fly Tying Terms
AbdomenThe rear section segmented of an insect’s body.Adult –The reproductive stage for aquatic insects, the winged stage.
Amphidromous fish –Fish that migrate regularly between saltwater and freshwater are known as fish who move frequently between the two.
Antron –A synthetic yarn material that is made up of long sparkly fibres. It can be used for fly tying, including wrapping bodies and trailing shucks. It is also used as dubbing material.
Arbor –The center of a fly reel is where backing (first) and line are wound.
Arbor knot –A knot that is used to tie the backing to the arbor on the fly reel.
Attractor –A fly pattern to stimulate strikes
Back cast –False casting refers to the portion of a fly cast that extends beyond the caster.
Support –Braided dacron is used to take up space on a fly line’s spool (see spool & nail knot); it also plays an important role in fighting fish on saltwater reels for salmon, steelhead and other species.
Baetis –This widely-respected genus of mayflies is typically found in sizes 16-22.
Bamboo –The classic fly rod material is the oldest material used in rod construction
Barb –To reduce escape chances from hooked fish, the projection facing backwards was cut into a hook at the point.
Barbless –Barbless hooks can be made without a barb, or with the barb squeezed down. This makes it easy to remove the hook and reduces damage to fish.
Barrel Knot –Same as blood knot (see Blood knot).
BeadheadA fly should have a bead just behind the hook eye. There are many types of beads, including brass, nickel brass and ceramic. Some beads are designed to sink while others can float.
Bimini Twist –A leader that is made up of a number of twists and knots. This acts as a shock absorber for the line. It is used mainly for saltwater fly fishing, such as for tarpon. It is strong because it has a loop and double-line section.
Biot –The short, thick barbs at the top of the first flight feather, usually from a goose, or a duck. Used to simulate tails and antennae.
Bi-visible- Fly with light and dark colored hackles for visibility in light or shaded water.
Blue Dun Hackle –A slate-blue, or gray hackle.
Blank- The process of making graphite and fiberglass fly rods, which also often contain fiberglass, involves wrapping sheets made from graphite and fiberglass around a tapered steel rod (called the mandrel). This hollow rod is known as a blank. It does not have guides, ferrules, or reel seats.
Blood Knot –The most popular knot to tie two monofilament pieces with similar diameters together. Also known as the barrel knot, it is the best knot for making a knotted tapered leader.
Bobbin –A tyer’s tool to hold thread.
Bodkin- A bodkin can be described as a tool that resembles a needle but has a handle. A piece of wood dowling and a single needle can make a bodkin. It is used to attach cement or lacquer to fly tying.
Body –The main portion of the fly that covers the shank.
Breaking strength –The effort required to separate a single strand unknotted monofilament/braided line is usually expressed in pounds (example: 6 Lb). Test.
Breakoff – A term that describes the feeling of excitement and defeat experienced by fly anglers when a hooked fish breaks your leader or tippet. A breakoff is usually caused by a strong fish, a large tippet, or leader that is too small, or a badly tied knot.
Bucktail –(1) The tail hair of an Eastern whitetail deer. It is used for the tying many types of flies. (2) A type of minnow simulating fly, typically made of bucktail.
Butt section –The tapered leader’s thicker end is connected to the fly line.
Caddis –One of three most important aquatic insects that fly fishermen imitate; found worldwide in all freshwater habitats. The adult looks like a moth in flight. At rest, the wings fold in a tent-like shape down the back. The pupa is the most important aquatic stage of the caddis (also see emerger, larva, and pupa).
Cape –Part of a bird skin that is used to tie fly flies.
Cast –The rod pushes the line, which is also the line that serves as the leader.
Casting Arc – The fly rod’s path during a complete cast is usually linked to the face on a clock.
Catch and Release- This practice was developed in the 1930s in order to save fish populations. It involves unhooking fish and returning them to their original water. This practice is highly effective in all water types, including saltwater and coldwater.
Caudal fin –Anatomically, caudal refers to “the back”. The tail fin or tail end of a fish’s caudal fin refers to its tail.
Chenille –A furry, rope-like material used to make the bodies of artificial fly bodies. The bodies look like a pipe cleaner, with thread replacing the stiff wire. It can be found in many materials and colors, and is an essential component of the Wooly Worm or Wooly Buggers patterns.
Chironomid –The scientific name of members of the Diptera insect family commonly called Midges. They are usually small, aquatic worms in the pupae stage.
CDC –An acronym for “Cul du Canard”, which literally means “butt of a duck”. This term is used to both refer to feathers that are found around an oil gland of a duck, and to the flies that are tied to these feathers. These feathers are extremely waterproof because they are impregnated in natural oils.
Click drag –A mechanical system found on inexpensive fly reels that slows down or resists the pulling effort of fish. It can also be used to tire the fish so it can land safely. A triangular steel ratchet snaps onto the teeth of the reel spool to create a clicking sound. Singing reels is a term that refers to the high-frequency clicking caused by large fish pulling on line.
Clinch Knot –The universally-used knot to attach a hook, lure or swivel to the leader or line. A slight variation makes the improved clinch knot possible, which is a stronger knot for these uses.
Collar –A ring of hair or feathers placed directly behind the head of a fly.
Comparadun – Caucci & Nastasi developed a series of dry flies that are no-hackle. They used a hair wing with a 180 flair. These patterns are extremely effective in slow moving clear waters where an imitation (rather than impressionistic) pattern may be required.
Cone Head- Similar to a bead head, but the cone-shaped bead is used.
Co-Polymers- Combinations of different nylons and plastics, along with anti-UV chemical, have led to tippet material’s extraordinary breaking strength. This is a significant advancement in fly fishing over the past 50 years. This allows us to use tippets that are twice as strong as regular nylon monofilament. Co-polymers do not have the same abrasion resistance as regular nylon monofilament.
Crystal Flash –The trade name for synthetic stringy material that is used in streamer patterns to add color and flash.
Damping –Reduce excess vibrations in your rod blank by unloading it during a cast. This reduces the amount of waves in your fly line, which results in greater power and distance with less effort.
Damselfly –An important stillwater aquatic insect, most often imitated in its nymphal form. Usually hatches in mid- to early summer. The adult looks similar to a dragonfly but its wings fold along its back when it is resting.
Dead Drift –A perfect float is when the fly travels at the same speed as the current. This can be used for dry fly fishing and nymphing (see “S” cast and “Mending line).
Deer hair –Most commonly, hollow hairs are used in fly tying. They are used for Humpy and Muddler Minnow styles.
Delivery –An alternative term for ‘covering’ is the term used to describe casting the fly to fish or into promising-looking water.
Disk drag –A mechanical system that is used on higher-end fly reels to create resistance when a fish pulls the line out. This resistance is designed to slow down the fish and make it tire. You create the resistance by applying pressure between two discs. The disk drag is different from the click drag. It’s smoother and less likely that a sudden force will break the line.
Dorsal fin –The fin of a fish’s back is often divided into three or more sections. Drainage The process of draining.
Double haul –The cast in which the caster pulls and releases quickly the line from both the forward and back casts. It allows the caster to cut through wind or reach further with a higher line speed.
Double Taper (DT) –A standard fly line design that has both ends tapered and the larger portion, or “belly”, of the line level. This line is great for short to medium length castings and roll castings. It’s not as good for long distance castings. This line is also available in floating or sinking styles.
Drag –(1) A term that describes an unnatural movement of the fly due to the effects of current and leader. Drag can be harmful, but it can also be useful (e.g. imitating the actions the adult caddis). (2) The reel spool is given resistance to stop it turning faster than the line. This resistance can be used to catch larger fish.
Dropper –It is a technique that involves fishing two flies simultaneously, usually one underwater and one on the surface. This increases your chances of landing a successful fly in front a fish.
Dry Fly –Any fly caught on the surface of water. Usually made of non-water-absorbent material. Most commonly used to imitate adult aquatic insects.
Dry Fly Floatant – Chemical preparation applied to dry fly to waterproof it (before the fly is used); may be a paste or liquid.
Dubbing –Material used to make a body quickly.
Use a dubbing needle – A fine needle that is used to extract fibers from the dubbed body. Some refer to it as a “bodkin”.
Dun –(1) The first stage of the adult mayfly’s life cycle. It is usually short-lived (1 to 24 hours). (2) A darkish gray-blue color is highly desirable in fly tying materials.
Duncan’s loop – A monofilament knot that is used to attach a tippet to a hook’s eye. Also known as a uniknot.
Eddy –A section of water that has been less disturbed than surrounding water. This could be found, for example, at the edge of a current.
Elk Hair –Hair made from elk, which is used in many fly designs to provide body and floatation.
Emerger –The term used to refer to aquatic insects. It describes the time period when the nymph reaches surface and the adult hatches. The emerging nymph is perhaps the most important phase for fly fishers.
False Cast – Standard fly fishing cast. Used to shorten or lengthen the line, change direction, dry off the fly, and also to change direction. False casting is when the line moves backwards or forwards but does not touch the water surface. (See casting arc, forward cast and back cast).
Federation of Fly Fishers – A non-profit organization that teaches fly fishing and improves fisheries.
Ferrule –A collar is located at the junction of sections of a flyrod. In an overlapped fashion at the ferrule, the ends of the sections fit inside each other.
Fingerling –A small, immature fish such as a juvenile trout.
Fish ladder – A series of interconnected pools that are created at the river’s edge, such as a weir to allow salmon and other fish upstream.
Flashabou –Commercial name for a colorful, synthetic filament material that is used in fly tying to add flash to streamers and other patterns.
Flashback –A nymph pattern with a flashy material as a substitute for the wing cases, such reflective mylar. Take a look at our Pheasant tail range.
Float tube – This craft was originally made from an inner tube from a truck or tractor. It is now a one-person craft that has a seat across its bottom where the fly fisherman sits. The tube is moved around by scuba fins. Feet are in water. This fishing boat is popular among warm-water fly fishers as well as those who fish high-mountain lakes.
Floatant –A water-proofing (usually oily), salve or cream used to make fly leaders, flies and fly lines float.
Floating Flyline (F) –A fly line that floats the whole line; best for all purposes (see double taper.
Floss –Multi-strand silk, or synthetic substitute material for tying flies
Fluorocarbon – Tippet or leader material, correct name for the material is made of PVDF-polyvinylidenfluoride.
Fly –An artificial lure made with natural and synthetic materials, tied on hooks.
Fly casting –The standard method for presenting a fly at a target is to use a fly rod with fly line. It involves several castings (see back cast and forward cast), false cast, rollcast, “S” cast and shooting line.
Fly Line –Key ingredient for fly fishing; consists of a tapered coating over a braided nylon or dacron core. Available in many tapers and in sinking, sinking and sink-tip styles (see double taper, shooting head, weight forward and sink-tip and floating fly line).
Fly Pattern –This is the recipe for how to tie a particular fly.
Fly Reel – Fishing reel is used to hold fly lines in fly fishing. There are three types of basic reels: one action, multiplier and automatic. 1. Single action is the most commonly used and most preferred. A single action is when the handle turns one time and the spool turns one more. 2. Multiplying reels increase the ratio by using a gear system (usually 2-to-1). A 2-to-1 ratio means that each turn of the handle equals two revolutions of the reel. 3. 3.) Automatic fly reels: These are not practical for most people. They operate using a manually wound spring that is activated by the lever. However, automatic reels can be heavy and often malfunction.
Fly Rod –A fishing rod that is specifically designed to cast a flyline. Fly rods are different from other types of fishing rods because the reel attaches to the rod at the butt. The rod handle is always above the reel. Fly rods often have more line guides than other rods of the same length. The length of fly rods varies, but the most common lengths are between 7 and 9 inches.
Fly rod construction is made from bamboo, fiberglass, graphite, and other materials.
Fly Tying –The process of making fishing flies with thread and other materials.
Forceps – Hand-operated medical tool widely used in fly fishing to remove flies from the jaws and teeth of hooked fish. Locking clips can be used to secure plier-like jaws to the hook so they remain there until you release them.
Forward Cast –The front part of the false cast, or pick-up-and-lay-down, is mirrored to the back cast.
Forward Taper –Seek to lose weight.
Foul hook – You can’t hook a fish from anywhere other than the mouth.
Freestone –Type of stream or river with a steep gradient that results in water moving at a medium-to-fast speed. While the stream’s upper reaches may be fed by spring water, most of the flow is derived from run-off and tributaries. Because the water is so fast, it discourages the growth and rooting of weeds. This creates a “Free Stone” base. The freestone streams are less fertile that spring creeks, which results in a smaller and more diverse population of aquatic insects. There are usually fewer bugs in the faster water, which results in more opportunistic fish.
Fry –The first stage of a fish following hatching from an egg.
Gaiters –A neoprene legging or anklet is often worn over wader shoes to prevent gravel from entering the shoe. These are also known as gravel guards.
Gel-spun polyethylene –A synthetic fiber that is very thin, flexible, slippery, strong, and abrasion-resistant. It is larger than steel and stronger than steel. It is used often as a braided flyline backing when large backings are required and reel space is limited.
Graphite –The most widely used rod-building material today. It has the highest weight, strength, flexibility, and cost per unit of any other rod-building material.
Grip –The cork handle for a fly rod is generally made from cork rings that have been shaped in a variety of ways including a cigar grip and full-wells grip as well as a half-wells grip and superfine grip.
Grizzly –The coloration pattern is derived from a chicken that has been specially bred with a barred black and white V pattern. It may give the illusion of motion and is very popular with many fly species.
Hackle –A feather is usually found in the neck region of chickens. It can be any color (dyed, natural). The hackle quality determines what type of fly is tied with it. This includes the stiffness and web content of each fiber. Fly tying is a specialty of many hackles.
Hackle gauge –A ruler-like device is used to ensure that the hackle length matches the hook’s size. Hackle feather fibers (barbules), on a traditional dry fly, should be equal in length to the hook gap.
Hackle pliers –Fly-tyer’s tool to wrap the hackle feather around a hook
Hair stacker –A small tube that is used to level several hairs, most commonly deer hair.
Hare’s Ear – Sizes 12-16 nymphs can be used both as a caddis fly imitation or a mayfly imitation, and larger sizes as a stonefly imitator. Impressionistic flies work best in medium-to-fast water and streams with fewer aquatic insects.
Hatch –A large number of flies from the same species can be found
Haul – Pulling on the fly line with your non-casting hand to increase line speed and reach greater distances This can be done during line pickup.
Headwaters –The river’s upstream section is where the main tributaries join it. This section usually flows smaller than the main river section.
Hen Hackle –Hackle feathers of a chicken are soft and wide.
Herl Feathers – These are used to tie long, individual barbules with short, dense fibers. Useful for tails and making fly bodies, usually made from Ostrich and Peacock.
Hollow Hair- Hair from certain animals is hollow. This makes it easier to hold air and make them float. Ideal for drying flies and bass bug ties. Hollow hair is common in antelope, deer and elk.
Hook- The fly’s object can be of any size, from small to large, made from steel wire and bronzed, cadmium-coated or stainless. The style of the fly will determine the hook design.
Hook size – To a degree, hooks are standardized based on the gap (or gape), which is the distance between the hook shank to the hook point.
Imitator –A fly can imitate an insect- Imitative Flies –Flies that closely match certain insects (e.g. a BWO Comparadun) will be tied to flies. Imitative flies work best in clear, slow-moving water.
Impressionistic Flies –Flies tied loosely can suggest a variety or families of insects. A Hare’s Ear Nymph can be used in sizes 12-16 as a caddis fly imitation or as a stonefly imitation. Impressionistic flies work best in streams with fewer aquatic insects and medium to fast waters.
Improved clinch knot – A popular knot for attaching a monofilament tippet at the eye of a hook. After extensive publicity from Berkely, the Trilene knot is now known as the Trilene knot. It is stronger if the tippet is passed through the loop twice.
Indicator –A floating object is placed on the leader of the fly line to indicate the take by a fish of the fly or the direction of the drift. This is useful when nymphing with a slackline; it’s very effective. These objects can be made from floating putty or poly yarn, foam, and other materials.
Keeper –A loop of thin wire is built into the shaft of a fly rod near the grip. This allows the fly to be attached to the tippet or line while it is still connected. This gives fly fishers freedom to climb and walk without worrying about hooking trees or grass.
Kevlar- This material is man-made and can be used as a tipet for fish with sharp teeth. It is difficult to cut.
Knotless Tapered Leader – A fly fishing leader made entirely from monofilament. Tapering the leader is most often done by acid immersion or extrusion.
Knotted Leader –To make a tapered leader for fly fishing, you need to tie sections of different leader material together. The most common knots used to make such a leader include the blood (or barrel), knot and surgeon’s tie (see blood knot; surgeon’s tied, tapered leader material, leader material).
Kype –A male salmon or spawning trout develops a hook-like protrusion on their mandible. Salmon have a particularly distinctive kype.
Lanyard –A device that allows an item to be “tethered”, so it is always close at hand when necessary.
Larva –The immature, aquatic growing stage of the caddis, and other insects. To protect their larvae, many species of caddis build a protective layer of fine gravel or other debris. The larvae are a non-swimming, bottom-dwelling stage.
LeaderThe monofilament section between the fly and fly. It is tapered so that the fly will be delivered softly to the fly line. (See knotted leader, knotless tapred leader, turn-over, and monofilament).
Level Line –An untapered flyline, often floating. It can be difficult to cast and is not a good choice for all-round lines.
Lie –Fish are often found in areas of rivers or lakes where they can hang out. They are usually well-located as they are not in the main current and provide cover from predators, or offer a good source for insects or other food.
Line dressing –An old term that was used to describe oily substances that were used to increase buoyancy and clean silk fly lines. Modern fly lines can be washed with warm water and soap once per season for freshwater fishing.
Line weight –The weight of the first 30 feet in a fly line. This is used to standardize fly lines and match them to different stiffness fly rods. Line weighting does not use a linear numbering system. The first 30 feet are of a #6 line and the first 30 feet are of a #3 line. They weigh 100 grains.
Loading the Rod- This phrase describes the bend in the rod caused by the line’s weight as it moves through the air during casting.
Loop to loop –A loop is a method to connect a leader and a flyline by attaching a loop to the fly line. Sometimes, loop to loop connections can be made by connecting a tippet to a leader.
Marabou –Marabou is a feathery, soft, or underfeather-like material that can be found in most birds. However, it’s best for fly tying when it comes from domestic fowl such as chickens, turkeys, or other domestic poultry.
Match the hatch – A fly angler’s attempt to choose an artificial fly that mimics the behavior, color, size, and shape of the natural insects that fish are eating at a given time. Fish are often very picky about which insects they eat, especially when there is a hatch.
Maxillary –The rear bone is the upper jaw of a fish.
Mayfly –The aquatic insect most closely imitated worldwide is the sand fly. This insect is imitated by most dry fly and nymph pattern. The mayfly’s nymph stage lasts about a year, while the adult stages can last up to three days. It looks like a small sailboat because it has only one pair of upright wings. Mayflies can be found in cool or cold freshwater environments.
Mending Line –This method is used to ensure a smooth float. This is a series of flips or flips with the rod tip that places a horseshoe-shaped bow in the line. If the rod tip is bent upstream, it slows down how fast the line moves and speeds up downstream. If a cast is made across the stream, and the fastest current part is on your side of the stream, then the mends would be made upstream to slow down the line so that it can keep pace with the fly moving in the slower current.
Midge –A term that is used to describe the small Dipterans that trout eat. They are often called gnats by many people. The appearance of an adult is very similar to that of a mosquito. When at rest, midges have two wings which lie flat in a “V” shape above the back. Because of their small size, and the fact that they are so popular with trout, they are known as “the fly fishing curse”. When referring to small mayflies, the term “midge” can sometimes be misused.
Monofilament –A clear, flexible nylon filament that can be used for all types of fishing. It is available in many different breaking strengths (see breaking strength) as well as diameters.
Muddler –A deer hair is usually a fly.
Mylar- Metal plastic is available in sheets or tubes. You can use the tubing to imitate scales on flanks and fry imitating lures/streamer fly flies.
Nail Knot- Method of attaching a leader or butt piece of monofilament on the flyline and attaching the backing to it; usually tied with a small diameter tube, rather than a nail.
Narrow Loop –This is the term that describes how the fly line should look as it moves through the air. A narrow loop can be best described as the letter U turned upside down. It is made by using a narrow casting circle.
Nymph –Immature forms of insects; fly fishers are only concerned with the nymphs and larvae of aquatic insects.
Nymphing –Word that describes fish feeding on Nymphs. Nymphing at the surface can be hard to distinguish from fish feeding on adults. Careful observation should help you determine.
Open Loop –This term describes how the fly line appears when it is traveling through the air in a poor cast. It is caused by a wide casting arc.
Palmer –A method of wrapping a hackle-feather over a portion of the fly’s body. It is pulled through the water, and causes shock waves to cause attractive movement that helps fish find the fly.Palming –A term that refers to the application of drag against the release line when fighting fish.
Parachute –This dry fly uses the hackle to wrap horizontally around its base like a parachute and not around the hook. This causes the fly’s body to sink into the water’s surface. This is most effective in slow to medium-moving waters.
Pattern –The fixed layout of materials and the position of parts that make up artificial fly is sometimes known as its recipe.
Pectoral fins –The pair of fins located just behind the fish’s head.
Pelvic fins- The pair of fins located on the lower body part of a fish. Also known as ventral fins.
Perfection loop –This is a knot that’s used to make a loop in monofilament. It’s often found at the butt of a leader to connect the loop to the loop.
Pick up & Lay down- A fly fishing cast that only requires one back cast. After the line has been lifted from the water, a back cast is made. The forward cast is then allowed to straighten out and fall into the water.
Polarized sun glasses –Iodized lenses are sunglasses that block incident light (glare), which allows anglers to see below the surface glare of the water.
Poly Yarn- A synthetic yarn made of polypropylene. It is used in fly tying.
Pool –A section of river or stream that has a greater depth and a slower current. This makes it safer for predators birds and animals and allows you to swim against the current.
Presentation – The act of placing the fly on the water, then offering it to the fish. Each fishing situation has a different presentation. You want to present the fly in a way that is similar to the natural food or insect you are trying to imitate.
Pupa –Insects, the stage that transitions between the larvae and the adults; for fly-fishers caddis pupa is the most important.
Quill –Section of a primary and secondary feather used for fly tying.
Reach cast –Cast used to add slack to the line or for fishing downstream.
Redd –A hollow dug in the sand and gravel of a riverbed to breed trout or salmon.
Reel Seat –Mechanism that attaches the reel to the rod. Usually uses locking metal rings or sliding band.
Retrieve –After casting is complete, the fly can be brought back to the caster in many ways. The most important point of retrieving the fly is to keep the rod tip down and straight down the line.
Riffle –A small rapid in a stream or river.
Riparian –A term used to describe anything that is, or is situated on, a riverbank. It is often used in conjunction with fishing rights and ownership.
Rise –Action of a trout when it is looking for a fly on water’s surface
Rod Flex –The rod’s bend during acceleration phase. The tip-Flex rods bend through the tip, Mid-Flex and Full Flex rods bend into the middle sections, while Mid-Flex rods bend towards the tip.
Roe- A collective term for fish milt or ova.
Roll Cast –One of the most basic fly castings. It allows you to cast without a back cast. This is essential when using sinking lines.
“S” Cast –Cast is a method of putting deliberate and controlled slack in a cast. It’s used in getting a drag-free float and in conjunction to mending lines (see drag, dead drift and mending).
Scud –A small, freshwater-scrimp-like crustacean which is found in most trout water and provides food for the trout.
Sea-run –A term that describes brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout which hatch in freshwater, then migrate to the ocean to mature and return to freshwater to spawn. Rainbow trout are the most well-known sea-run trout. They can be found in the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes.
Setting the Hook- The act of inserting the hook into the fish’s flesh. This is dependent on the size and type of hook used and the breaking strength of the leader. Most people are too aggressive with trout and warm-water fish while not enough with salmon and saltwater fish.
Shank –The hook is a long straight section between the eyeballs and the bend.
Shooting line- This is the act of increasing the length of your fly casting by releasing extra fly line (usually in your non-casting hands) during the forward/presentation portion of the cast. This technique allows fly anglers to false cast a shorter section of line, and only then can they bring in a longer segment.
Shooting Taper – ST or Shooting Head – Shooting heads have a single, short tapered fly line. They are ideal for long casts and minimal effort. By quickly changing head sections, shooting heads can be used for all types of fly fishing.
Sink Rate –The speed at which a fly line sinks. There are at least six sink rates available for fly lines. They range from extremely slow to very fast.
Sink-Tip Fly Line- A floating fly line that has the tip portion sinking; it is available in four foot, 10 foot and 12 foot sizes; the 10 foot sink-tips can be used in many types of fly fishing.
Sinking Fly Line (S). A fly line whose entire length sinks below the surface of water.
Spawn –The behavior of fish that have females depositing eggs (also known as spawn) on different surfaces. Males then produce the necessary milt to turn the eggs into fry.
Spey –A special casting technique that uses two-handed rods and modified roll casts. It was named after the river that it was created in Scotland.
Spinner –The egg-laying stage of the mayfly is not as important as the dun stage for fly fishermen. (See mayfly and Dun).
Spool –You can purchase the fly reel’s rotating part, which holds the backing as well as the fly line separately.
Spring creek –A stream or creek that receives its water from ground flow, spring sources, or glacier/snowmel or surface runoff. Spring creeks are usually at the temperature of the average annual rainfall. They do not freeze or warm up in winter, but they can be quite cold in summer.
Stalking –To surprise or not disturb a fish, creep up on it.
Standing Line – The line joining to another line for the purpose of tying the tag ends together. The knot joins two lines by joining their ends with a tag.
Steelhead –A migratory rainbow trout
Stock Fish –Captive fish are fish that have been raised in captivity and then stocked into fisheries.
Stonefly –Very important aquatic insect. Nymphs live for up to three years depending on the species. Adults hatch by crawling to shoreline and then emerging from their nymphal cases above the surface. Trout can only access the adult stoneflies when they are at rest. Stoneflies need a stream with a good water quality and rocky bottom.
Streamer- Fly-tying is used to imitate various species of baitfish on which game fish feed. Usually tied with feathers for the wings, but hair and/or feathers can also be used. Tied in all sizes (see Bucktail).
Strike –The action of a fish when it tries to eat a fly. The movement of the fly angler’s rod to set the hook.
Strike Indicator –A floating object is placed on the leader of the fly line to indicate the take by a fish of the fly or the direction of the drift. This is useful when nymphing with a slackline; it’s very effective. These objects can be made from floating putty or poly yarn, foam, and other materials.
Stripping line – Instead of winding it on the reel, pull the line through your fingers.
The Surgeon’s Knot- Excellent knot to join two monofilament lines together. Lines may have different diameters.
Tag –(or tag end). This is the end of the line used to tie a knot. (also see Standing Line).
Tail –The hook is the part of the fly that is usually made of hair or fine feathers.
Tailwater –The downstream section of a stream or river that is located below a large, man-made dam. Bottom-discharge dams provide the most productive and famous tailwaters. They keep the water extremely cold and stable.
Tapered Leader- A leader made from monofilament that is used for fly fishing. The leader’s back, or butt, section is nearly as big as the fly line and then gets smaller as you get closer to the tip (see tippet, knotted leader and knotless tapered).
Terrestrial- This term is used to describe insects that are land-based and which often feed fish.
Thorax –Although nymphs are usually associated with them, there is a small part of the fly that can be used, most often the area behind the head. It is mainly made with dubbing.
Tight Loop –Same as narrow loop (see “narrow Loop”).
Tinsel –A thin ribbon of silver, gold, or brass that is used to add shine to flies. It can also be used for ribbing and fly bodies.
Tip section- The top of a fly rod is the smallest section and farthest away from the grip.
Tippet –The tippet is the end section of the tapered leader; it is the narrowest section.
Trout Unlimited- Non-profit organization devoted to protecting and improving trout fisheries with a special emphasis on wild trout.
Turnover –These are words to describe the way the leader and fly line straighten at the end of the cast.
Subcurrent –The flow of water below the surface, which can be opposite to the surface flow on stillwaters.
Unloading the Rod- Unbending the rod. Transferring the casting energy of the rod to the fly line.
Upstream- Against the current of the stream or river.
Flying up –The Ephemeroptera order is a group of flies that have wings almost vertically and possess one or more tails or setae.
Upwind- In the wind.
Vest- A fly fisherman’s packable tackle box. There are many styles to choose from. This is especially important for wading situations.
Vise –This tool is used to hold the fly hook and tie on materials.
Wader belt –An adjustable belt should be placed near the top of the chest waders. This is to prevent water from entering the waders.
Waders- High-topped waterproof boots. There are two main types of boots used for fishing: stocking and boot feet. Boot foot has boots that you can pull on and go. Stocking foot needs to be paired with wading shoes. It provides greater support and traction.
Wading Shoes- Shoes made specifically for use over stocking foot waders. They can be made from leather, nylon, or any other synthetic material.
Wading staff- A walking stick that is specially designed to give stability to wading fly anglers when they are moving through deep or fast water. Some wading staffs can be folded and stored in a pocket of a fishing vest until they are needed.
Weight Forward (WF).It is a simple casting fly line as it carries most its weight in the front section. Instead of a tapered middle section like a double taper, it quickly tapers down to a fine diameter running run line that shoots through the guides with less resistance. This makes it the most versatile fly fly line.
Wet Fly –Any fly that is fished below the surface water level; streamers and nymphs are wet flies. Traditional style fly tied with soft, swept-back hackles and a backward-sweeping wing. This is the predecessor of the streamer and nymph.
Wet Fly Swing- A typical method of fishing a wet fly is to use this presentation method. Cast the fly downstream and across, then swim it along the current. This is commonly used to imitate small fish, emerging caddis and swimming mayflies.
Wind Knot –An overhand knot in the leader, caused by poor casting. This greatly reduces the leader’s breaking strength.
Whip Finish- When finishing a fly, a knot is used to tie the thread.
X – The original measurement to indicate the diameter of leader material that has been used in conjunction with a number, such as “4X” Add the numeral to the number 11 (eleven) to determine the diameter of “4X” and any other “X” numbers. This will give you the diameter in thousandsths of an inch. For example, to calculate the diameter of 4X material subtract 4 from 11, (11 – 4, = 7) and the result is.007″. Note: The diameter of a material does not necessarily correspond with its breaking strength.
Yolk sac- The membrane-covered food pouch is found on the stomach of newly hatched fish. It provides nutrition to the fish as it grows until it can feed itself.
Zinger –slang for a retractable device. It is useful for hanging things such as nippers from your vest to keep it out of the way when they are not in use.
Z-Lon – Synthetic yarn used to make carpeting. It can be used in fly tying for many purposes, including nymph bodies and spent wings.
In this fly fishing terms list, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the most important terms you’ll need to know when fly fishing. From casting to tying knots, this list has it all! So whether you are a beginner or an experienced angler, be sure to review these fly fishing terms before your next trip out on the water.