Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing Jargon – A Dictionary For Beginners

The Fly Fishing world can be rather daunting for those new to the sport. There are countless pieces of gear that you are yet to be able to name, let alone become familiar with using and understanding. It can seem like a long road to learn all of this especially when everyone else in the fly fishing world seems to be speaking a different language. 

I’ve enjoyed introducing a lot of people to fly fishing, though one thing I quickly learnt when teaching others is how much of the fly fishing language is complete gibberish to newcomers. Having been around fly fishing as far back as I can remember, all of the fly fishing jargon we use had been installed into my mental dictionary for so long it was easy to forget that it’s not exactly common knowledge. This article is focused on providing a list of terms we use in fly fishing so you can understand what that guy in the fishing shop is rambling about.

One thing that may come as comfort to beginners is to know that while the list of things to know in the sport is nearly endless, no one knows it all and anyone who thinks they do probably knows the least. Fly Fisherman enjoy the complexity and continual learning involved with fly fishing. Enjoying and perhaps even showing off that complexity around beginners can make it seem both an interesting and intimidating sport at the same time. You don’t have to know all the fancy words and the name of everything at the start, as long as you grasp some basic ideas and principles you will be far enough along your journey to catch some beautiful fish and enjoy the sport for what it is.

Disclaimer: The fly fishing journey does not end and is addictive, the author and/or On The Fly NZ is not responsible for broken bank accounts, angry partners or broken relationships as a result of Fly Fishing.


The Unofficial Incomplete Glossary Of Fly Fishing

Cast: The process of getting or throwing a line out using the fly rod

Dead Drift: A drift that is completely unaltered by the angler, fly line or surrounding current.

Double-Haul: A technique used when casting to increase line speed, helping achieve more distance.

Drag (Fly reel): The fly reels adjustable setting to adjust the resistance at which line is drawn.

Drag: Unnatural movement of the flies when trying to achieve a dead drift.

Dry Fly: A fly that is used to imitate a floating insect (well technically you can imitate a mammal such as a mouse but most of the time a dry fly is an insect imitation…and yes I did say mouse).

Dry Fly Purist: Thinks he/she is better than you but doesn’t catch much.

Emerger: A fly that is meant to imitate a nymph in its transition from a nymph to an adult. During this process, nymphs swim up off the bottom to undergo metamorphosis at the surface or in the surface film.

Fast Action (Fly Rod Context): A fly rod designed to be stiffer within its relative weight. They are more powerful with less flex.

Floating Line: A fly line that floats, used to fish both rivers and lakes with nearly all types of flies.

Fluorocarbon: A type of tippet material. Fluorocarbon is faster sinking and more abrasion resistant than other tippet materials.

Fly Tying: The process of constructing an artificial fly.

Fly: An artificial lure (usually but not always made from natural materials such as feathers) used to catch fish by imitating their prey.

Hatch: An emergence of a large number of the same species. E.g. a mayfly hatch.

Indicator (Bobber): Often made of yarn is attached to the leader/tippet section to indicate a fish biting.

Intermediate Sinking Fly Line: A fly line that sinks slowly (about 1.25 feet per second).

Leader: Section of the line between tippet and fly line (Monofilament or fluorocarbon).

Lie: A section of a river where fish are likely to be.

Mending: An adjustment made to the fly line by an angler, usually but not always to achieve a drag-free drift.

Monofilament/Nylon: A common tippet material, is naturally buoyant and has more stretch than fluorocarbon.

Nymph: A type of fly used to imitate an insect during the larval or pre-adult stages of its life.

Pocket Water: Pocket water refers to a piece of water in which the flow is significantly less than that of the water around it. Usually created by obstacles such as boulders.

Pool: A section of river with softer current, often deeper and less flow than the surrounding sections or runs.

Rise: The process of a trout taking a fly or insect from just below, on or above the surface of the water. Usually on the surface.

Roll Cast: A type of cast that uses a rolling motion to propel line in the desired direction.

Running Line: A section of fly line that is generally thinner and has no taper (is level) as opposed to the shooting (frontward) section of the fly line.

Seam: The line between fast flowing water and water that is flowing slower, not at all or in reverse.

Shooting Head: A fast sinking line that is attached to either a fly line or running line.

Slow Action (Fly Rod Context): A fly rod designed to be more supple, they are less powerful and more flexible, often used for delicate presentations.

Streamer: A fly that typically imitates a small fish

Tapered Leader: A leader which tapers towards the end to assist in the turnover of the flies.

Terrestrial: Land dwelling insects that often become a source of food for trout e.g cicadas, crickets etc.

Tippet: The material (fluorocarbon or monofilament) attached to the flies.

Wee-Wet: A traditional Scottish wet fly most commonly used to imitate an emerging nymph.

Weight (Fly rod context): The line weight rating that a rod is built to cast. Higher line weight rods are thicker, heavier and stiffer while lighter line weights are thinner, lighter and less rigid.

Wet Fly: While synonymous with streamers, the true definition of a wet fly is a fly is made to be fished subsurface.

There we have it! A guide that will hopefully be a helpful dictionary to those getting into in the sport of fly fishing! This list is focusing on the basic terms rather than the more complex terms in order to avoid information overload. If we’ve missed anything or there is anything you are wondering, leave a comment here or via Facebook and we will be sure to add it.

Tight Lines!

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