Looking to get into fly fishing but confused by all the terminology that surrounds the fly? Dry, wet, emerger, terrestrial, nypmh, streamer…the list goes on and can make it difficult to know what/when/how to fish certain situations for a new fly fisherman or woman. Believe it or not, this is actually a science called Entomology (bug science). Since most of us did not go to school to learn about a bug’s life, this post is intended for the new angler looking to understand the basics before throwing a fly. We’ll follow this up with more in-depth posts on the subject, but this should serve as a general primer.
For simplicity, flies can be broken down into two broad categories: wet and dry. After establishing flies as either wet or dry, they are then be broken out into sub-categories including nymph, streamer, emerger, and terrestrial. These sub categories are used to describe the insect’s lifecycle stage and what type of prey is it attempting to mimic. We go into detail below:
As the name implies, wet flies are all flies that are fished below the surface. When you throw these flies, they will sink and mimic an insect in its egg, larva, or hatching-below-the-water stages. New anglers tend to have more ease fishing wet flies because they are much more forgiving of casting technique versus dry flies.
Nymphs – many use “wet fly” and “nymph” interchangeably, but technically, a nymph is a stage of an insect’s life. Nymphs are fished below the surface and resemble the beginning stage of an insect’s life. “Nymphing” is a very popular trout fishing technique and because most trout eat 80% of their food underwater, it tends to see great results. Nymphing can typically be done year round and in a variety of conditions. Study the water around you and attempt to match your fly to the current hatch of insects.
Streamers – streamers are favored by those targeting bigger game. These flies are relatively large in size compared to traditional nymph flies and can be made of bucktail, rabbit fur and other materials with flash patterns along the sides. Streamers mimic moving baitfish and typically require a constant retrieve to imitate prey. These flies are best used in moving water, and can be the ticket to the fish of a lifetime!
Emergers – almost a hybrid type fly between a wet and dry fly, this is fished in the surface film of the water. Emergers represent aquatic insects evolving from the nymph stage, attempting to hatch into an adult insect that may crawl or fly away. If you study the water and see fish feeding just below the surface, they are most likely feeding on emergers. Many anglers find these flies difficult to fish because it is hard to see them moving in the water. That shouldn’t stop you from trying emergers out because they can be extremely effective when chasing trout.
Dry flies are fished on the surface and usually represent the adult stage of life of an insect. Dry flies are fished with most success during spring, summer and early fall seasons when there is an abundance of insects present. When down at the stream, pay attention to the movements of insects you see on the surface and use that as a guide for how to fish your dry flies.
Terrestrials – these flies describe land based insects or critters that live near the shore of a water body and may be blown or fall into the water. Examples include grasshoppers, ants, beetles, crickets, and cicadas… even mice! These are popular flies among trout fishermen during the spring, summer and fall seasons. Anglers tend to find the most success with these flies in shallower pools, but you may find fish feed on the surface in deeper water from time to time.
Our goal at Postfly is to give you a variety of flies that will work well for in most fly fishing conditions. We can give you the basics and provide the flies, but it’s up to you to get out on the water and find what works best for your situation!
Our fly fishing subscription boxes are a great way to learn about, collect and fish many different fly patterns. We’ve got plans for trout, steelhead, warmwater and saltwater fly fishing boxes, starting at just $12/mo (for the 12 month plan).
PFB Tribe… what have been some of your favorite fly patterns? Any advice for the new angler on how to fish them? Comments are encouraged below.