Fly Fishing Glossary

If you think a hatch is something chickens do, it’s time to bone up on your fly-fishing terminology. Here’s a glossary of the basics:

  • Barb: The raised piece of metal immediately behind the point of a hook.
  • Caddis flies: Mothlike aquatic insects that are prey for trout and bass.
  • Dapping: A way to fish for trout close to a bank. Instead of casting to the fish, you sneak up to the shoreline, extend the rod tip over the water, then drop the fly onto the surface slightly up-current so the fly drifts to the fish.
  • Dead drift: The pulling of a fly downstream by the current.
  • Dry fly: An artificial fly designed to float on the water’s surface.
  • False cast: Throwing a fly line backward and forward, keeping it aloft, to gain distance, dry a damp fly, or simply to practice.
  • Freestone stream: A body of water that flows over a gravel- or rock-covered bottom.
  • Match: A period of time when aquatic insects emerge from the water in great quantity. Also, the mass of insects as they emerge.
  • Jigging: A bouncing motion you impart to a weighted fly while it’s on the bottom of the stream.
  • Leader: The nearly invisible connection between the fly line and fly.
  • Mayflies: A large group of aquatic insects that are prey for a variety of freshwater fish.
  • Midge: Any of a group of minuscule aquatic insects that are prey to an assortment of freshwater fish.
  • Nymph: The stage of an aquatic insect’s life when it lives in an armored body; the time between hatching from the egg and shucking the armor as it emerges from the water to become an airborne adult.
  • Presentation: The final stage of a cast, when you place the fly on the water. Also, the way you maneuver the fly in the water.
  • Rise: The moment when a fish comes to the surface to take an insect. Also, the time of day when fish are feeding on the surface. For example, the evening rise.
  • Stone flies: Aquatic insects that live in well-oxygenated streams and lakes, often among stones; an important food source for fish.
  • Terrestrials: Insects such as ants, crickets, and beetles that live on land but often fall on the water, where they become fish food. Also, the generic term for artificial flies that simulate land insects.
  • Twitch: A bit of motion you impart to a fly by slightly tugging on the line.
  • Wet fly: An artificial lure designed to sink and simulate an aquatic insect.

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