What is Fly Fishing

Grumpy McMurdo Fishing News

To the uninitiated trout fly-fishing is a pastime with an air of mystery about it. The fly fisher appears to spend more time flicking his fly and line back and forward through the air than actually Ietting it land on the water. The thousands of fly patterns available and the endless variety of tackle on the market, only add to this air of mysteriousness.

Yet, despite the apparent complexity of the sport, fly-fishing can be defined simply as trying to catch trout using an artificial fly that imitates the various forms of food on which they feed. And fly-fishing in the true sense involves the use of a fly rod and casting line in order to present the fly to the fish.

Fly-fishing can be divided into several different methods according to the techniques used. The two main divisions are Wet Fly and Dry Fly fishing. The simple difference being that a wet fly sinks and a dry fly floats. Wet fly fishing can be further divided into nymph, lure and traditional wet fly fishing, each employing different techniques.

What is the difference between dry fly and wet fly fishing?
The single answer is a dry fly floats on the surface of the water and a wet fly sinks. But, of course, there’s a bit more to it than that.

The dry fly
If trout are taking a form of food such as beetles floating on the surface of the water, the logical thing to do is to fish an imitation of a beetle floating on the surface. Beetles aren’t good swimmers. So to imitate the beetle in action as well as in looks, the fly must drift freely. On still waters this would mean casting out and letting the fly sit there, whereas on a river the fly would be cast upstream and allowed to drift downstream completely unhindered by line and leader.

Drag is the term used to describe the pulling effect of line and leader on a fly when it deviates from the natural drift of the current. Drag is no always a bad thing in dry fly fishing, as some insects scuttle across the surface of the water leaving a wake.

Pulling a suitable artificial fly across the surface would be the right thing to do when imitating them. Obviously a floating line should be used with the dry fly, and the lighter the better, 5 or 6 weight being suitable for most situations.

The wet fly
Wet fly fishing is more diverse than dry fly fishing and can be divided into three main areas, traditional wet fly fishing, nymphing and lure fishing.

Traditional wet fly
This method of fly-fishing has a lot in its favor as far as the beginner is concerned and on occasions is very useful to the expert. Some experienced anglers look down on wet fly fishing but it can be an extremely effective method of catching trout.

The basic technique is to cast the fly downstream and across the river, letting the current carry the fly around till it is below the angler and then recasting. After each cast or two the angler takes a couple of steps downstream, gradually covering all the water within his reach. Any trout that takes the fly can be felt and the rod is lifted to set the hook.

The downstream angle of the cast is varied according to the speed of the current. The faster it is, the further downstream the cast is made and, conversely, the slower the current is, the further across the cast is made. By varying the casting angle any speed of water can be fished effectively from fast ripples to slow, deep pools.

Depth can also be varied by using light or weighted flies or a sinking or floating line. This traditional method evolved using silk lines, which sank slowly, and probably the best modern line to use is a slow sinker of 5, 6 or 7 weight.

Wet flies themselves can be used to imitate different forms of trout food, except those that float on the surface. A few basic patterns are all that are necessary to cover most situations. The sizes shouldn’t be too big, 12 and 14 being about right.

With practice and experience the best looking water can be picked out and small eddies and backwaters near fast water are perfect for exploratory casts. Once a degree of line control is attained, and an eye for water developed, casts can be made in any direction in relation to the current.

A slow retrieve in pools where there is no current can be very effec-tive at times. The retrieve gives movement that is usually provided by the current acting on the line and fly.

Once sufficient control of the line is achieved, and the angler can present his wet fly straight upstream in a reasonable flow of water, he is into the realm of what has developed into modern nymph fishing.