Fly-Fishing Fly Descriptions

Fly-Fishing Fly Descriptions
In fly-fishing, the fly is the bait--not a lure, worm or shrimp. The fly gives you the opportunitiy to catch fish in different locations and during varying parts of the day since the fly represents the insects of the area. Artificial flies are either attractors (gaudy, bright designs used to stimulate fish) or deceivers (flies that mimic natural food items such as nymphs).

Parts of a Fly

Each fly is made up of the same basic pieces--the head, wing, tail, hackle, body, rib and hook. Select a fly based on where you are fishing, what time of day and what type of fish is in the water. Your best bet is to talk to locals to find out what they fish with and the best time of day to head to the water.

Salmon and Steelhead Flies

If you are fishing for salmon or steelhead use this category of fly as they are typically attractor flies used to attract salmon once they have returned to freshwater to spawn. Common flies in this category include silver doctor, silver rat, black brahan, sparkle shrimp, comet, spruce, egg fly and purple zonker. The sparkle shrimp is an imitation of a shrimp with a stripe of pearl Lurex on the back to look like the shell of a shrimp.

Dry Flies

Dry flies are fishing flies that float on or in the surface of the water to imitate insects just above the water. They can be as small as a midge imitator or as large as a caddis fly or mayfly. Flies to look for include daddy longlegs, humpy, grey wulff, thorax mayfly, iron blue, adams, ginger quill or beacon beige. The adams fly is one of the most used dry flies since its coloration mimics the emerging olive dun, a favorite of trout.

Wet Flies

As indicated by the name, wet flies are used to fish below the water's surface. You will create a disturbance in the water when you retrieve them, creating the illusion of an insect in the water. Examples include invicta, butcher, bibio, gosling, doobry, green peter, march brown, dark cahill and olive quill.

Streamers and Hairwings

Use the larger streamer and hairwing flies to catch predatory fish that are looking for something alive and ready to eat. Hairwings have wings made of hair while streamers are made of feathers. These are definitely attractor flies since they are usually quite bright and ornate in their construction. Common streamers are pink nasty, soft hackle streamer, badger matuka and viva. Hairwing flies include thunder creek minnow, muddler minnow, floating fry and goldie. Use a goldie (a combination of black, gold and yellow) to attract both sea trout and browns.


The word "nymph" refers to the larval stage of many aquatic insect species and can include insect pupae and small crustaceans. Common nymph flies include woolly worm, distressed damsel, marabou nymph, cased caddis, shrimp, emergent pupa and dragonfly nymph. Used the cased caddis to fish deep since its weight carries it to the bottom.

Article Written By Laurie Roddy

A native of Houston, Laurie Roddy is a freelance outdoor writer with over 25 years writing experience. The main topics that she prefers to write about include hiking, golf, paddling, and traveling. She is a contributing writer for "Cy-Fair Magazine" and writes regularly for several websites. Roddy attended the University of Houston receiving a journalism degree. She has written "60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Houston."

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