Article Fly Fishing Glossary

Action - An elusive, but important characteristic of fly rods. Rods are said to have fast or slow action. Fast action rods are generally stiffer overall, but bend more at the tip, generating higher line speeds longer casts, especially into the wind. Slow action rods, appear to flex their entire length, giving the sense of a more compliant feel.
Adult - The winged stage of aquatic insects; reproductive stage.
AFTMA - The American Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Association, the folks who standardized the weights of fly lines the only thing in fly fishing under a standard.
Albright Knot - A common knot used for tying the backing to fly line.
American Shad - Alosa sapidissima
Anadromous - Fish that live most of their adult life in saltwater but spawn in freshwater like salmon. Fish that migrate from freshwater to the sea for spawning are catadromous.
Anti-Reverse - A feature of fly reels where the spool handle does not turn as line is pulled out from the reel.
Arbor - The center part of a fly reel where line and backing (first) is wound.
Arbor knot - A knot used for tying backing to the arbor of the fly reel.
Attractor - A style or variety of fly that is effective in eliciting strikes, but has few apparent characteristics of a natural food item. Often an attractor is flashy and bigger than life.
Backcast - that portion of any fly cast that extends behind the caster (as in false casting).
Backing - The first segment of line on a reel, usually braided and used to build up the arbor and to offer additional distance for a strong fish to pull out line. An unusually strong fish will take you "into your backing".
Badger - A feather of a specially bred or chosen chicken that has colors which change from brown--black to black at the center of the quill to ginger or white on the outer edges.
Baetis - Widely distributed genus of mayflies typically found in sizes 16 to 22.
Bamboo - oldest rod building material still in use; the classical fly rod material.
Barbless - Barbless hooks are either manufactured without a barb or the barb is squeezed down. This feature makes it easier to remove a hook and minimizes the handling and potential damage of a fish you may want to release.
Barrel Knot - See blood knot
Barrel Knot - same as blood knot. (see [[Blood Knot]]).
Bass Bug - name used to describe a large number of surface bass flies usually tied with hollow hair (such as deer hair).
Bass Bug - name used to describe a large number of surface bass flies usually tied with hollow hair (such as deer hair).
Bass Bug Taper - a special weight forward floating fly line with a short front taper so that the generally wind-resistant bass bugs can turn over (see weight forward and turn over).
Beadhead - Usually but not always a fly with a bead immediately behind the hook eye. Beads come in many materials, from brass to nickel brass to ceramic. Some beads help a fly sink, but others are floaters.
Belly - A tapered fly line has several components, with a fairly sharply tapered tip (at the fly end). The middle portion of the line is called the belly.
Belly boat - Originally using a tractor or truck inner tube, this is a one-person craft with a seat across the bottom on which the fly fisher sits. Feet are in the water and scuba fins are used to move the tube around. This type of fishing boat is very popular with warmwater fly fishers and with individuals who fish high mountain lakes. Also called a belly boat. See kick boat.
Bimini Twist - A knot used in saltwater fly fishing say for tarpon. It has a loop and a double line section making it especially strong.
Blank - Fiber glass and graphic fly rods (which also have fiber glass) are produced by wrapping sheets of graphite and fiber glass around a carefully tapered steel rod (called a mandrel). The hollow rod that results from this process is called a blank. It has no guides, ferrules or reel seat.
Blood Knot - the most widely used knot for tying two pieces of monofilament with similar diameters together; the best knot for construction of a knotted tapered leader; also called the barrel knot.
Blood knot - A best known for its strength in tying monofilaments of different diameter and material together. It is rather difficult to tie on the water and commercially-made blood knot tyers are available to make the job easier. A blood knot is often used to make a fly leader of several different diameter monofilament segments. Also known as a barrel knot.
Bobbin - A fly tying tool and term borrowed from seamstresses. A bobbin holds the tying thread.
Bodkin - A bodkin is a tool best described as a needle with a handle. It can be easily made from a piece of wooden dowling and a needle. It is used in fly tying used to deposit cement or lacquer to a fly.
Braided loop connector - A way of putting an in-line loop at the end of your fly line so as to use the loop on the leader to do a loop-to-loop connection between the leader and the fly line. The braided loop connector works like the so-called Chinese finger torture.
Breaking Strength - amount of effort required to break a single strand of unknotted monofilament or braided line, usually stated in pounds (example: 6 lb. test).
Breakoff - A term of defeat and excitement for a fly angler describing the event of a hooked fish breaking your tippet or leader. Usually a break off results from an unusually strong or big fish.
Bucktail - (1) the hair found on the tail of the Eastern whitetail deer, used in the tying of many types of flies; can be dyed any color, or used natural, (2) a type of minnow simulating fly, usually constructed of bucktail.
Butt section - The thicker end of a tapered leader that is tied to the fly line.
Caddis - A common aquatic insect found in many streams and rivers. They are a favorite food of trout and other fish. They have a number of distinct stages, including an underwater pupa and an above the water surface adult. Caddis have tent shaped wings and are known in both lakes and rivers to fly down upon he water to deposit their eggs.
Callibaetis widely distributed genus of mayfly that is commonly found in lakes - often called the "Speckled Wing Dun" because of the speckled markings on the leading edge of the adults wings. Callibaetis are usually found in sizes 16 & 18.
Casting Arc - the path that the fly rod follows during a complete cast, usually related to the face of a clock.
Casting Plane - The angle(s) above or below horizontal the rod tip actually follows during the casting sequence. If you ever want to understand wind casting, this is extremely important to success or failure.
Catch and release - A practice originating in the late 1930s to conserve fish populations by unhooking and returning a caught fish to the water in which it was caught. This is a highly successful practice in many warmwater, cold water and saltwater settings.
Caudal fin - Caudal is an anatomical term meaning "the back". The caudal fin is the tail fin or tail of a fish.
CDC - Stands for "Cul de Canard" which literally translates to "butt of the duck". Used both to refer to the feathers from the area around the oil gland of a duck and also to the flies tied with these feathers. The feathers from this area are very wispy and impregnated with natural oils making them extremely waterproof.
Char - A species of fish that is related to trout, that prefers cold water and is found many places in the world, including both east and west United States. Examples of char are brook trout, lake trout, arctic char and Dolly Varden.
Click drag - A mechanical system on many inexpensive fly reels used to slow down or resist the pulling efforts of a fish, so as to slow the fish down and tire it to the point where it can be landed. Basically a clicking sound is created by a triangular steel ratchet snaps over the teeth of the gear in the reel spool. The term singing reels refers to the high frequency clicking associated with a big fish pulling out line .
Clinch knot - A very popular knot for tying the tippet to the fly. It has the advantage of being very easy to tie and not using much line. See improved clinch.
Collar - A ring of feathers or hair placed immediately behind the head of the fly.
Comparadun - series of no-hackle dry flies developed by Caucci & Nastasi in 1970s using a hair wing tied in a 180° flair. They are very effective patterns in slow moving clear water where an imitative (as opposed to impressionistic) pattern is needed.
Co-Polymers - mixtures of various nylons and plastics along with anti-UV chemicals that have resulted in the exceptionally high breaking strength of modern tippet material. Orvis Super Strong is a co-polymer tippet material. This is certainly one of the biggest advancements in fly fishing in the last 50 years. It allows us to use very fine tippets with breaking strengths two to four times as strong as regular nylon monofilament. Co-polymers are not as abrasion resistant as regular nylon monofilament.
Cripple - The term cripple describes a range of insects with a common characteristic. For one reason or another they cannot leave the water and remain trapped on or in the surface. The emerging insect may have become exhausted or otherwise is unable to satisfactorily emerge from its shuck. It may be injured. It is trapped in its shuck or casing and lies helplessly in the film. A fully emerged dun which has been blown back on the surface of the water and is unable to fly away will also be included in this description. It is easy pickings for a fish. The cripple will drift in the current to the eddies and slowly die. Although not a cripple in the sense that it has left the water, the spinner which also lays helplessly on the water is equally easy prey for a trout.
Curve cast - A casting technique that allows an angler to cast a fly around an obstacle. It is also used to minimize the influence of water current or wind on the fly or the fly line.
Damping - reducing excess vibrations in the rod blank when unloading the rod during a cast. This causes fewer waves in your fly line resulting in more power & distance for less effort. Orvis use a proprietary damping material, called MVR, in the handle of the Trident Rods to accomplish this to a level not attainable by casting skills alone.
Damsel fly - an important stillwater aquatic insect most commonly imitated in the nymphal form; usually hatches in early to mid-summer. Adult looks like a dragonfly, but folds its wings along its back when at rest.
Dapping - A relatively ancient technique of presenting a fly on the surface of the water where the fly is connected to a short piece of line on a long rod. The fly is then touched on the surface of the water, immediately over an place where a fish might lie.
Dead drift - A term applied to the way that artificial flies must drift with the current to appear natural. This requires that the fly line, leader and tippet move with the fly and cause unnatural drag or a "v" that will result in most fish refusing the fly.
Deer Hair - most commonly used of the hollow hairs for fly tying; used for the Humpy and the Muddler Minnow styles of flies.
Disk drag - A mechanical system on more expensive fly reels whereby resistance is created to the line as a fish pulls it out. This resistance is intended to slow the fish and tire it. The resistance proper is created by applying pressure between two disks. Different from the click drag, the disk drag is smoother and less likely to create a sudden force that will break the line
Double haul - The term for the cast where the caster quickly pulls and releases the line on both the back cast and the forward cast. It is used to create greater line speed, enabling the caster to reach farther or cut through wind.
Double Taper - DT or double taper refers to a fly line that is reduced in diameter on both ends. When one end of a DT fly line wears out, you can take it off the reel, turn it around and use the other end.
Drag - (1) term used to describe an unnatural motion of the fly caused by the effect of the current on line and leader. Drag is usually detrimental, though at times useful (such as imitating the actions of the adult caddis). (2) Resistance applied to the reel spool to prevent it from turning faster than the line leaving the spool (used in playing larger fish).
Drag Free - see Dead Drift
Dragonfly - important stillwater aquatic insect most commonly imitated in the nymphal form; usually hatches in early to mid-summer. Unlike the Damselfly, the Dragonfly adult holds its wings straight out (like an airplane) when at rest.
Dropper - A practice of fishing two flies at the same time, often one on the surface and a second underwater. This increases the chances of getting a successful fly in front of a fish. It also serves as a hunting technique when dialing in the proper size of fly, or whether fish are rising to dries or feeding below surface.
Dry fly - A fly constructed of water resistant, lightweight and buoyant materials so as to imitate a insect that alights or floats on the surface of the water.
Dry Fly Floatant - chemical preparation that is applied to a dry fly (before using the fly) to waterproof it; may be a paste, liquid, or aerosol.
Dubbing - Fly tying material (usually strands or fibrous, including fur, yarn, wool, or synthetic fibers) that are wrapped onto a thread (commonly using wax) and wrapped around the shank of the hook to imitate the abdomen and/or thorax of an artificial fly.
Dun - This word has two related uses in fly fishing: (1) a grayish or grayish blue (dull) color often seen in the wings of mayfly adults, (2) an aquatic insect in a life stage just as it has emerged from the water and can fly.
Duncans loop - A monofilament knot used most often to tie a tippet to the eye of a hook. Also called a uni-knot.
Emerger - A term for an aquatic insect at the stage when it swims to the surface or just below the surface to hatch or change from a nymph or pupa to an winged adult.
False cast - Casting the fly line forward and back in the air as a means to lengthen the amount of line that extends out from the rod, to dry the fly or to modify the path of the line. In a false cast, the fly is not allowed to drop onto the water.
Ferrule - A collar that is found at the point where sections of a fly rod are joined. The end of one section fits inside the end of another, in an overlapping fashion at the ferrule.
FFF - Federation of Fly Fishers
Flat - An expansive area of water with a relatively unchanging (flat ) depth, often over a sand or grass bottom. A common water topography for certain species of fish, like bonefish.
Float tube - Originally using a tractor or truck inner tube, this is a one-person craft with a seat across the bottom on which the fly fisher sits. Feet are in the water and scuba fins are used to move the tube around. This type of fishing boat is very popular with warmwater fly fishers and with individuals who fish high mountain lakes. See kick boat.
Floatant - A water-proofing (usually oily) salve or cream that is used to help flies, leaders and fly lines float.
Floating Fly Line (F) - a fly line where the entire line floats; best all round fly line (see double taper, level, shooting head, weight forward).
Fly Casting - standard method of presenting a fly to a target using a fly rod and fly line; involves many different casts (see back cast, forward cast, false cast, roll cast, "S" cast, and shooting line).
Fly line - A line for fly fishing, originally of silk but currently made of a plastic coating over a braided line core. Fly lines are commonly 1.5 to 2 mm in diameter. The plastic coating gives the line weight and is commonly distributed unevenly to make the line easier to cast. A weight forward line, for example, has a greater plastic thickness near the forward (or fly) end of the line. Fly lines are not particularly long, generally not exceeding 105 feet. See taper, weight forward, double taper. Fly lines are rated in different weights, from 1 to 11, referring to the weight of the first 30 feet of the fly line.
Fly Reel - fishing reel used in fly fishing to hold the fly line. There are three basic types: single action, multiplier, and automatic. 1.)Single action is the most common and the most popular. Single action means that one turn of the handle equals one turn of the spool. 2.) Multiplying reels use a gear system to increase this ratio (usually, 2-to-1). With a 2-to-1 ratio, each turn of the handle equals 2 revolutions of the spool. 3.) Automatic fly reels are the least practical for most people; they operate by a manually wound spring which is activated by a lever; automatic reels are heavy and tend to malfunction.
Fly rod - The special fishing rod constructed so as to cast a fly line. Fly rods are generally longer and thinner than spinning or casting rods. The special design involves careful attention to the way the fly rod bends because that bending action determines how well it can help cast a fly line. Fly rods were originally split cane bamboo. In the last 60 years, other materials, especially fiberglass and fiberglass with embedded graphite fibers are used. Fly rods are rated in their stiffness to match fly lines of different weights. (a number 6 fly rod should be used with a number six fly line). See fly lines
Forceps - A special medical pliers with a ratchet-locking action that are useful in removing a hook from a fish. These slim-nosed pliers are readily available in a number of lengths and sizes.
Forward Cast - the front portion of the false cast or pick-up and lay-down, and a mirror image of the back cast.
Forward Taper - see weight forward.
Freestone - type of river or stream with a significant gradient resulting in medium to fast-moving water. Although the upper reaches of a freestone stream may be spring-fed, the vast majority of its flow comes from run-off or tributaries. The fast moving water inhibits the growth of weeds or other rooted vegetation resulting in a "Free Stone" bottom. Fresstone streams are less fertile than spring creeks resulting in a smaller and less diverse aquatic insect population. Fewer bugs in faster water usually results in fewer but more opportunistic trout.
Freestone - type of river or stream with a significant gradient resulting in medium to fast-moving water. Although the upper reaches of a freestone stream may be spring-fed, the vast majority of its flow comes from run-off or tributaries. The fast moving water inhibits the growth of weeds or other rooted vegetation resulting in a "Free Stone" bottom. Fresstone streams are less fertile than spring creeks resulting in a smaller and less diverse aquatic insect population. Fewer bugs in faster water usually results in fewer but more opportunistic trout.
Freestone stream - A creek or river that gets most of its water flow from rainfall or snow/glacier melt. Freestone streams are most common in mountainous regions. The name freestone refers to the fact that typical freestone streams have a bottom of stones or gravel.
Fry - The first stage of a fish after hatching from an egg.
Furnace - The coloration of feathers from a specially-bred chicken that dark brown-to-black along the center changing to light browns on edge.
Gaiters - Commonly a neoprene anklet or legging put over the top of wading shoes and to keep gravel from getting into the shoe and abrading the stocking foot of the wader. These are also called gravel guards.
Gel-spun polyethylene - A synthetic fiber that is extremely thin, supple, slippery, very abrasion resistant, and strong. It is stronger than steel for its size. It is often used as a braided fly line backing where large amounts of backing are needed and space on the reel is limited.
Ghillie - A fishing guide in Britain, especially in Scotland, Wales and Ireland where the term originates from the Celts.
Graphite - the most popular rod-building material in use today; offers the best weight, strength, and flex ratio of any rod building material currently available.
Graphite - A common material which if formed into fibers and placed in the fiber glass of a fly rod, makes the rod relatively stiff with little increase in weight as compared to fiber glass alone.
Grilse - An young, not-sexually mature Atlantic salmon
Grip - The cork handle of a fly rod, generally made of cork rings shaped in several different ways, including a cigar grip, full-wells grip, half-wells grip, superfine grip.
Grizzly - The coloration pattern from a specially bred chicken with barred black and white "V" pattern. Very popular for many flies because it may create the illusion of motion.
Hackle - Feathers from the neck or back of a specially bred chicken that are wrapped around the hook or other wise attached to a fly to imitate parts of an insect, such as legs or segments of the body. Hackle tips are used also for the wings on certain flies.
Hackle gauge - A ruler-like device to make sure the length of hackle used is appropriate for the size of hook. Particularly, hackle feather fibers (barbules) on a classic dry fly should be the same length as the hook gap.
Hackle pliers - Pliers used to hold feathers while they are being wound around a hook. Generally hackle pliers are spring loaded and often have a rubber disk to hold the slippery feathers.
Hair stacker - A cylinder with one end blocked that is used to get tips of animal hair lined up for wings, tails and other parts of a fly. A spent rifle cartridge is suitable for small bunches of hair.
Hairbug - A fly constructed through a special technique called hair spinning whereby bouyant (hollow) winter-coat, slippery deer, elk, antelope or caribou hair is made to flare and form a solid shape. This hair can be further trimmed to shapes like frog bodies. Hairbugs are commonly used for warmwater fish, but a mouse imitation hairbug is excellent for big brown trout on certain waters.
Hatch - Generally refers to a stage of aquatic insect change when there is a transformation from a swimming to a fly stage and from an underwater to a surface stage. Insects in the early part of this transition are also referred to as emergers.
Haul - A pull on the fly line with the non-casting hand to increase the line speed and get greater distance. This is done effectively during line pickupAn action associated with fly casting whereby the line speed is increased with an extra pull during line pickup, or back casting. Also see double haul.
Hauls - Hauling is a technique that increases the line speed of the backcast, forward cast, or both. Increasing the line speed enables the cast to travel over a greater distance. When the caster hauls on either the back or forward cast, the technique is known as a single haul. When the haul is applied to both the back and forward cast, its called the doublehaul. While mentioned in the text, especially in context of casting shooting head systems, hauling is an advanced technique that should not be explored until the mechanics of the basic cast have been mastered.
Headwaters - upstream section of the river before the main tributaries join it. This section is typically much smaller in width and flow than the main section of the river.
Hollow Hair - hair from some animals is mostly hollow, thus holding air and making these hairs float. Ideal for tying dry flies and bass bugs. Antelope, deer, and elk all have hollow hair.
Hook - the object upon which the fly is tied; can be any size from tiny to huge; made from steel wire, and either bronzed, cadmium coated, or stainless. Hook designs are variable; style used depends upon the type of fly being tied.
Hook size - To a degree hooks are standardized based upon the gap (or gape) which is defined as the distance between the hook shank and the hook point.
Imitative Flies - flies tied to more closely match specific insects (for instance a BWO Comparadun). Imitative flies are most effective in slow-moving, clear water, with finicky trout in fertile streams with large populations of aquatic insects.
Impressionistic Flies - flies tied to loosely suggest a variety of insects or insect families. For instance, a Hares Ear nymph in sizes 12-16 can be used as both a mayfly and a caddisfly imitation and in larger sizes as a stonefly imitation. Impressionistic flies are usually most effective in medium to fast water, in streams with sparser populations of aquatic insects.
Improved Clinch Knot - An popular knot to tie a monofilament tippet to the eye of a hook. Also called the Trilene knot, after substantial publicity by the folks at Berkely. If the tippet is run through the loop twice it is even stronger.
Indicator - floating object placed on the leader or end of the fly line to "indicate" the take of the fly by a fish or to indicate the path of the drift of the fly; used when nymph fishing with a slack line; very effective.
Keeper - A loop of thin wire built into the shaft of the fly rod (near the grip) the fly can be attached while still connected to the tippet and line. This allows the fly fisher freedom to walk and climb without concern about hooking trees, grass or himself.
Kick boat - A personalized, one-person fishing boat, usually with a seat between two pontoons at a level that allows the anglers feet to be in the water. It is propelled by swim fins, oars, or a even a small electric motor.
Knotless Tapered Leader - a fly fishing leader entirely constructed from a single piece of monofilament. Extrusion, or acid immersion are most commonly used to taper the leader.
Knotted Leader - fly fishing leader constructed by knotting sections of different diameter leader material to each other to make a tapered leader. Most commonly used knots to construct such a leader are blood (or barrel) knot and surgeons knot (see blood knot, surgeon
Kype - A male spawning trout or salmon develops a hook like protrusion on the mandible. The kype is particularly striking in salmon.
Lanyard - A device to which an item is "tethered" so that it is close by when needed; e.g., glasses
Larva - The immature, aquatic, growing stage of the caddis and some other insects. Many species of caddis larva build a protective covering of fine gravel or debris to protect them in this stage. The larva is a bottom dwelling non-swimming stage of the insect.
LDR - Long Distance Release. Its a prettier way of saying you screwed up and lost the fish.
Leader - the section of monofilament line between the fly line and the fly. It is usually tapered, so that it will deliver the fly softly and away from the fly line (see knotted leader, knotless tapered leader, turn over, and monofilament).
Leader Material - clear nylon or other type of monofilament. Two types are commonly used. One is the stiff or hard type, used mainly for the butt section and saltwater leaders; the second type is soft or supple monofilament, used mostly for tippets on all line weights, and for complete leaders on light weight fly lines (see leader, monofilament, tippet).
Level Line (L) - an untapered fly line, usually floating. It is difficult to cast, a poor line for delicacy or distance, and a poor choice for an all round line.
Lie - Areas in a river or lake where fish hang out, commonly well-located because they are out of the main current, present cover from predators or provide a good source of insects and other food.
Line dressing - An old term carried over from the days of silk fly lines referring to the oily substances applied to clean and increase buoyancy. Modern fly lines generally only need to be cleaned with warmwater and soap.
Line weight - The weight of the first 30 feet of a fly line, used as a way to standardize fly lines in matching them to fly rods of differing stiffness. Line weighting is not a linear numbering system; the first 30 feet of a #6 weight line 160 grains while the first 30 feet of a #3 weight line is 100 grains.
Loading - A term used to describe the effect of the weight of the line and the momentum of the cast upon the rod. A loaded rod is bent or loaded more with a greater casting force and a heavier line.
Loading the Rod - phrase used to describe the bend put in the rod by the weight of the line as it travels through the air during the cast.
Long Belly Spey Line - A longer version of a double taper designed for two handed spey applications. These lines are typically have a head length of 70-120 feet.
Loop to loop - A way to connect a fly line and a leader by making a loop at the end of the leader (perfection loop knot) and a loop attached to the end of the fly line. Loop to loop connections are sometimes made from a leader to a tippet.
Low water dressing - sparsely dressed fly on a small or moderate sized hook
Marabou - Fluffy and soft down or underfeathers from most birds, but particularly for fly tying, marabou comes from chickens, turkeys or other domestic fowl.
Matching the hatch - An attempt by a fly angler to select an artificial fly that imitates the color, size, shape and behavior of natural insects that fish are feeding on at a particular time. Often when a hatch is happening, fish become very selective and refuse insects that are not the most abundant.
Mayfly - An aquatic insect found throughout the world, in both still water and rivers. It is most easily identified by its sail-like upright wings and long graceful tails. Many classic trout flies imitate mayflies. Mayflies vary in size with 3 mm tricos to the 30 mm hexagenia.
Memory - The undesirable property of fly lines, leaders or materials to "remember" their stored condition of being coiled or wound
Mend - Throwing an upstream curve into your fly line as it floats down the stream to avoid having water currents pull on it and cause unnatural movement of your fly (unnatural drift or line drag). Fish and especially trout are exquisitely sensitive to (and turned off by) movement of a insect that moves at a different rate or in a different direction than the current.
Mending Line - method used after the line is on the water to achieve a drag free float. It constitutes a flip, or series of flips with the rod tip, which puts a horseshoe shaped bow in the line. This slows down the speed with which the line travels if mended upstream, and speeds up the line if mended downstream. For example: if a cast is across the flow of the stream and the fastest part of the current is on your side, the mends would typically be made upstream to slow the line down so it keeps pace with the fly traveling in the slower current across.
Midge - a term properly applied to the small Dipterans that trout feed on. Many people call them gnats. Adults appearance is similar to mosquitoes. Midges have two wings that lie in a flat "V" shape over the back when at rest. They are also known as "the fly fisher
MOAL - Mother of all Leeches
Monofilament - a clear, supple nylon filament used in all types of fishing that is available in many breaking strengths (see breaking strength) and diameters.
Nail Knot- method used to attach a leader or butt section of monofilament to the fly line, and of attaching the backing to the fly line; most commonly tied using a small diameter tube rather than a nail.
Narrow Loop - term that describes what the fly line should look like as it travels through the air; a narrow loop can best be described as the letter "U" turned on its side; it is formed by using a narrow casting arc.
Needle Nail Knot - same as the nail knot except that the leader or backing is run up through the center of the fly line for 3/16 to 3/8 inch, then out through the side of the fly line before the nail knot is tied; this allows the backing or the leader to come out the center of the fly line rather than along the side of it as in the nail knot.
Nymph - An underwater stage of aquatic insect. It is an important source for all varieties of warmwater and coldwater fish.
Nymphing - word describing fish feeding on nymphs; nymphing right at the surface can be difficult to tell fr om fish feeding on adults, careful observation should tell.
Open Loop - term used to describe what the fly line looks like as it travels through the air during a poor cast; caused by a very wide casting arc.
Palmered - A term used to describe feathers wound perpendicular to the shank of the hook and apparently based upon appearance of pilgrims bearing palms.
Palming - A term referring to the use of the palm of the hand against the spool edge of a rimless fly reel as a means of applying drag against the release of line in fighting a fish.
Parachute - type of dry fly where the hackle is wound horizontally around the base of the wing like a parachute instead of vertically around the hook of the fly. This drops the body of the fly down into the surface film of the water. It is usually most effective in medium to slow moving waters.
Parachute style fly - A dry fly with the dry fly hackle wrapped horizontally under the hook or at the base of the wings, providing a type of outrigger floation.
Parr - A young trout, salmon or char, usually in the so-called fingerling stage.
Perfection loop - This is a knot often used to create a loop in a piece of monofilament, frequently at the butt end of a leader for the loop to loop connection.
Pick-up & Lay Down - a fly fishing cast using only a single backcast. The line is lifted fr om the water and a back cast made, followed by a forward cast which is allowed to straighten and fall to the water, completing the cast; good wet fly cast; also useful in bass bugging; most efficient cast to use, when possible, because the fly spends more time in the water (also see presentation).
Pitzen Knot - A German derived knot that results in 95-100% of the tippet's strength.
Polarized sun glasses - Sunglasses with iodized lenses that block incident light (glare) and thus allow anglers to better see beneath the surface glare of water.
Pool - A reach or segment of a river or stream with greater depth and slower current, making it safer fr om predators bird and animal and where swimming against the current is reduced.
Popper - A topwater lure, made of painted balsa wood or deer hair, with a flat face that causes it to make a popping sound when retrieved. It is commonly used for warmwater panfish, bass and some saltwater species.
Power - A term generally describing the wrist and arm movement used during the casting sequence to energize the rod.
Presentation - the act of putting the fly on the water and offering it to the fish; the variety of presentations is infinite, and changes with each fishing situation. The object is to present the fly in a manner similar to the natural insect or food form that you are imitating.
Pressure - A term used to describe the force applied by a fly fisher against a hooked fish during the fight to bring it to the net.
Pumping the Fish - A way of using the butt of the fly rod in a lifting motion to force the fish into submission to the fly fishers will. Immediately after the lift, the rod is lowered and the slack line quickly recovered and placed back on the reel.
Pupa - An intermediate stage of certain insects, generally the stage between the larva and adult form of caddis flies or midges. Also refers to the fly imitation of these insects.
Put Down - The result of a fly fishers error in presence or presentation. Once alarmed, fish will scurry away and sulk. "Putting fish down" is a great way to assure yourself that you will not catch fish.
Reach cast - A cast used for adding extra slack in the line, or when fishing downstream, in order to provide a more natural float.
Reach Mend Cast - A technique used on streams and rivers to provide a longer "drag-free" float to the fly. Its done by making the cast as normal, then laying the rod over in an upstream motion once the rod tip stops on the forward cast. The fly will continue on target but the line near the tip will "reach" or fall upstream.
Recovery - A term used to describe how fast a fly rod stops flexing after a cast, or returns to a straight, unflexed position.
Redd - The hollowed out nest in a streambed where a fish deposits its eggs, a behavior typical to most salmonids.
Reel Seat - mechanism that holds the reel to the rod, usually using locking metal rings or sliding bands.
Retrieve - The method of stripping in the fly line that gives the fly action. Also, a term used in describing fly reels, as to whether they are left hand or right hand retrieve.
Rise - The action of a fish as it comes to the surface of the water to feed. Different kinds of rises (splashy, dimpled, etc.) suggest different kinds of feeding and may suggest different kinds of insects.
Rising Fish - A term referring to a fish visibly feeding at the surface or in the waters surface film. It can also refer to a shark fin that rises within close range of where you are standing.
Rod Flex - The manner in which the rod bends during the cast during the acceleration phase of the cast. Tip-Flex rods bend primarily through the tip section, Mid-Flex rods bend down into the middle section, and Full-flex rods bend throughout the entire rod during the cast. Orvis has put together a Flex Index rating system so fly fishers can tell at a glance what type of flex to expect fr om a particular rod. For more information, please read our section on the Orvis Flex Index
Rod Modulus - the weight to stiffness ratio of the graphite used in the manufacture of the rod. High modulus rods run around 60 million modulus, IM6 graphite runs around 30 million modulus.
Roll cast - This is a casting technique that is used when a back cast is not possible. The line is made to loop in front of the angler and if properly executed it "rolls" out to present the fly.
Running Line - a thin line attached to the back of a shooting taper (shooting head) line. May be 20 to 30 pound monofilament, braided nylon, narrow floating or sinking line, or other material. Usually 100 feet in length, it allows the fly fisher to quickly change the type of line being used by interchanging only the head section.
S Cast - cast used to put deliberate and controlled slack into a cast; used in getting a drag free float and in conjunction with mending line (see drag, dead drift, mending line).
Saltwater Taper - a weight forward fly line that is similar to a bass bug taper (see weight forward and bass bug taper).
S-cast - An "S" pattern of the fly line on the water created by side-to-side movement of the fly rod during the forward cast. This cast is used to put slack in the fly line and hence to reduce the influence of the current on the fly line and thus to minimize drag.
Scandi Line - A Scandinavian style spey line that is designed for floating to light sink tip work with small flies to moderate sized flies.
Scrim - the material reinforcing the graphite blank. This maintains the hoop structure of the blank during flex and keeps the blank fr om flattening out. Modern Scrims are made fr om fiberglass meshes or blown graphite.
Scud - A small freshwater scrimp-like crustacean that is present in most trout waters and serves as a food source for trout.
Sculpin - A marine or freshwater bottom fish that streamers often mimic.
Sea-run - A term describing brown, cutthroat and rainbow trout that hatch in fresh water, migrate to the sea to mature, and return to fresh water to spawn. Rainbow trout (in the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes) are the best known sea-run trout; these are called steelhead.
Setting the Hook - the act of pulling the hook into the flesh of the fishs mouth. The amount of effort needed to do this varies with the size of hook, type of fish, and breaking strength of leader; most people strike too hard on trout and warm water fish and not hard enough on salmon and saltwater fish.
Setting the hook - To make sure the hook penetrates the fishs mouth, an angler must apply an upward motion of the fly rod or some sort of quick tension on the fly line. When fishing with artificial lures and flies, fish often do not hook themselves because very soon after they "mouth" the fly, they are aware that it does not feel, taste or smell like it should. They will spit it out! This puts a premium on setting the hook a the right time!
Shooting head - Part of a special fly line used for long distance casting. The shooting head is a heavy section of line attached to a thin running line (made of monofilament, Dacron or fine fly line). The Shooting head has almost all of the weight of a normal line, but obviously is it almost totally concentrated in that first 30 feet. Shooting heads are used for making long casts in fishing saltwater, warmwater and steelhead.
Shooting line - The process of extending the length of your fly cast be releasing an extra length of fly line (usually held in your non-casting hand) during the forward/presentation part of the cast. This technique allows a fly angler to false cast a shorter segment of line and then only at the time of the final forward cast to bring a longer segment of line into play.
Shooting Taper (ST) or Shooting Head - a short single tapered fly line, 30-38 feet long; shooting heads are designed for longest casts with minimum effort; shooting heads allow quick change of line types (floating, sinking, sink-tip, etc.)by quickly interchanging head sections; shooting heads are most commonly used with salmon, steelhead, saltwater, and shad fishing, though they can be used in all types of fly fishing.
Shooting the Line - A term used to describe the act of releasing the fly line during the cast enabling the line to be carried out away fr om the line hand by the power or momentum of the rod.
Single action - The typical fly reel wherein a single turn of the handle causes one turn of the reel spool. This is distinguished fr om the multiplier reel where a single turn of the handle causes multiple turns of the spool and makes it easier to retrieve line. Almost all high quality fly reels are single action.
Sink Rate - the speed at which a sinking fly line sinks; there are at least 6 different sink rates for fly lines, fr om very slow to extremely fast.
Sink Tip - A fly line that has both a floating segment (say the first 95 feet) and a sinking section (the last 10 feet). This style of line is used for underwater presentation of flies in fast water or in some still water fishing situations.
Sinking Fly Line (S) - a fly line in which the entire length of the line sinks beneath the surface of the water.
Sink-Tip Fly Line (F/S) - a floating fly line where the tip portion sinks; available in 4 foot, 10 foot, 12 foot, 15 foot, 20 foot, 24 foot, and 30 foot sinking tips; the 10 foot sink-tips are most commonly used and are practical in many applications; sink-tip lines are useful in all types of fly fishing, but especially in wet fly or streamer fishing.
Skagit Line - A Skagit Line is a type of shooting head that is designed to throw big flies and sink tips with little to no room behind you
Skater/Waker - A fly designed for waking or skating across the surface on the dead drift swing.
Smolt - The term smolt is applied to salmonids that are near to, or in the process of, migrating to salt water. They are undergoing the physical changes that will allow them to survive in a radically different chemical environment. Typically, a smolt loses his parr marks and becomes very silvery along the sides and a dark greenish-blue on the back. Fish that spend a year or two (or more) in fresh water, such as steelhead, cutthroat or coho, smoltify at a size of six to ten inches. There are two varieties of chinook; referred to as stream and ocean types, the former staying in the river for up to a year before smolting and dropping gown to salt water, and the latter moving down almost as soon they are capable of free swimming. Chum and pink fry also begin moving downstream almost as soon as they swim up out of the gravel.
Spawn - The behavior of fish where females deposit eggs (also called spawn) on various surfaces (varying with species) and the male produces necessary milt to ultimately turn the eggs into fry.
Spinner - The last stage of a mayfly, based upon the fact that the wings are spread horizontally as it falls to water surface after mating. The spinner is of significance because the spinner is an easy target for feeding fish.
Spinner fall - The last stage of a mayfly, based upon the fact that the wings are spread horizontally as it falls to water surface after mating. The spinner is of significance because the spinner is an easy target for feeding fish.
Split cane rods - Fly rods constructed of six pieces of split cane bamboo, which are triangularly shaped, tapered and glued together. Split cane rods appear to have originated in the U.S. in the middle of the 19th century. While used by some modern anglers, graphite/fiber glass rods offer less expensive and easier-to-care for options.

Spool - the part of the fly reel that revolves and which holds the backing and the fly line; may be purchased separately.
Spring Creek - A creek or stream that gets its water fr om a ground flow or spring sources, rather than glacier/snow melt or surface run off. Spring creeks are generally at a temperature of the average rainfall temperature over the course of the year (the source of most ground water) and hence usually do not warm significantly in the summer nor freeze in the winter.
Standing Line - the part of the line that is joined to another piece of line when tying the tag ends together. Two standing lines are joined by tying their tag ends into a knot.
Stonefly - An aquatic insect found throughout North America that generally requires higher water quality than most fish, including trout. It varies in size, but in the larger sub-species can reach 2 inches. It life stages vary fr om mayflies and caddis flies inasmuch as it crawls out of the water onto a rock, splits its outer covering and becomes a flying insect with wings that lay on its back.
Streamer - fly tied to imitate the various species of baitfish upon which game fish feed; usually tied using feathers for the wing, but can be tied with hair and/or feathers; tied in all sizes (see bucktail).
Strike - The action of a fish in trying to eat a fly. This term also refers to the movement of the rod a fly angler makes to set the hook.
Stripping - Bringing in a fly line with in a series of short or varied pulls so as to simulate a living insect or bait fish. Often also involves movements of the rod tip.
Stripping guide - The guide nearest the reel on a fly rod, usually more substantial and larger in diameter than the snake guides nearer the tip. It is called a stripping guide because in bringing in the fly, the line is pulled over this guide with a fair amount a force. Some rods have two stripping guides, with the larger being nearer the reel.
Stripping line - Retrieving the line by pulling it in through your fingers as opposed to winding it in on the reel. Term sometimes used to refer to running line (not a common usage).
Strung out fly - A fly that has a stinger hook attached by dacron or wire that extends to the rear portion of the fly.
Surgeons Knot - excellent knot used to tie two lengths of monofilament together; the lines may be of dissimilar diameters.
Swimming the Fly - The way a sinking wet fly or streamer is moved through the water as it is being fished. There are two things that govern the way a fly swims: the knot that ties the fly to the tippet and the motion imparted by the fly fisher with the line hand during the retrieve.
Tag (Tag End) - the end of the line that is used to tie a knot (also see Standing Line).
Tail out - The lower end of a pool where it becomes shallow again.
Tailing - This term refers to the behavior of fish in shallow water where it is possible to see the caudal fins as they feed. Tailing fish are an exciting discovery and generally signal the possibility of getting strikes by the proper presentation of the right fly.
Tailing Loop - The result of an error in the casting technique. Tailing loops usually result when the rod tip following a concave path, such as it will do if the caster “jerks” the rod forward at the end of the backcast. Jerking the rod forward fr om the backcast applies power improperly and at the wrong time. The rod tip, in turn, dips sharply into a convex path. Since the line goes where the rod tip goes, the line is sure to follow the same concave path forming the tailing loop. The evidence of a tailing loop is a simple unwanted overhand knot somewhere in the forward part of the tippet. Sometimes called a "wind knot," the knot is anything but the result of the wind. When you begin to notice these little teeny-tiny knots, look for an error in the mechanics of your cast.
Tailwater - The downstream section of a river or stream found below a large man-made dam. The most famous and productive tailwaters are fr om bottom-discharge dams, making the water relatively cold and constant in temperature.
Tapered Leader - a leader made of monofilament and used for fly fishing; the back or butt section of the leader is of a diameter nearly as large as the fly line, then becomes progressively smaller in diameter as you approach the tip end (see knotless tapered leader, knotted leader, and tippet).
Terrestrial insect - As the name implies, these are land-dwelling (or tree/plant-dwelling) insects that breath air, including grasshoppers, crickets, ants, beetles and leaf worms.
Tight Loop - same as narrow loop (see "narrow loop").
Tinsel - A thin silver, gold or brass-colored ribbon used in adding shine ton flies, often as ribbing or for fly bodies.
Tip section - The top section of a fly rod, smallest in diameter and furthest fr om the rod grip.
Tippet - The terminal segment of monofilament tied on the end of a leader and connected to the fly.
Tip-top - A guide for the fly line with a small cylinder attached that fits over the end of the fly rod.
Triangle taper - A special taper profile to a fly line designed by Lee Wulff, with 40 feet of continuous taper, with a thin running line. Particularly useful for roll casts.
Turn Over - words that describe how the fly line and leader straighten out at the completion of the cast.
Unloading the Rod - unbending the rod. Transfering the casting energy fr om the rod back into the fly line.
Variant - A dry fly variety wound hackles that are much larger than normally recommended. It is tied generally the as conventional patterns.
Vest - a fly fishers wearable tackle box; numerous styles available; particularly important in wading situations.
Wader belt - An adjustable belt cinched near the top of chest waders to keep out water, particularly recommended as a precaution to the waders filling up with water in the event of a fall.
Waders - Footed trousers that are constructed of latex, neoprene, Gortex or other waterproof material so as to keep anglers dry. Currently waders come in stocking foot or booted form and can be found in three lengths: hip waders, waist-high waders and chest waders.
Wading shoes or boots - Hiking-like boots worn with stocking foot waders, generally having felt soles and a more comfortable fit than the boot portions of boot foot waders.
Wading staff - A walking stick especially adapted to provide stability to a wading fly angler when moving through fast or deep water. Some wading staffs are foldable and can be kept in a fishing vest pocket until needed.
Weedguard - A piece of stiff monofilament or light wire attached fr om the top of the hook and extending in front of the hook point and bend to the hook eye. If properly attached, a weedguard reduces the likelihood of a fly picking up weeds, yet it does not deter the hooking of a fish. Weedguards are especially popular for underwater warm water flies.
Weight forward - A type of fly line with most of its weight in the first thirty feet of line. The large section of this type of line is called the line belly, with a long tapering of the line toward the front and a short tapering of it back to a thinner running line.
Weight Forward (WF) - an easy casting fly line because it carries most of its weight in the forward section of the line; instead of a level middle section, like a double taper, it quickly tapers down to a fine diameter running line which shoots through the guides with less resistance for added distance; the most versatile fly line.
Wet fly - A type of fly that is presented to the fish below the surface of the water, usually with insect-like wings sloped backward. Wet flies are not as popular as they once were and have been largely superceded by nymphs.
Wet Fly Swing - typical presentation method for fishing a wet fly. Cast the fly downstream and across, and then swim it across the current. Commonly used to imitate swimming mayflies, emerging caddis, and small fish.
Whip finisher - A tool used in tying flies that helps the fly tier lay down a smooth and compact head of the fly.
Wind knots - In the process of casting, especially for beginners, loops form particularly in the leader and tippet. The formation of such loops is made worse by casting in the wind and hence when they become knots in the leader or tippet they are called wind knots. Wind knots greatly reduce the breaking strength of the leader.
X - archaic measurement used to designate diameter of leader material used in conjunction with a numeral, as in "4X". To determine the actual diameter of "4X" or any "X" number, subtract the numeral fr om the number 11 (eleven). The result is the diameter in thousandths of an inch. For example, to find the diameter of 4X material, subtract 4 fr om 11 (11 - 4 = 7) thus the diameter is .007". *Note* diameter does not always correspond to breaking strength.
X diameter - A system to indicate the diameter of leader and tippet material, with 0X (zero-X) representing the largest diameter (.011 inches) and 8X (.003 inches) representing a small, light diameter. Commonly used values are 1X (.010), 2X (.009), 3X (.008), 4X (.007), 5X (.006), 6X (.005). The strength of these monofilament diameters varies with the kind of material.
Zinger - Slang for a retractable device. Useful for hanging items suchs nippers off your vest to keep them out of the way when not in use.
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