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Fly‌ ‌Fishing‌ ‌Terminology‌ ‌101‌

If you're new to fly fishing, there's a lot to learn before you even cast your first rod. From researching the right fly and equipment to finding the best fishing locations and strategies, it may seem overwhelming to prepare for your first fly fishing outing. Whether you're taking up fly fishing as a hobby or if you want to become a fly fishing enthusiast, the first thing you need to know is the correct terminology. In this blog post, we will explain common fly fishing terms so that you will sound like a fly fishing pro in no time!

Basic Fly Fishing Terms You Should Know

Before you even think about catching your first fish, you should know some standard fly fishing terms. Besides helping you avoid confusion, learning the language will help you feel more comfortable and confident if you can understand what your fishing partners are referring to. For example, if someone says, "let’s fish near the eddy," you don't want to sound foolish by responding, "who's Eddie? Below are a few fly fishing terms every beginner should have in their vocabulary.


The backing is the first thing you tie onto the fly reel while setting up. It's thin braided Dacron and is only used if a fish runs through all of your fly line. It also fills the reel to make line retrieval faster and make the coils that form in the line after storage less tight.

Shop backing HERE.

Double Taper:

A double taper is a type of fly line ideal for catching trout. Both ends of the line are tapered, and the rest of the line is level. This is an excellent option for short-length casts.When one end of the line becomes damaged with age or use, the line can be installed backward so the good end is used for fishing.

Dry Fly

A dry fly refers to an artificial fly that imitates the adult stage of an aquatic insect’s life. A dry fly floats on the surface. A dry fly will sink if left in the water too long. Floatant will help make it float longer but a sinking dry fly can also be made to float again by making a few false casts. Dry flies are best used during hatches attached to floating lines.

Shop flies HERE.


An eddy is a circular, current of water that forms wherever the current is impeded.

Emerger Flies

Emerger flies are flies in the final stages before full development. These flies sit right below the surface. This is often the most important phase for fly fishers to imitate. Examples include:
  • Emerging Dun
  • Spotlight Caddis Emerger
  • Low Rider Elk Hair Caddis

False Cast

With a false cast, the line is pulled out of the reel with your hand. The false cast gets the line through the guides and past the rod tip.


Floating is a type of fly line where the entire line floats. This is the line to use when you’re fishing with dry flies or fishing just under the surface with nymphs or streamers. It will keep your fly near the surface while you fish.

Fly Line

Your fly line is the key component to fly fishing. It is a line that is specifically designed for fly fishing. There are several different styles to choose from depending on the type of fish you are hoping to catch. A fly line consists of a core material covered with a layer of plastic. The plastic is made with glass microspheres to make it float or tungsten to make it sink. Additives are added for UV protection, color, lubricity and hardness.

Shop different fly lines HERE.


A hatch is a large number of flies of the same species that are transitioning from larva stage to adult stage at the same time.


Landing is when you have fully secured the fish. You can do so in a net or with your hands.


A leader is a monofilament or fluorocarbon fishing line attached between your fly line and the fly. Wild Water sizes range from 0X to 7X with the higher number being the smaller diameter. The leader is tapered so it is thicker where it attaches to the fly line and small diameter where it attaches to the fly or tippet.

Shop leaders HERE.


A type of fly line. A level line does not have a taper. It stays the same weight and diameter all the way through.

Line Test

A line test is a static load the line will hold before breaking. At Wild Water, you'll find leaders and tippets ranging from 0x-7x. 0x is the heaviest line, and 7x is the lightest.


Mend refers to the quick movement of your fly line to help position your fly in the correct place. For example, you mend upstream to help your fly lead the way down the current. Mending is used to keep the fly from being dragged in the current. It helps maintain a natural looking drift of your fly.


A nymph is the larvae stage of the fly. These float deeper in the water column and are best used before hatches. Nymph flies are often weighted or have a bead head attached. Examples include:
  • Prince Nymph
  • Pheasant Tail Nymph
  • Hex Nymph

Pocket Water

A water pocket is directly in front of or behind structures in the river or stream. It forms little pockets of still water that fish like to hide in.


A pool is a slow moving, deep portion of the river. There are likely short rifles at the front and back end of these pools. *Pro tip: pools are great places to fish!


Rise refers to when you see a fish feeding at the surface. This is most common during the morning or evening hatches.


Part of the river or stream where two currents converge. These are often full of food and fish!


After false casting to get the line past the tip of the rod, you’ll be ready to make your cast. If you are going for distance you won’t have all the line out past the tip. You’ll have a pile of slack line between the reel and the stripper guide. That slack line will be taken up when you release your final cast. That take up of the slack is shooting the line.

Shooting Head or Shooting Line

Shooting line is an exaggerated, weight-forward fly line. The first 20 feet are quite heavy (large diameter). This type of fly line is commonly used when making long casts or when casting big flies.


Sinking is a type of fly line in which the entire length of the line sinks under the water. This is ideal for getting the fly deeper into the water.

Sink Rate

A sink rate refers to the speed at which a sinking fly line sinks. Lines have different sink rates given by inches per second.

Sinking Tip

A sinking tip is a type of fly line where the majority of the line floats. However, the first 15-20 feet will sink. Sinking tips are great for streamers and nymphs. The sinking tip has different sink rates given in inches/seconds.

Streamer Flies

Streamer flies often imitate baitfish or other large prey. Common types include:
  • Wooly Buggers
  • Clouser Minnows
  • Crayfish


The moment you have been waiting for! The strike is when a fish takes your fly! It’s the best feeling in fly fishing.


Stripping is the fly fishing version of “reeling.” This is when you pull your fly line towards you with your reeling hand to retrieve your fly or your fish. It can be done in small or large movements.


The tippet is attached to the leader and where you attach your fly. Tippets are good to use when fishing with nymphs and dry flies. You don’t need to use tippet to fly fish but it does make your leader last longer because you trim the tippet when you cut off a fly and tie on a new one. Tippet can be used to increase the distance between the fly and the fly line. This can be an advantage if you are where the fish are easily scared by the fly line.

Shop tippets HERE.

Weight Forward

Weight forward is a type of fly line that is easy to cast because it carries most of its weight in the forward section of the line. This is the most common fly line taper used for fly fishing.

The Takeaway?

When you are beginning fly fishing, there's a lot to do to prepare. Learning the basic lingo is an excellent start to set yourself up for success. Not only will understanding the fly fishing terminology help you avoid confusion and troubleshoot issues, but it will also help you choose the right equipment for your specific fly fishing needs and help you communicate with other fly fishers. Any expert will tell you that knowledge is half of the recipe for success when it comes to fly fishing. That knowledge all begins with understanding the vocabulary from which you can build your skills upon.
Previous article Tips for Fly Fishing in Dirty & Muddy Water

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