The Different Types Of Flies Used In Fly Fishing

Illa Byrle

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Two things spring to mind when you think about fly fishing: the casting of the fly line and the fly that is attached to the line. Fly fishing flies are an important aspect of fly fishing and are often the topic of most debate. Fly fishing flies can be classified into four types: nymphs, dry flies, streamers and wet flies. Each type of fly has hundreds of variations that can be used in different situations. Just covering the variations of one of the types of flies would take forever so what we will focus on today is just understanding the key differences between the various types of flies.


Nymphs are subsurface flies. They can either be called ‘nymphs or larvae’. However, the key difference is that a nymph tends to look like the fly it will eventually tun in to whereas larvae don’t. Trout will feed on the nymphs as they float downstream or up towards the waters surface. We tie nymphs onto our fly lines to imitate nymphs that are moving downstream after water pressure has dislodged them, that are moving to another food source, or wen they are floating to the surface ready to hatch into a fly.

Nymphs are the staple diet for many fish will. For example, a trout can get food without using much effort by simply sitting on the bottom of the river, move towards the floating Nymph and then eat them. Which is why using Nymphs when Fly fishing is easy and requires little effort.

Dry Flies

A “dry fly” is simply a nymph which has hatched into a fly that either flies above the water or simply sits on top of it. The best time to see nymphs turn into flies is in the warmer months. On a hot summer night, it is not uncommon to see a large hatch of fly nymphs. As all of these Nymphs are hatching the fish will start too fed aggressively to try and consume as many flying insects as they can. This is the best time to use your dry flies. Your chances of hooking ‘rising’ fish will be increased if you are able to ‘match the hatch’ or match the dry fly to the type of fly that is currently hatching on the water. Purists tend to view dry fly fishing as the only type of fly-fishing.


Streamers are a completely different type of fly than the above mentioned types. Streamers are designed to look like mall bait fish and are fished underwater. They are usually longer, larger, and appear bushier than the other flies. Some streamers make use of bright materials to attract hungry fish. Streamers are usually fished at the bottom of a river or lake. You simply are cast them out then allow them to sink and then retrieve them. As you are retrieving them you will get some very aggressive bites or takes as the trout chases the streamer swims in and then catches the streamer. If you are going to be doing night fishing then streamers are a popular choice

Wet Flies

These flies, just like streamers and fish, are caught in the water. Wet flies are designed to look like either small fish, or larger swimming insects. Wet flies can be fished with either a sinking line or an intermediate line, and are usually retrieved as they are sinking to the bottom of the river or lake. Wet fly fishing is one of the older types of fly fishing, but is fast being replaced by fishing with nymphs .

The majority of fly types are covered by the above categories. There are many varieties and species available for each type, so it can be confusing to decide which one to use in which water. You can decide which fly you want by understanding the water quality of the area where you’re fishing. It’s also a good idea to talk to someone about the types of flies that work well in this water. If you are interested in learning how to fly fish, most fly fishermen will be glad to assist and  a book I can recommend is Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing.

Absolute Beginner's Guide to Fly Fishing
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