Names of Fly Fishing Flies

Names of Fly Fishing Flies

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A big part of fly fishing is knowing the lingo when it comes to the names and identities of fly fishing flies. A brook trout doesn't care whether an artificial fly is a Gray Wulff or a Mickey Finn, but it does care about finding its next meal—a meal that an angler hopes looks like a bug and acts like a bug in or on top of water. The Beginners Fly Fishing website notes that the increased popularity of fly fishing has "opened the door for more types of flies to be created and used to catch a variety of fish."

Wet Flies

Imagine an injured mayfly sinking slowly underwater, or a water bug lazily skimming below the water's surface in search of a place to lay its eggs. Wet flies imitate these underwater types of insects and are crafted using heavier bits of chenille or tinsel bodies to promote sinking rather than floating on the surface of the water. The material making up a wet fly—bird feathers, rabbit fur and chenille—absorbs water more readily. The wings on wet flies are pulled back away from the fly's head to encourage sinking. Popular and widely used wet-fly patterns are Hare's Ear, Royal Coachman, Parmachene Belle and Ginger Quill.

Dry Flies

The main purpose of a dry fly is to stay afloat. These usually very small flies use deer hair or the feathers of a water bird that fan out around the head of the fly, creating a ruff designed for flotation. Crafted to look like caddisflies, healthy mayflies or damselflies, dry flies tantalize fish by mimicking the actions of an airborne insect briefly touching down on the water's surface. The trick to dry-fly fishing is to dry the fly between fly castings. Blue Dun, Muddler Minnow, Green Drake and Humpy are a few well-known dry flies listed by the Go Fishin website.


Nymphs are designed to mimic the natural pupal and larval stages of aquatic insects, slugs, snails, leeches and worms. Artificial nymphs must sink to the bottom of the water like natural larvae and pupae and so have small, compact, weighted bodies, according to the Beginners Fly Fishing website. To resemble the pupa of an insect moving toward the next stage of its life and the water's surface, an artificial nymph needs less weight and more feathers or hair to make it appear as an "emerger" nymph, skimming just below the surface of the water. Become familiar with the artificial nymph names used in the fly fishing realm, including Stonefly Nymph, Zug Bug, March Brown, Dark Olive and Leadwing Coachman.


Streamers generally have long, streamlined feathered or furred bodies that are designed to resemble an injured baitfish, according to the Beginners Fly Fishing website. These usually larger flies tempt larger predatory fish with color, flail and flash. The name of a streamer’s game is to struggle just below the surface of the water, though the Go Fishin website states that some anglers add flotation to the fly to achieve a struggling-surface-prey look. Popular streamer patterns used in fly fishing are Silver Doctor, Black-Nosed Dace, White-and-Red and Nine-Three.

Saltwater Flies

Some fly fishing flies attract extremely large fish in saltwater. The Marco Island Fishing website's saltwater fly fishing guide illustrates various fly patterns such as Black Death for catching tarpon, rabbit-hide-strip Buck N' Bunny for snagging hungry saltwater gamefish and inverted-hook Copper Liz for landing bonefish.

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