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Wet Fly

Categorically, any pattern fished beneath the water surface; originally, the wet fly was developed to imitate:

  • drowned surface insects, such as duns and spinners;
  • emergining nymphs and pupae;
  • ovipositing adult insects; and
  • small curstaceans and shrimp.

Nymphs and streamers, while dressed for subsurface angling, are best considered separately.  Traditionally, the wet fly should be dressed sparsely with absorbent materials on a heavy-wire, down-eyed hook.  Soft-hackled patterns and variants (spiders) may be considered wet flies.  The wet fly, the most antique fly fising, usually has matched, tilted quill or barb wings that are tied on last.  Though there are notable exceptions, the following elements have been used individually or in combination to characterize a sunk pattern:

  • Any pattern characterized by a heavy or bushy tie of absorbent materials that my include added weight
  • Any pattern in which the wings and hackle fold back or point rearward; any pattern in which the dull or concave side of a soft, hen hackle points to the rear
  • Any pattern with no tail or a short, soft tail
  • Any pattern tied on a heavy, often down-eyed hook
  • Any "flat" pattern or pattern with materials that occupy a single plane congruent with the shank, bend, and point
  • Any pattern tied on a heavy Sproat or Limerick hook, often lacking a forged bend
  • Any pattern with special parts, such as a beard (wet fy and salmon fly) or thorax (Nymph and larva)

Picture of a No Hackle fly

An artificial fly floats or sinks based on the following characteristics:

  • hook weight,
  • quality and quantity of hackle,
  • hackle stance
  • dressing (floatant or sink),
  • pattern design
  • material absorption,
  • drying false casts,
  • total surface area, and
  • tail design and surface area



This information can be found in The Fly Fisher's Illustrated Dictionary, authored by Darrell Martin, copyrighted in 2000, and published by The Lyons Press. This is an excellent dictionary of fly fishing terminology and would be a great addition to any fly fisher's library.

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