Fly Fishing Terminology & Glossary: You’re Casting a What?

fly fishing terms

Because fly-fishers appear to speak and write in a weird, foreign language, fly-fishing can frequently be confusing to novices.

That is why we put this fly-fishing dictionary together to assist new anglers and clarify some of the terminology used by pro-fly fishers.

First, let’s start with the terms that are most commonly used:

Most Frequently Used Terms

1) Fly Rod

A fishing rod made specifically for fly fishing is called a fly rod.

Although the fly rod construction is much like other fishing rods, there are several significant distinctions, and you cannot use a regular fishing rod for fly fishing.

The fly rods are much thinner and lighter than most fishing rods.

They are typically between 7 and 9 feet long and are designed to cast a fly line.

2) Fly Reel

Fly reels are more accessible and more streamlined.

They are just two disks with a cylinder in the middle, around which the line is wound, and a little knob serves as the handle.

Frequently, drag mechanisms inside the cylinder perform comparable duties, and it is made to hold fly lines with a large diameter.

3) Fly Line

Fly line is a fishing line with a plastic coating over a unique core intended to float or sink and is used by fly fishers to throw artificial flies using fly rods.

Some standardized fly lines float and sink because they have a running line that floats and a sinking segment at the tip.

However, the fly line’s weight, not its size, is most important; therefore, the weight is distributed unevenly to facilitate casting.

4) Fly Casting

Fly cast is an angling technique that uses an artificial fly or a lightweight lure to attract fish.

Fly fishing cast allows you to use floating dry flies that are almost weightless because when you cast the line, the fly follows.

Learning to bend effectively and stroke the fly rods should be your first goal while learning to fly cast.

5) Casting Flies

Fishing flies are imitations of insects, invertebrates, crustaceans, tiny animals, and other fish food that are used as bait.

Flies were traditionally “tied” using organic materials like feathers, thread, and animal fur or hair.

In the modern era, various synthetic and natural materials are used simultaneously.

They can be floating flies (dry flies) or Below-the-surface of water flies (Streamers or wet flies).

Fly Fishing Terms You’d Better Know to Sound Like a Pro



Arbor is a part where the fly line and backing are tied, wound, and attached to the reel in the center of the spool

Arbor Knot

A type of knot used in fly fishing to secure backing to a fly reel’s spool.


Aquatic insects’ wing stage, or reproduction.


A person who enjoys fishing with a rod, line, fly or bait with the intention of catching fish for leisure or food.


Action is a word used to characterize a rod’s ability to flex, which is typically divided into three categories: fast, medium, and slow.

Fast action rods produce longer throws and higher line speeds, especially when casting into the wind because they usually are stiffer overall but bend more at the tip.

Slow action rods provide the impression of being more compliant since they seem to flex over their entire length.



Backing, which is frequently braided, is used to free up space on the spool before the fly line is attached.

Backing also plays a crucial role in fighting fish on salmon and saltwater reels.

Back cast

The part of any fly cast that reaches behind the caster.

Alternatively, casting a line in the opposite direction from where the fly is meant to travel.

The backward version of the forward cast bends the fly rod, creating the conditions to produce the forward cast and present the fly.


A genus of mayflies in the Baetidae family known to fishermen as the colored olive is called Baetis.


The classic fly rod material; the oldest rod building material still in use.


This is a name given to hooks either created without barbs or with a smaller barb (see barb).

This feature eliminates handling and potential injury to a fish you might wish to release while also making it simpler to remove a hook.


The barb is the little triangular-shaped piece of metal at the hook’s pointy end that faces away from the point.

After the hook has entered the fish’s mouth, it is held in place by the barb on the hook.

Bass Bug

The name Bass Bug is given to a variety of surface bass flies typically made with hollow hair.


Beadhead nymphs are designed to look like these various underwater insects, with a heavy, metallic bead on the front of a nymph fly to add weight.


The tapered fly line middle component; is found after the tip and front taper but before the rear taper and running line.

Bimini Twist

A leader made with a series of twists and knots almost solely employed when flying fishing for big game fish in saltwater, such as tarpon.

It is exceptionally robust because it has a loop and a double-line portion.


When you feel or see a fish nibble on your fly but are unable to set the hook.


A fly tying instrument and expression that sewists invented.

The tying thread is held with a bobbin.


The best way to explain a bodkin is as a needle with a handle.

You can use a needle and a piece of wooden doweling to make it quickly.

When tying flies, it is used to apply cement or lacquer.

It is a knot best known for its strength in tying together monofilaments of varying diameters of materials.

It is also frequently used to create a fly leader made up of various diameter monofilament segments. A barrel knot is another name for this knot.

Break Off

When a fish escapes by coming off the hook or snapping the fly line, stealing your hook in the process.


An imitation fish-themed streamer fly. The hair on this fly is often long and laid back from the eye to the bent part of the hook.

Frequently, a deer’s tail provided such hair. It is also a style of fly that resembles a minnow typically made of bucktail.



One of the three most significant aquatic insects imitated by fly fishers, prevalent worldwide in all freshwater habitats.

They are trout and other fish’s preferred food source, and they also go through several unique stages, which include an underwater pupa and an adult above the surface of the water.


A widely spread mayfly genus frequently discovered in lakes and also known as the “Speckled Wing Dun” because of the speckling on the adult wings’ leading edge.

Casting Arc

The fly rod’s direction throughout a whole cast is often compared to a clock face.


When you cast (quite accurately!) to catch large fish, you fling your fly line and fly onto the water.


A process of leisure fishing that dates back and involves unhooking and releasing a caught fish back into its original body of water.

This method is quite effective in various warm-water, cold-water, and saltwater environments.

Caudal fin

Caudal, which in anatomy simply means “the back.”

The fish’s caudal fin is its tail or back fin.


The French phrase “Cul de Canard” means “butt of the duck” in English.

Both terms refer to the feathers from the region around the duck’s preen gland. They are incredibly realistic on the water and inherently waterproof. Excellent for tying any dry fly design.


A group of fish closely related to trout and love cold water; you may identify them with their dark bodies with lighter patches and pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins, which are white-tipped.

Clinch Knot

Generally used knot for securing a hook, lure, swivel, or fly to the leader or fly line.


A mechanical device found on many cheap fly reels that slows down or resists a fish’s pulling efforts to tire it out and slow it down enough for it to be landed.

In essence, a triangular steel ratchet snaps over the gear teeth on the reel spool, producing a clicking sound.

When a large fish pulls out the fly line, there is a high-frequency clicking sound called “singing reels.”


a ring of hair or feathers positioned directly behind the fly’s head.

Curve cast

A casting method that enables a fly fisher to cast a fly over an obstruction.

Additionally, it is employed to lessen the impact of wind or water current on the fly or the fly line.


Damped fishing rod

a fishing rod available with less unwanted vibration and enhanced casting abilities. This results in fewer waves in your fly line, which increases power and distance while requiring less exertion.


a significant aquatic insect frequently replicated in its nymphal stage; the mature ones resemble dragonflies, and at rest, they fold their wings down their backs.


Drag is a pair of friction plates found inside a fishing fly reel.

The reel plates rotate backward and release the fly line if the fish pulls on the fly line vigorously enough to overcome the friction, which prevents the line from breaking.


A word used to describe the act of casting a fly to a fish or into an area of water that looks favorable.

Double haul

A double haul is a term used to describe both the back cast and the forward cast. So it is when you make two pulls, one on the back cast and the other on the front or forward cast.

It increases line speed so the caster can cast farther or through stronger winds. On loop control, hauling has a significant impact.


Nymphal forms of this significant aquatic bug are most frequently copied; they typically hatch in the early to mid-summer.

Unlike the Damselfly, the mature Dragonfly holds its wings straight out when at rest.


The drift is everything that happens to the fly after it is thrown, while it is on or in the water, and before it is picked up for another cast.

The direction a fly takes downstream after casting upstream before getting the line back.

You may fish in a range of habitats while you drift.

Following each casting, the fly will travel a short or long distance.

On top or towards the bottom, it can be dead drifted dry.

Also, the drift might be a stripped streamer or a swinging wet.

Dropper loop

A typical loop knot used for tying multi-hook fishing lines is the dropper loop.

A loop that is off to the side of the line can be formed in the center of a long line by creating a pattern.

With this, you can fish with two flies at once, one above and one below the water, raising the possibility of successfully presenting a fly to a fish.


Double Taper is a typical fly line design in which both ends of the fly line have tapered ends while the middle, or “belly,” of the line is level.

This type of fly line is excellent for short to modest casts as well as for roll casting but is less suitable for long casts.

Dry Fly

Dry flies typically simulate an adult insect and float on the water’s surface.

Fish feed on them when they land on the surface of the water.

The imitation flies are made to be fished on the surface of the water; they are often made of materials that don’t absorb water, and they are most frequently employed to mimic the adult stage of aquatic insects.

Dry Fly Floatant

A dry fly Floatant, which is liquid, is made to prevent your dry flies from soaking up water, keeping the fly afloat.

Floatant typically consists of a lighter liquid that serves as a carrier for the waxy substance that evaporates and a waxy substance that coats the dried fly.


First description. (1) The first stage of the adult mayfly’s life cycle, which is often brief, and which the dry fly most frequently imitates.

Second description. (2) A gloomy gray-blue hue that certain fly-tying materials replicates.

Duncan’s loop

When tying a fly to a tippet or a lure to a leader, the Duncan Loop knot, also called the Uni Knot, is a sliding loop knot that is frequently employed.

This Duncan knot creates a loop at the end of your line that allows your fly or lure to bob around in the water without becoming stuck.


Elk Hair Caddis

The Elk Hair is a dry fly that is frequently used for trout fishing and has a general appearance similar to that of an adult caddisfly or a small stonefly.


An aquatic insect’s stage that swims to the surface or just below it to hatch transforms into a nymph or pupa or becomes an adult insect with wings.


False Cast

False casting is when a fly fisherman repeatedly moves the rod forward and backward while casting.

The fly line never hits the water during a false cast.


A Fishhook is utilized to catch fish by impaling or snagging the outside of the fish body or by piercing and embedding it onto the inside of the fish’s mouth.

It is made of steel wire bronzed, cadmium coated, or stainless steel—smaller fly fishing hook sizes, such as 6 or 10, maybe enough for little stream trout.

You might use a size 4, 2, or 1/0 for species in the middle range, such as salmon or redfish.

Try a 2/0 to 4/0 for larger species.

Many hooks are available to best suit your needs and purposes, like Nymph Hooks.

floating fly

A dry fly commonly represents an insect that emerges on the water’s surface (see dry fly).

Examples of such insects include grubs and mayflies.

floating fly line

These lines work great when you need to throw through a strong breeze or turn over larger patterns like streamers and poppers.

The floating fly line is simple to pick up and cast, allowing the entire line floats.

Fluorocarbon line

Regardless of the type of lure you employ, fluorocarbon is nearly undetectable in the water, which results in more bites.

Fluorocarbon is abrasion-resistant and might sink more quickly due to its density.

Fly Line

One of the most crucial components of your tackle is the fly line.

In fly fishing, the fly line itself provides weight during fly fishing.

Fly lines are fishing lines with a plastic coating over a unique core intended to float or sink and are used by fly anglers to throw artificial flies using fly rods.

Some fly lines have a running line floating or sinking line segment at the tip.

However, the fly line’s weight, not its size, is most important; therefore, the weight of the fly line is distributed unevenly to facilitate casting.

Fly Reel

A piece of particular fly-fishing equipment, the fly reel does more than just hold the fly line and backing.

The mechanisms that regulate the line balance, the rod set up and impart drag to a running fish. They are usually precisely tuned metal devices.

There are three types of fly reels: automated, multiplier, and single action.

They are more accessible and more streamlined.

They are just two disks with a cylinder in the middle, around which the line is wound, and a little knob serves as the handle.

Frequently, drag mechanisms inside the cylinder perform comparable duties, and it is made to hold fly lines with a large diameter.

Fly rod

A quick-reacting, lightweight fishing pole for fly cast.

The regular fishing rods and the fly rods differ and cannot be used for fly fishing, although the fly rod is made similarly to any other fishing rod.

Typically, the fly rod lengths vary and is much thinner and lighter than most fishing rods.


The best instrument for removing hooks. Made from hand-forged surgical stainless steel for durability.

Large finger holes, serrated jaws, and a locking mechanism are all features of the forceps.


The term “fry” describes a newly hatched fish that has developed to the point where its egg cell has nearly vanished, and its swim bladder is fully functional, allowing the fish to feed actively.

Forward Cast

An accurate representation of the rear cast and the front half of the false cast.



(1) When fly fishing in the summer, gaiters are composed of incredibly light, breathable, and moisture-wicking cloth with no seams for all-day comfort. They also shield you from the intense sun.

(2) Wading shoes are frequently covered in a neoprene anklet or legging known as gaiters to prevent pebbles from entering the shoe and wearing down the stocking foot of the wader.


Fishing gear is described as tools used to capture marine habitats.

In fly fishing, for instance, a beginner would require a fly rod and reel, waders, and boots for cold-water fishing (such as trout), a variety of flies appropriate for the types of fish, polarized sunglasses, etc.

Gel Spun Polyethylene

A strong, supple, slippery, exceptionally abrasion-resistant, and thin synthetic fiber.

For its size, it is more robust than steel.

It is frequently used as a braided fly line backing when a lot of backing is required, yet there isn’t much room on the reel.

You can use braided mono as a sleeve and glue as a bond to affix the backing to the fly line.


Graphite is the most widely used rod-making substance. It has the best weight to strength to flex ratio of any substance currently on the market.

When graphite is made into fibers mixed with fiberglass in a fly rod, the result is a relatively stiff rod that is slightly heavier than fiberglass alone.


The handle of a fly rod, also known as the tapered grip, when grasped with the index finger on top or pointing forward, enables a better application of force from the hand—typically made with cork rings that have been polished into various patterns.



A feather, typically from a chicken’s neck region, can be any color.

The hackle characteristics, such as the stiffness of the individual fibers and the amount of web, dictate the sort of fly tied with the hackle; many hackles are created expressly for fly tying.

Cast your line downstream and to the side, then let the flies swing across the stream and down.

To cover additional ground, let your line swing over the stream.

Hackle Pliers

A tool made to pinch long feathers after which you should be able to wrap it around a hook’s shank.

Hair stacker

Before you attach the fur or hair to your fly, a “Hair Stacker” tool is used to align and smooth it out.


Usually describes the stage of an aquatic insect’s life cycle when it transitions from swimming to flying and from the underwater to the surface stages.

Emergers are another name for insects in the early stages of this metamorphosis.


The part of the fly line with the front taper, belly, and rear taper is called the head.

The amount of line that can be appropriately carried in the air while casting depends on the head’s length.

Hollow Hair

Deer, elk, and some other animals have hollow hair, which holds air and makes the animal’s hair float, making it perfect for dry fly and bass bug tying.


Imitative Flies

These flies imitate certain insects and life stages.

They target fish species that fly fishermen strive to catch regularly.

Improved clinch knot

The improved clinch knot, commonly referred to as the salmon knot, is a knot that fastens the fishing line to a swivel or clip in addition to an artificial fishing fly or lure.


An indicator is a floating object placed on the leader or end of the fly line to “signal” the fly’s bite by a fish or to indicate the direction of the fly’s drift.


Knotted Leader

Knotted Leader is a fly-fishing leader made by knotting together strips of material of various diameters to create a tapered leader.

The blood (or barrel) knot and surgeon’s knot are the most often used knots to create such a leader.

The Knotted Leaders with Droppers provide your flies with exceptional presentation and are perfect for lure, nymph, or wet fly fishing.


A hook-like outgrowth on the mandible of a male trout or salmon during spawning is especially noticeable in salmon and brown trout.


Landing a Fish

Successfully bringing your catch to hand.

Vary according to personal ideology or state laws; you can either retain or release your fish.

Larva/ Larvae

Larvae, which frequently resemble worms, are young insects.

Mainly when grouped with emergers, these are also referred to as nymphs.

They have bodies that resemble thick worms and are typically round, occasionally flattened, with rather blunt heads and somewhat tapered tails.

They are in the insect’s non-swimming bottom-dwelling stage.


Simply put, a leader is the length of material (or materials) that attaches your fly line and fly.

The goal of a fly leader is relatively simple: to attach your fly to your fly line in a way that makes it easier for you to catch fish.

In some cases, they can create leaders from shorter portions or a single piece.

In a more precise explanation, the primary transparent piece attached to the fly line’s end is called the leader.

This material frequently is a pretty hefty weight when attached to your fly line (butt section). However, the fly fishing leader constructed style allows it to taper down in weight/thickness to the point where the tippet attaches.

Level Line

Level lines have a single line diameter.

Nylon, monofilament, or fluorocarbon are the most common materials.

It is not the best line for accuracy or distance nor the best all-purpose line.

Loading the Rod

Loading the rod entails moving energy from the pickup into the back cast.


Matching the hatch

The term “matching the hatch” is frequently used in the fishing community, particularly among fans of trout fishing.

The phrase refers to the attempts of fly fishermen to mislead fish by using fake impersonations of genuine insects.


The mayfly is the most frequently imitated aquatic insect in the world. Its nymph stage lasts for about a year, and its adult stages last one to three days.

Adult mayflies have one pair of standing wings. They are typically found in cold or cool aquatic habitats.

Mending Line

A technique to ensure a drag-free float once the line has been dropped into the water.

Creating a horseshoe-shaped bow in the line involves flipping the rod tip or performing a sequence of flips.

Depending on whether the line is repaired upstream or downstream, the pace at which it travels will change.

After you have cast, it is crucial to mend your line.

The way your line and fly are floating in the water needs regular repair or correction. Fish are susceptible to abnormal movement.


In many bodies of water, midges can be seen in great numbers.

They’re one of the few insects that can hatch all year round, which makes them crucial for fly fishing.

Therefore, one of the best flies to use is the midge. They are incredibly tiny, two-winged, non-biting insects’ kin to craneflies, mosquitoes, and deer flies.


A clear, stretchy nylon filament is available in various breaking strengths and diameters used in all types of fishing.

It is mainly used to cast streamers, wet flies, dry flies, and dry dropper rigs, as well as nymphs on tight lines and beneath indicators.


Nail Knot

The Nail Knot is a popular fishing knot for connecting two lines of varying diameters and allowing line diameters to decrease down to the fly.

Narrow loop

Loops for fly casting can be broad or narrow.

In many cases, the narrow loop is more efficient and will result in a better cast. Narrow loops on a flyrod will usually allow the fly to travel more accurately and with less effort.

Nymph Fly

During the larval stage, a nymph fly is a fly fishing lure that resembles a subsurface bug with a hook.


Open Loop or Broad loop

The open loop is achieved by waving the rod, so the tip moves in an exaggerated curved path.

It takes a lot of energy to cast this type of loop.



it means how you cast without alerting the fish and manipulating your fly in the current, so it appears to the fish as food.


Pupae is the developmental stage in which complete metamorphosis occurs between the larval and adult stages.

Caddis pupa is an excellent fly when looking for active fish in most rivers this time of year.


Roll Cast

A roll cast is one of the three most basic fly casts. It is a forward cast with no back casts.


Sinking Fly Line

A sinking fly line sinks entirely through its length beneath the water’s surface.

Sink tip fly line helps you lower your fly and for easy casting fly line.


A streamer is a fly tied with feathers from a wing but can also be tied with hair to mimic the numerous species of baitfish that game fish feed on.


Tapered Leader

It is a custom-made leader with a strong, long butt for turning strength and a flexible, made of monofilament with a tapered front for a delicate presentation.


The tiny piece of material that you fasten to the end of the leader on one end part and the fly on the other is called the fly fishing tippet.


Wet Fly

A wet fly is designed to be cast below the water’s surface.

Weight Forward Fly Line

A fine diameter running line with enhanced shooting head weight forward and thickness lets you turn over bigger flies.



A measurement used to specify leader and tippet material diameter

The diameter of the tippet material is indicated by the “X” in tippet size.

The thicker tippet, the lower the X number. For instance, a tippet with a size of 0X is significantly thicker than one with a size of 12X.