Stay Fly: Learn the fly-fishing lingo |

Stay Fly: Learn the fly-fishing lingo

Ray Kyle
Stay Fly
Like any sport, fly-fishing has its own language that is interesting and sometimes confusing.
Special to the EVV

Just like any activity, hobby or sport, fly-fishing has its own interesting and sometimes confusing language. Some of the terms are straightforward, while others might confuse even a seasoned angler. This week, I’ll run through some of these words and define them for you, so you can sound wiser while talking to your buddy or local fly shop.

Fly-fishing lingo

Backing: The braided line added to the reel before the fly line. It helps bulk up the reel so the fly line is closer to the outside of the spool. It also adds more line to the reel and is helpful when large fish aggressively run

Barbless: Using a hook with no barb. Some hooks are manufactured without a barb. Many anglers and guides will press the barb down to make the hook barbless. It’s easier to remove a barbless hook from a fish, making it better for catch and release practices

Dead drift: When a fly is presented and traveling at the same pace as the current

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Drag: 1) An unnatural motion of the fly caused by the effect of the current on the line and the leader or 2) Resistance applied to the reel spool to prevent it from turning faster

Drift: The intended path of the fly in or on the moving water

Dropper: The practice of fishing two flies at the same time, typically one on the surface (dry fly) and a second fly underwater (nymph or emerger)

Emerger: The phase in the life cycle of an aquatic insect when the nymph reaches the surface and the adult hatches out

Ferrule: The point where sections of the fly rod are connected. The end of one section fits inside the end of another, in an overlapping fashion at the ferrule

Floatant: A waterproofing gel or powder that is used to help flies, tippet and leaders float

Fluorocarbon: Tippet or leader material that is virtually invisible underwater and sinks quicker than nylon materials. Great for nymphing or droppers

Fly line: Line designed specifically for fly-fishing. It is made of tapered plastic coating over a nylon core. Some float, while others are designed to sink. They are weighted to match the weight rod that is being used

Foul hook: Hooking a fish anywhere but in the mouth

Hatch: 1) a large number of adult flies of the same species emerging from the water or 2) The name of one of the most cherished shop dogs in the valley

Headwaters: An upstream section of the river before the main tributaries join it. Typically a much smaller in width and flow than the main part of the river.

Hemostat: Forceps anglers use to remove flies from the fish’s mouth.

Indicator: A fancy, fly-fishing term for a bobber. It is used to detect when the fish takes the fly when fishing nymphs below the water surface.

Leader: The section of line between the fly line and the fly. It is usually tapered to produce a soft landing of the fly.

Mending line: A technique used after the line is on the water to achieve a drag-free drift. It uses a flip or series of flips with the rod tip to put a bow in the line to help prevent drag through varying currents.

Pool: Segments of a river or stream featuring slower currents and more depth. Pools give fish a rest from swimming against heavier currents and are prime feeding grounds.

Redd: A hollow scooped in the sand or gravel of the riverbed by breeding trout as a spawning area. When you see one, stay away and don’t cast to the fish spawning on them.

Riffle: Flows that are sped up going over smaller rocks or gravel at either the head or tail of a pool. These runs are usually shallow, however still hold fish.

Rise: The disturbance of water surface when a trout takes a fly off the surface

Seam: The area where two current flows come together, ideal for holding trout. Fish will hang out in the slower water and make quick moves into the faster flow to eat.

Setting the hook: Pulling the hook into the flesh or cartilage of the fish’s mouth.

Tailwater: The downstream section of a river or stream found below a man-made dam.

Tippet: The end section of a tapered leader, tippet is the smallest diameter section and where the fly is tied onto the leader. Also comes in spools to lengthen or build leaders and rigs.

Wading staff: A walking stick to help stabilize anglers in the fast moving or deep waters.

Weight forward line: An easy casting fly line that carries most of its weight in the forward section of the line. It tapers down from the forward section to a fine diameter running line that allows it to shoot through the guides. It is the most versatile fly line style.

Zinger: A retractable device use to hang tools and keep them out of your way when not in use.

Ray Kyle is a manager and guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 or

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