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Fly lure

A fly lure, Fly, or "pattern," in the terminology of sport fishing and fly fishing, is an artificial fishing lure tied, most commonly, with thread, feathers, and fur, but may also include lead (for weight), ribbon, tinsel, beads, and other assorted materials. Fly lure is synonymous with Artificial fly (universal term) (See Fly tying).


The term fly lure is not used in the United States, where a lure is considered distinct from an artificial fly. A lure, in this parlance, denotes only a fishing lure with enough weight to be thrown on conventional tackle. A fly's chief distinction is its lack of weight; one must use a fly rod to cast out a fly because only a fly rod can be "loaded" or bent by a fly line, which provides the weight needed to carry out the fly. Artificial fly is synonymous with fly lure. See Fly Fishing.


Fly tying is a common practice in fly fishing, considered by many anglers an important part of the fly fishing experience. Many fly fishers tie their own flies, either following patterns in books, natural insect examples, or using their own imagination. The technique involves attaching small pieces of feathers, animal fur, and other materials on a hook in order to make it attractive to fish. This is made by wrapping thread tightly around the hook and tying on the desired materials. A fly is sized according to the width of the hook gap; large or longer flies are tied on larger, thicker, and longer hooks.

Types of Fly Lure

Generally, fly patterns are considered either "imitations" or "attractors." Imitations seek to deceive fish through the life-like imitation of insects on which the fish may feed. Imitators do not always have to be precisely realistic in appearance; they may derive their lifelike qualities when their fur or feathers are immersed in water and allowed to move in the current. Attractors, which are often brightly colored, seek to draw a strike by arousing an aggression response in the fish. Famous attractors are the Stimulator, Royal Wulff, and Green Weenie flies.

There are five main categories of flies: dry fly, wet fly, streamer fly, terrestrial, and nymph . Some fly patterns may fall into several categories. For example, the Wooly Bugger is precisely imitative of very few creatures, yet can be fished as a nymph, a streamer, or as a wet fly imitation of a crawfish or leech.

Dry fly

A dry fly resembles an insect floating on the water surface. Larger dry flies can also imitate mice, frogs, and snakes, or they may use attractor patterns often found in such lures as the bass popper. A small dry fly is often tied on a light hook so it can float easily. Larger flies may derive their flotation from the use of body materials such as foam or cork.

A dry fly may be tied to imitate an insect on the water, such as Pale Morning Duns, or it may be tied to attract rising fish without imitating any one specific insect, such as the Royal Wulff or Adams patterns. The traditional dry fly has a few basic parts: tail, body, wing, hackle, and head. Floatation of the fly can be achieved in a variety of ways. A dry fly traditionally uses the surface tension of water to float. The fly will ride on the hackle and tail, and in some cases the hook point will not break through the surface. Closed-cell foam, hollow deer hair, or CDC feathers can be used in construction to hold air and enable the fly to float. Most types of dry flies must be greased with a special floatant before presentation and dried regularly to preserve buoyancy. Don't ever apply a greasy floatant to a dry fly with CDC feathers. Instead, use a dry powder floatant, which will not gum up the CDC feathers.

Dry fly technique

In order for the dry fly to float tantalizingly on the water surface, it may require periodic drying after it is pulled from the water. This is accomplished by several rapid strokes or whips of the airborne fly and fly line, called "false casting". Another method is to press the dry fly into amadou or other desiccant, commonly called floatant, to remove absorbed water.

A dry fly may be fished upstream or downstream. Casting upstream generally keeps the angler out of the view of the fish while casting downstream may facilitate casting to productive holes.

Wet fly

A wet fly resembles an insect under the water surface. Wet flies can imitate aquatic insects, drowned insects, or emerging insects (emergers). They can also imitate larger aquatic creatures such as crawfish or leeches. Wet flies are traditionally tied with a tail, body, wings, and soft hackle.

Wet fly technique

In current, a wet fly may be fished upstream, across stream, or down stream. In slow pools on a large river, or in lake fishing the line may be retrieved slowly by a figure-of-eight retrieve (coiling the line in the palm of the hand). On still water, the wet fly may also be retrieved by this method, or by stripping line.


A streamer is a type of wet fly that can be used to mimic injured baitfish, such as minnows or menhaden. Streamers are normally larger in size than other types of artificial fly, and can be used to catch predatory fish of almost any size. Fish will bite streamers out of aggression while protecting spawning areas, out of curiosity, or when feeding. The Atlantic Salmon flies, bucktails (hairwing), and feather wing flies all fall into the streamer category.

Streamer fly technique

The fishing technique with a streamer is much the same as with a spoon lure. Casting across and downstream is the traditional presentation. Retrieves can be fast or slow and erratic to imitate an injured baitfish.


A terrestrial fly is a fly tied to imitate a ground insect that has fallen in the water or has drowned. Prime examples of terrestrial flies include the ant, beetle, cicada, cricket, and grasshopper.

Terrestrial technique

Terrestrials may be tied as dry or wet flies, and are fished appropriately. However, since terrestrial insects are not accustomed to the water, delicate presentations are not usually necessary. For example, a terrestrial cricket or grasshopper lands hard on the water, where it struggles to extricate itself. Wet fly terrestrials imitate drowned or drowning ground insects, and are therefore normally fished in a dead drift without movement.


A nymph is a wet fly tied to imitate an emerging insect in its larval state or emerging from its larval cocoon. Mayfly nymphs, caddis fly larva, and diptera can all be imitated by nymphs.

Normally a nymph is tied on a heavier hook, sometimes with an added weight in the body or head to keep it underwater during presentation.

Nymph technique

Nymphs can be fished successfully upstream or down. A large percentage of what fish eat is found living underwater and imitated by nymphs. Without the benefit of seeing the fly, the flyfisherman must distinguish a fish's take from the normal tug of river current. Many nymph fishermen rely on small bobbers, brightly-colored yarn, or other strike indicators to determine when a fish has taken the nymph.

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