Anglers new to fly fishing often have questions regarding the real difference between a wet fly and a dry fly. The way a fly is made dictates whether it will float on top of the water, sink, or ride completely or partially submerged. Different fish look for food at different parts of the water column, and most fish also look for different food sources at different levels of the water, so a variety of fishing flies is needed for a successful day on the water; fly selection will depend on the weather, season, type of water, and type of fish you’re after.
You can make or buy flies that look like worms, vegetation, crustaceans, terrestrial insects, aquatic insects, flesh, small mammals, small birds, baitfish, small reptiles and amphibians, and spawn. A dry fly is buoyant and usually represents adult terrestrial or aquatic insects. These are mostly used in freshwater. Dry flies typically move around with the water’s current and wind, like insects would. They are most often used with a floating line and the angler allows the fly to drift and move naturally. Some insects move a bit on the surface of the water; in this case, the angler should work the line to impart the same natural movement of the fly. Some examples of dry flies are the Orange Stimulator, which looks like a grasshopper or caddis fly; the Blue Wing Olive Dry Fly; the Adams; and the Royal Wulff.
A wet fly sinks beneath the surface and works at different levels of the water column depending on what is attached. They typically imitate pupa, baitfish, larva, drowned or dead insects, nymphs, and other prey. These, too, are usually freshwater flies. Some examples of popular wet flies are the Professor, the Wooly Worm, the Grizzly King, and the Partridge and Orange.
Nymph flies look like the immature stage of small crustaceans and aquatic insects. They are typically freshwater flies and examples include the Biot Midge and Brook’s Montana Stonefly. Emerger Flies, normally used for catching trout, are made to imitate the not-quite-adult aquatic insect hatching and is leaving the water.
Streamer flies are more diverse and can be used on either freshwater or saltwater fish. They are made to resemble large aquatic prey or baitfish. Examples of popular streamer flies are the Mickey Finn, Muddler Minnow, Schenk’s White Minnow, Wooly Bugger, Black Conehead Egg Sucking Leech, Royal Coachman Bucktail, Clouser Deep Minnow, and Articulated Streamer.
Terrestrial flies are meant to imitate crustaceans, non-aquatic insects, and worms that could fall into the water and become food for the fish. An example of a terrestrial fly is the Dave’s Hopper, one that looks like a grasshopper.
If you have additional questions regarding the use of a wet fly vs. dry fly, fill out the form at the right and a skilled anglers will contact you to answer your questions.