Identity Crisis with Fishing flies

Help, I’m Having an Identity Crisis!

I’ve just started fly fishing and have inherited a collection of flies with my fly fishing tackle. How can I tell which are wets, dries, nymphs and lures?
Mike Satterthwaite

Peter Cockwill replies: Dry flies are designed to sit on top of or just in the surface so the materials they are tied with will help them do this. The most common dries will have a stiff cock hackle wound around the hook shank, close to the hook eye, and they will often have upright wings too.

Other dries can be tied with deer hair or similar buoyant materials for the wings, or with CdC feathers (generally a dull grey feather) that repels water. The fine fibres also trap air bubbles, again helping it to float. Some dry flies will have bodies made of clipped deer hair or synthetic material.

Wet flies fish below the surface and usually have a hackle tied flush under the bend of the hook and a wing that is set low on the back. Other wets do not have a wing but are tied with a hen hackle (softer than a cock hackle) which is swept back down the hook rather than sticking out away from the hook like the dry fly.

Nymphs tend to be somewhat more imitative, representing aquatic insects that are still in their underwater stage. They often incorporate a gold bead for weight and are tied in the style of a wet fly so they don’t ‘sit’ on the water’s surface.

Lures tend to be larger, more colourful and mobile affairs, representing nothing in particular but tied to provoke an attack response from an inquisitive fish.

This is a very simplistic breakdown of the four main types of flies. There are no hard and fast rules and the various groups can overlap somewhat. You would be well advised to have your collection looked through by a competent fishery manager, fly tyer or experienced angler, and in time you will be able to identify them yourself.

Reprinted with permission of Trout Fisherman magazine.