Fly Fishing Slang

There are a bunch of slang terms that are used by most fisherman and not every one knows what they are, so today we are going to touch on this. Most of them relate to Knots, bugs or gear. The gear ones are important for you to know to get the right stuff when you go shopping. The bugs give you a better understanding of what’s in the water and which flies to use.


Abdomen  posterior section of an insect’s body; located just behind the thorax; typically segmented and large in size relative to other body parts

Thorax  normally associated with nymphs, however can be a part of the fly, usually the area behind the head, mainly constructed with dubbing.Tight Loop

Hatch  a large number of the same species of insects emerging around the same time.

Larva  the immature, aquatic, growing stage of the caddis and some other insects; many species of caddis larva build a protective covering of fine gravel or debris to protect them in this stage; a bottom-dwelling non-swimming stage of the insect.

Terrestrial  land-based insects, such as ants or grasshoppers, that are often food for fish.

Adult the winged stage of aquatic insects; reproductive stage

Pupain  insects the transition stage between the larva and the adult; to fly-fishers, caddis pupa are the most important of these insects

Nymph  immature form of insects; as fly fishers, we are concerned only with the nymphs of aquatic insects.

Baetis widely distributed genus of mayflies typically found in sizes 16 to 22.

Caddis one of the three most important aquatic insects imitated by fly fishers; found around the world in all freshwater habitats; adult resembles a moth when in flight; at rest the wings are folded in a tent shape down the back; the most important aquatic state of the caddis is the pupa, which is its emerging stage (also see larva, pupa and emerger).

Chironomid scientific name for the family of insects commonly known as midges; in the pupae stage they typically appear to be small aquatic worms.

Midge a term properly applied to the small Dipterans that trout feed on; often called gnats; similar to mosquitoes in appearance; midges have two wings that lie in a flat “V” shape over the back when at rest; term sometimes loosely applied (and incorrectly so) when referring to small mayflies

Damselfly an important still water aquatic insect most commonly imitated in the nymphal form; usually hatches in early to mid-summer. Adult looks like a dragonfly, but folds its wings along its back when at rest.

Dragonfly important still water aquatic insect most commonly imitated in the nymphal form; usually hatches in early to mid-summer. Unlike the Damselfly, the Dragonfly adult holds its wings straight out (like an airplane) when at rest.

Dun (1) first stage in the adult mayfly’s life cycle; usually of short duration (1 to 24 hours); this is the stage most often imitated by the dry fly;

(2) a darkish gray-blue color that is very desirable in some fly-tying materials.

Mayfly worldwide, the most commonly imitated aquatic insect; most dry-fly and nymph patterns imitate this insect; nymph stage of the mayfly lasts approximately one year; adult stages last one to three days; adults have one pair of upright wings, making it look like a small sailboat; commonly found in cold or cool freshwater environments.

Stonefly very important aquatic insect; nymph lives for one to three years, depending on species; most species hatch out by crawling to the shoreline and emerging from its nymphal case above the surface, thus adults are available to trout only along shoreline and around midstream obstructions; adult has two pair of wings which are folded flat along its back when at rest; stoneflies require a rocky bottomed stream with very good water quality

Scud   small freshwater crustacean similar in appearance to shrimp; found in large numbers in fertile tail water stream

Gear                                                              Fly reel


Arbor  the center part of the spool, where fly line and backing are tied, wound, and connected to the reel.

Arbor Knot  knot used in flyfishing to attach backing to the spool of a fly reel.

Backing  usually braided Dacron, used to take up space on the spool before the fly line is attached (see spool and nail knot); on salmon, steelhead, and saltwater reels, also becomes important in fighting fish.

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

Barb  the backward-facing projection cut into a hook near the point to reduce the chances of hooked fish escaping.

Blank  the long, slender, tapered cylinder-typically constructed of graphite, fiberglass, or bamboo-to which other components are attached during the manufacturing of a fly rod; simply the “rod” part of a fly rod.

Breaking Strength  amount of effort required to break a single strand of unknotted monofilament or braided line, usually stated in pounds (example: 6 lb. test).

Butt Section  the thick end of a tapered leader, the section usually attached to the fly line via a loop-to-loop connection or a nail knot.

Drag   (1) term used to describe an unnatural motion of the fly caused by the effect of the current on line and leader. Drag is usually detrimental, though at times useful (such as imitating the actions of the adult caddis).

(2) Resistance applied to the reel spool to prevent it from turning faster than the line leaving the spool (used in playing larger fish)

Floating Fly Line  a fly line where the entire line floats; best all round fly line

Fluorocarbon  tippet or leader material with a low refractive index, making it nearly invisible underwater; known for its tensile and knot strength as well as its UV- and abrasion resistance; best used for saltwater flyfishing or freshwater nymph rigs.

Forceps hand-operated medical instrument widely used in flyfishing to remove flies from the jaws of a hooked fish; feature pliers-like jaws with locking clips so that once they are clamped to the hook, they stay there until released.

Graphite   the most popular rod-building material in use today; offers the best weight, strength, and flex ratio of any rod building material currently available.

Indicator   floating object placed on the leader or end of the fly line to “indicate” the take of the fly by a fish or to indicate the path of the drift of the fly; used when nymph fishing with a slack line; very effective.

Leader    the section of monofilament or fluorocarbon line between the fly line and the fly; usually tapered to deliver the fly softly and away from the fly line (see knotted leader, knotless tapered leader, turn over, and monofilament).



Attractor an impressionistic fly pattern, such as a Royal Wulff, tied with certain fish-enticing characteristics, meant to elicit a strike rather than to realistically imitate an insect.

Barb the backward-facing projection cut into a hook near the point to reduce the chances of hooked fish escaping.

Bucktail a type of minnow-simulating fly, usually constructed of bucktail.

Dry-Fly Floatant chemical preparation that is applied to a dry fly (before using the fly) to waterproof it; may be a paste, liquid, or aerosol.

Parachute type of dry fly where the hackle is wound horizontally around the base of the wing like a parachute instead of vertically around the hook of the fly. This drops the body of the fly down into the surface film of the water. It is usually most effective in medium to slow moving waters.

Streamer fly tied to imitate the various species of bait fish upon which game fish feed; usually tied using feathers for the wing, but can be tied with hair and/or feathers; tied in all sizes.


Knots                                            knots


Arbor Knotk not used in flyfishing to attach backing to the spool of a fly reel

Blood Knot the most widely used knot for tying two pieces of monofilament with similar diameters together; the best knot for construction of a knotted tapered leader; also called the barrel knot.

Clinch Knot universally used knot for attaching a hook, lure, swivel, or fly to the leader or line; a slight variation results in the improved clinch knot, which is an even stronger knot for the above uses.

Loop-to-Loop quick and easy connection system typically used to attach a fly line to a leader by making a loop at the end of the leader (perfection loop knot), pulling the fly-line loop through the leader loop, then pulling the entire leader back through the loop attached to the end of the fly line.

Nail Knot method used to attach a leader or butt section of monofilament to the fly line, and of attaching the backing to the fly line; most commonly tied using a small diameter tube rather than a nail.

Surgeon’s Knot excellent knot used to tie two lengths of monofilament together; the lines may be of dissimilar diameters.

Tag (Tag End) the end of the line that is used to tie a knot.

Tippet the end section of a tapered leader; the smallest diameter section of a tapered leader; the fly is tied onto the tippet.

Wind Knot an overhand knot put in the leader by poor casting, greatly reducing the breaking strength of the leader


There are a lot more things we could cover here today but will leave something for another blog. I will at some point, go into Knots more extensively, and fly tying terms which is a whole blog on its own. If you have anything you would like covered or just like the blog please leave a comment below

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