Flyfishing - The Essentials

Pat casting on an Irish spate river

Having provided fly fishing tuition professionally since 1981, we have learned a great deal about the real needs of people taking up fly fishing or wanting to improve their casting and fly-fishing skills. Now we are sharing this experience here online, entirely Free of Charge!

The advice and guidance you will receive here on the First Nature website is based on 50 years of experience fishing for salmon, trout, sea trout (sewin) and grayling on rivers and lakes - mostly in Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland, but also in Portugal, France, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Sweden, the USA, Argentina, Chile, Russia and Iceland.

Always with an overriding focus on safety, the emphasis is on getting tackle, techniques and tactics right for the particular water conditions; on reading the river to select the best places to fish; and on choosing and using the flies most likely to succeed.

In other words our guidance is practical rather than heavily theoretical - although we do also want to help you to work out, in a variety of situations, answers to the many questions why, what, when, where and how of fly fishing.

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Safety Guide for Flyfishers

Safety must be your highest priorty when you go fishing. Unless you take a few basic precautions, fishing is potentially a very dangerous pursuit, and each years several anglers are injured or die in tragic accidents most of which could have been avoided. These basic guidelines will help you to minimise the risks to yourself, to others and to the wildlife of rivers and lakes. Please note that there may be other hazards not listed here, and so always check with the fishery owner or manager and observe the fishery rules.

Personal safety on rivers

Every year many strong swimmers lose their lives in rivers. The force and the turbulent nature of the current make it difficult to scramble out, especially where the banks are high. Areas where the river flows over bedrock or through narrow gorges should be approached with great caution and wearing a buoyancy aid and suitable (felted or studded) footwear.

If you should fall in, use your arms to protect your head. Roll onto your back and kick with your legs towards quiet water. Chest or thigh waders will not pull you under (as is often suggested); indeed, they tend to trap air and add to your natural buoyancy. However, they can increase the weight you have to drag up the bank.

Below: success at night. Sea Trout fishing has its own special safety considerations.

Fishing at night

Beware of undercut banks. Especially after rain they can fall in on you as you wade beneath them. More often a collapse occurs as you approach the edge of a high bank, when both you and the bank could fall in, perhaps onto another angler. Deep undercuts are especially likely on the outside of bends in the watercourse. Keep well back from the edge when passing these hazards.

If you can't swim then don't wade - even in the shallower stretches of the river. If you must wade then a wading stick can improve your stability. Look out for submerged tree roots or boulders which produce depressions upstream and alongside. (Lamprey redds cut in spring can be hard to spot once the gravel is coated in algae.)

Beware of rapid rises in water level. It may be fine where you are fishing, but raining heavily in the hills. Your path to safety may quickly be cut off.

Never wade in coloured water where you cannot see the bottom. A spate can cause gravel to shift so that what was once a safe area becomes a death trap.

Wade a pool at night only if you have surveyed it by day.

Never assume that last year's 'recce' is still valid: rivers change!

Sea Trout fishing (in the UK, at least) takes place mainly at night, and the best nights are ususally the pitch dark ones with no moonlight. Moving about at night on the river bank or in the water exposes you to an entirely different set of hazards and so while you would not want to shine a torch on the river where you are fishing, make sure you have a good one with you to enable you to get back to your car safely after you have finished fishing.

Temperatures can drop dramatically once the sun sets so always make sure you have additional layers of warm clothing with you or you may find yourself driven off the river much earlier than you intended.

If you are going fishing alone at night make sure you tell somebody when and where you are going and what time you plan to get back.

Should you discover another angler in difficulty out of his or her depth, first look for something to bridge the gap between you - a piece of driftwood, a landing net handle, even your fishing rod - rather than jump in and risk a double tragedy. (Of course, courageous acts may be justified when there is no alternative, provided you are a strong swimmer and, ideally, have had life-saving training.)

Below: a well-dressed angler. How you dress is important - a hat and glasses are essential for safe fishing.

Hats and glasses are essential when fishing

Personal safety on lakes

Many natural upland lochs, loughs and lakes have areas where the bank is steep and rocky. When bank fishing, choose footwear that offers a secure grip on rocks. Leather soled shoes are particularly dangerous, as are rubber-soled waders.

When fishing from a boat, wear a buoyancy aid, and cast, retrieve line and net your fish without standing up. The reduction in noise and your reduced visibility will improve your chances of success. (You rarely need to cast far if you keep low!) Wear goggles, spectacles or sunglasses for eye protection, and cast so that your line is well away from your boat partner or boatman, and encourage them to wear head and eye protection too.

On large waters, don't take risks. Take suitable clothing. Make sure if the boat has an engine that there is sufficient fuel onboard and that there are oars and a baler in case of emergency. If the weather threatens to turn squally, return to shore without delay.

Safe Use of Fishing Tackle

Carbon fishing rods conduct electricity, so do not cast near overhead power lines. It is also wise to put away your fishing rod whenever there is lightning about. Keep a safe distance from other river users when casting, especially with flyfishing tackle. Let other anglers know if you intend passing behind them. Some anglers are hard of hearing, so having called out make sure you get a reply. Use scissors, not your hands, to cut nylon. If your fly gets snagged and you cannot work it free, break away safely. One way is to wrap the line around a sleeve of your coat to obtain a safe grip.

Protect your eyes with goggles, spectacles or sunglasses. Take extra care in windy conditions. If your fly gets caught up in a tree, turn your back when pulling free: a breaking line can spring back with great force.

Protection of Wildlife

Do not discard nylon by the waterside: it can injure and kill birds and other small creatures. Roll up used nylon and cut it into short lengths before taking it home to burn it. In this way, should you accidentally drop it, there is no risk to wildlife. Never leave flies hanging from trees, because birds or bats could seize them with disastrous consequences. Use a pole, rather than climbing the tree, to recover tackle caught in branches overhanging the water.

Don't use lead shot, because swans and other birds can die if they eat it. There are approved substitutes. Even then, never discard used shot by the riverside; always take it home.

Avoid damaging the riverbank, its trees, bushes and marginal weed beds; they are home to numerous small creatures. Aquatic weed harbours insect life essential to the health of the river. These insects in turn form a vital part of the food supply for trout as well as juvenile migratory fish. So if wading among weed beds try to avoid breaking the stems.

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Rod Licences

Anyone who fishes in England or Wales is required to carry a valid rod licence. Registered disabled people and juniors between 12 and 16 receive a 50% concession, and children under 12 do not require a rod licence. Short-term licences are also available at modest cost. Rod licences can be purchased at any Post Office or via the Environment Agency's website www.environment-agency.gov.uk/fish. National, regional and local byelaws covering access, fishing methods etc must also be observed; always check with the licensing authority and fishery owner before starting out to fish an unfamiliar venue.

Tactics to suit the Terrain

There are pages on flyfishing techniques and tactics for Trout and Grayling, Sea Trout, and Salmon. Another very popular section is our Great Venues and How to Fish There. Our local River Teifi is one of Britain's very best all-round trout, sea trout and salmon rivers, and if you plan on fishing this river we have all the information you will need online. Similarly, for a selection of world-famous rivers elsewhere in Britain, Ireland, mainland Europe, the USA, Iceland, Russia, Chile or Argentina there's a wealth of experience on tap, online 24/7.

Casting Coaching in Comfort

Sue giving a casting demonstration

Casting is a skill. It's a myth that you can't teach yourself, but as professional instructors we would definitely recommend lessons with a top-class instructor. In the meantime, however, take a look at the casting guidance and pictures explaining and illustrating the very different casting techniques required for trout, salmon and sea-trout fishing.

Tackle Tips

Tackle is also covered under the separate headings of trout, salmon and sea-trout fishing, because different tackle setups and types of rods and lines are usually required for each discipline.

Your Online Flyfishing Instructors


Pat O'Reilly and Sue Parker are well known in the game fishing world. Pat, an APGAI qualified instructor, is the author of ten books on fly fishing, fly tying, angling entomology and river and lake fisheries; he has published several hundred articles in the UK and overseas as well as appearing many times on radio and television. Sue, who holds STANIC qualifications in trout and salmon tuition has also published several fishing articles and has not only been on radio and television but also in instruction video films about fly fishing techniques.

In spring 2004 Pat and Sue designed and wrote for the Salmon & Trout Association an illustrated Guide to Trout and Grayling Fishing followed by a Guide to Salmon and Sea Trout fishing. We have now made all of this information freely available on our Flyfishing for Trout and Grayling page and our Flyfishing for Salmon and Flyfishing for Sea Trout pages.

If you are new to the sport of flyfishing we aim to make your learning process as simple as possible by explaining the various aspects of flyfishing in plain, jargon-free English.

Frequently-Askled Questions - FAQs

Qualified flyfishing instructors and fisheries scientists answer flyfishing-related questions sent in by visitors to the Online Flyfishing School.

Questions and Answers... Flyfishing More details...
Q: Where should I go for my first flyfishing outing - a river, a reservoir or a small put-and-take trout fishery?  
A: There's a lot to be said for starting at a small put-and-take fishery. you will not need to cast a long way, and so you can concentrate on casting accurately and without making a splash. The fish are usually a bit easier to catch, too (but rarely too easy!), and so you can get away with the occasional splashy cast. And finally, most fishery owners are only too pleased to give the occasional bit of advice and help to a newcomer... as are other anglers who you are likely to meet there.

If you do go to a river or a large reservoir, try to avoid very windy days. It's also advisable to go with someone who knows the venue fairly well, or you are likely to spend most of your time fishing where there is nothing at all to catch.

Pat O'Reilly

Q: Can you recommend a basic general purpose trout fishing outfit that would allow me to fish on small rivers, trout pools and perhaps occasionally from a boat on a reservoir when the weather is not too rough?  
A: Most general purpose tools are a compromise, and that applies to fishing tackle. However, a 9-ft rod with a moderately fast action and rated for a 6-weight line would be capable of coping with the range of situations you describe. Beware of very cheap 'Beginners' Outfits' - with one of those you will remain forever a beginner... the rods, reels and flyfishing lines in most cut-price bargain kits are just about useless.

Pat O'Reilly

Need it in plain English? Visit our Jargon-buster section
Questions and Answers... Managing fisheries More details...
Q: I have a small stretch of river running through my own land. Can I put fish into it?  
A: It may be permissible, but you need to discuss the idea with the Environment Agency Fisheries officer for your area. You would need to apply to the Agency for a Section 30 stocking consent. However, if your stream is not polluted, it should have wild fish in it, and so a better plan would probably be to improve its habitat for fish at every stage in their life cycle (from eggs to fry to juveniles and finally adults) so that they have the variety of food and shelter they need. Again, before doing and in-stream work you need consent from the Environment Agency.

Nick Giles

Environment Agency fisheries web site...
Q: My stream is an SSSI. Do I have to consult anyone else apart from the Environment Agency before I do work on the river banks or the bed of the stream?  
A: You will also need to discuss your plans with the appropriate conservation agency - Natural Resources Wales if you live here in the principality, or Natural England if you are in England. If you contact the Environment Agency in England or Natural Resources Wales if in Wales they will ensure that the appropriate conservation guidance is secured. (Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own conservation agencies.)

Nick Giles

Natural England...

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Flyfishing Jargon Buster

Online guide to the meanings of technical terms used in fly fishing books and online.

Confused by the strange language that flyfishers and fisheries scientists use? Most of it is very simple to understand... Jargon Buster will help you to see through the clouds of jargon.


What it means

More info...


Action of a flyfishing rod

A rod may flex mainly towards its tip, from the tip through to the middle, or all the way through from tip to butt. Tip-action rods are also called 'fast-action', because they very quickly regain straightness once pressure is released. At the other extreme, 'through-action' or 'slow-action' rods tend to bounce back and forth for much longer before settling. With a tip-action rod you will cast further and more accurately; however, fish are more likely to break your leader than if you use a rod with a slower action. A good all-round compromise is a rod with 'middle-action', flexing mainly in the tip and middle regions: it is fairly easy to cast and good at absorbing the shocks of a leaping fish.



A code, established by the American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers' Association, defining the weights of various flyfishing lines. Lines in common use range from AFTMA#4, used with lightweight trout rods and very fine leader tippets, through to AFTMA#12 used with powerful double-handed salmon rods.




When the fly line is cast behind you prior to launching it forwards across the water.



At least 50 yards of braided Dacron, strong monofilament nylon or other material tied on to a flyfishing reel before the fly line itself to pack out the centre of the spool and to act as a reserve in case a powerful fish makes a long run away from you. Braided backing or nylon with an oval cross-section are less likely to tangle than ordinary nylon of circular cross-section; they do cost more, however.



The thicker, constant diameter section of a flyfishing line.


Blood knot

A 'tucked half blood knot' is commonly used to ties the fly on to the end of the leader. A double blood knot can be used to join two lengths of nylon of dissimilar diameters when making up a tapered leader; however, a water knot is a lot easier to tie - especially if your hands are cold and wet.



  1. The end of a flyfishing rod that you hold when casting; the handle is on the butt section.

  2. The thick end of a tapering leader.



The adult stage of a family of small diptera flies known as the chironomids. The larval and, in particular, the pupal stages of the life cycle are of great importance to stillwater trout fishers. Swarms of these non-biting midges make quite a buzzing sound in flight - hence their common name.

Buzzer midge life-cycle...



Caddis fly

Also known as sedge flies, the scientific name for insects in this order is Trichoptera. All caddis flies have four wings, which when at rest they park in 'ridge-tent' fashion along their bodies, and two antennae - often longer than the body. Caddis flies develop via a complete metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa and finally adult. 

Sedge flies of rivers and lakes...


The skin and feathers from the neck of a game bird. The best quality capes are from birds specially bred for the quality of the hackle feathers from their capes.


Carbon rods

Plain amorphous carbon would be useless as a fishing rod material. Rod makers use graphite fibres to reinforce  epoxy resins and other hard-setting, flexible materials. The rod material is wrapped onto a former, called a mandrel, heat treated and ground to a smooth finish; this is then called a carbon blank. The handle, rings and reel fittings are fitted to the carbon blank.



The process of using the rod and line to project a fly across the water. There are many methods of casting, some ideally suited to particular difficult situations, such as when there is very little or no room for using a conventional backcast.



An old-fashioned term for a leader. Casts were often made from natural materials (called 'cat gut'), but better synthetic alternatives have now become universally more popular.



Modern leader and tippet materials that are stronger than conventional nylon and less affected by exposure to ultra-violet light. For the same tippet diameter, and co-polymer leader is very much stronger than a traditional nylon one. Some makes are also less visible when submerged.





Damselflies are relatives of the dragonflies; their slow-crawling nymphs are an important source of food for trout in shallow lakes and slow-flowing rivers.



The river fisher's enemy when using dry flies that ought to drift naturally on the current. Conflicting surface currents, caused by natural river turbulence, pull different parts of the line and leader in different directions, but since the line and leader are not very stretchy, the fly is also dragged back and forth unnaturally. A dragging dry fly rarely tempts wise old trout, although when fishing with sedge imitations drag can sometimes help you imitate the skittering behaviour of the natural insect.


Drag adjustment

On a fly reel this is a mechanism that adjusts the amount of force necessary to take line from the reel. Adjusting the drag setting correctly ensures that the reel does not overrun (spin too quickly and so allow the line to become a tangled 'birds nest'). The drag setting can also help when playing a fish, although most anglers prefer to use finger friction on the rim of the reel to control the strain on the line.


Dry fly

An artificial fly intended to float on the surface an imitate either an insect that has just emerged from its larval or nymphal form, an insect falling on to the surface, or one touching down to lay eggs.





A flyfishing line in which the last ten or twelve yards of line at each end taper away from a level middle section (the 'belly'). DT lines are   ideal for short range fishing and for making roll and Spey casts; weight forward (WF) lines are better suited to shooting line a long way. At close range, both lines give very similar results. When one end of a DT begins to wear out, the line can be turned round on the reel and its life extended - something you cannot do with a WF line. DTF means a floating line with a double taper profile, while DTS indicates a sinking line with the same profile.



The first winged form of an upwinged fly of the order Ephemeroptera.

Life-cycle of upwinged flies...




An insect in the process of leaving its larval or pupal stage (commonly, but incorrectly, referred to as 'hatching'). The term emerger is applied particularly to those insects that transpose to a winged form at the water surface, as well as to artificial flies intended to imitate insects that are going through such a transposition.




False cast

Casting the fly backwards and forwards without allowing it to alight on the water. False casting may be used to lengthen (and less frequently to shorten) line, to change direction, or to dry off a fly that has become waterlogged.



A chemical that applied to a dry fly to make it more waterproof. Floatants are also available to help prevent parts of the leader Those well away from the fly) from sinking in turbulent water. Oily liquid floatants are most popular, but aerosol and powder floatants are also used.



A flyfishing line the whole of which is designed to float on the surface of the water.


Forward cast

The part of a casting action where the line is projected in front of the angler and alights on the water. An efficient, smooth backcast is crucial to good presentation on the forward cast.


Forward taper

A flyfishing line well suited to long range casting but still able to present a fly delicately at short range. The profile of a forward taper line, more commonly known as a Weight Forward (and coded WF), typically comprises a ten yard section tapering away from the fly, a constant-diameter belly of between eight and twelve yards, and another ten yard taper back down to a fine 'shooting' line some ten to fifteen yards long. Manufacturers vary these lengths to provide lines best suited to either long distance casting or gentler presentation of the fly.




Graphite rods

A more strictly accurate way of referring to carbon fishing rods. Most modern rods are of graphite construction.



Small salmon that have spent just one winter out at sea before returning to the river of their birth. Most grilse weigh between  4 lb and 6 lb.





A feather, usually from the neck area of a cockerel, tied as part of the dressing of a dry fly and representing the legs of an insect, or in the dressing of a wet fly, either as a 'throat hackle' or to represent the legs of a drowning insect. Dry flies are best tied with good quality hackles, and game birds are bred especially to supply dry fly 'capes'.



Although the change from egg to larva or nymph is, strictly speaking, the only hatch in the life-cycle of an insect, anglers use this term to describe the process whereby a winged adult fly emerges from a nymph or pupa and leaves the water.





A flyfishing line that sinks very slowly.









Keel hook

A hook designed so that when a wet fly is tied on it and retrieved slowly it swims with the hook point uppermost and so is much less likely to catch on weed or stones.





The immature, aquatic stage of diptera (such as the buzzer), caddis, water beetles and several other kinds of insects. It is as larvae that such insects grow from a tiny egg to their full size; they then turn into pupae and finally winged adults.


Sedge flies...


Nylon or other flexible plastic line connected between the end of the flyfishing line and the artificial fly. To cast well, a leader should taper in diameter, being thickest at the fly line and much thinner (and hence less visible to the fish) where the fly is attached.





In the UK this name is generally reserved for insects of the genus Ephermera, and Ephemera danica and Ephemera vulgata are the two species anglers come across. They are members of the upwinged or Ephemeroptera order - a name derived from their very short lifetimes as winged insects. In the USA, the term mayflies is applied to all Ephemeroptera. The eggs hatch into nymphs, which develop gradually over usually twelve months before emerging from the water as duns. The duns shed a skin and become spinners, which are the final mature adult flies.

Mayfly (Ephemera danica)...

Life-cycle of upwinged flies...

Magnificent Seven

Seven artificial flies you can buy at all good tackle shops and that will enable you to match the hatch reasonably well in most situations on river, streams and lakes. They are: Greenwells Glory; Tups Indispensable; Gold-ribbed hare's Ear Nymph; Red Sedge; Coch-y-Bonddu (a beetle imitation); Olive Suspender Buzzer; and Damselnymph. The first six you will need in hook sizes 12, 14 and 16; the Damselnymph will need to be tied on size 8 or 10 long-shank hooks.


Matching the hatch

Selecting an artificial fly of such a size, shape, colour and surface footprint (the pattern of disturbance it makes to the water surface) that a fish is likely to mistake it for the real insect on which it is feeding. Also referred to as 'imitative flyfishing'.

Matching the Hatch, by Pat O'Reilly


When nylon or a flyfishing line have been on a spool for some time, they may take up the shape of the spool and fall into curly coils that do not cast easily and refuse to lie straight on the water. If this curliness remains even after stretching the line, it will serious affect your ability to cast and to catch fish. Line memory is a bad thing; the ideal amount of line memory is zero, and some modern flyfishing lines come very close to this ideal... but not all.



A technique of ensuring that a flyfishing line lies on the water in such a way that a faster current over one part of the surface does not result in the fly being swept rapidly across the surface. This is therefore a method of minimising drag. It can be achieved by working the rod so as to flick a section of the line upstream; alternatively (and generally preferable because it avoids disturbing the water surface) it is possible to cast a ready-mended line - something best learned from a qualified flyfishing instructor.



The adult stage of a family of small diptera flies known as the chironomids. The larval and, in particular, the pupal stages of the life cycle are of great importance to stillwater trout fishers. Swarms of these non-biting midges make quite a buzzing sound in flight - hence their other common name of buzzers.

Buzzer midge life-cycle...


When applied to a flyfishing reel, this term means that the reel contains a gear train so that when the handle is turned once the drum rotates more than one turn. Most multiplier reels have a ratio of around 2:1.




Needle knot

A superb knot for attaching the butt of a leader to a fly line. Using a needle, the leader butt is pushed up through the center of the fly line and out through the side. A whip knot is then tied above the exit point. The needle knot can also be used to join monofilament nylon backing and fly line.



The immature, underwater stage in the life-cycle of several kinds of upwinged flies, stoneflies and damselflies. Some nymphs can swim agilely, but most species are slow moving.



A trout is said to be nymphing when it is feeding mainly on immature insects near or on the bed of a river.

The term is also used to describe an angler fishing with an artificial fly shaped like a nymph and weighted so that it sinks below the surface, where the angler hopes the trout will mistake it for the real thing. It sounds easy, but nymphing requires good eyesight and very rapid reactions; it is often a way of catching large trout that would not bother to rise for a floating fly.










The accuracy and delicacy with which a fly is cast to the required spot. Bad presentation either makes a splash or causes the fly to behave in an unnatural way - for example because of drag.



An almost inert, non-feeding stage in the life-cycle of buzzers, sedge flies and several other kinds of insects. The larval stage occurs between the larva and winged adult stages.

Sedge fly life-cycle...




Quite likely

...we will need a 'Q' word eventually!





Pulling the fly back through the water to represent the swimming motion of a nymph, larva or small fish. the motion you impart by either retrieving jerkily or smoothly, quickly or slowly, should be appropriate to the kind of living creature your fly is meant to represent.


Roll cast

A way of making a forward cast when there is no room for a backcast. It is important to aim high, rather than driving the rod tip down towards the surface of the water; otherwise the roll cast can result in very poor presentation. The Spey cast is a more elegant and less energy-sapping alternative.







Single action

Refers to a flyfishing reel in which the handle is attached directly to the spool, so that one turn of the handle causes the spool to rotate once. Most flyfishers use reels of this type, which have very little in them to go wrong.


Spey cast




A fly line all of which is designed to sink beneath the surface of the water. Various rates of sinking are available, from almost neutral density intermediate lines (with a very slow sink rate) to lead-cored lines that go down rapidly and allow you to fish near the bed of a fast flowing river or a very deep lake.



The mature adult stage in the life-cycle of an upwinged fly, such as a mayfly. Once spinners have mated, the males die and the females return to the water to lay their eggs, either on the surface or by crawling down emergent vegetation and attaching their eggs to stems or sticks below the surface.

Life-cycle of upwinged flies...

Spare spool

A replacement drum section of a flyfishing reel. If you intend fishing with floating and sinking lines, keeping one of the lines on a spare spool makes it is possible simply to swap lines quickly without going to the expense of buying two complete reels.



Aquatic insects that go through a life-cycle of egg, larva and adult - there is no dun stage. Most stonefly nymphs transpose ('hatch') to adults by crawling to the shallows and emerging from its nymphal case on rocks or emergent vegetation. The edge of a stream is therefore usually the best place to fish with an artificial stonefly nymph.


Streamer flies

Large artificial patterns tied not as copies of insects but rather to represent small fishes. The 'wing' representing the small fish's back and flanks is usually tied either of long feathers extending behind the bend of the hook.





The section of a fly line or a leader comprising a stepped or gradual transition from a large diameter to a much smaller diameter. Such a taper is essential for good presentation of a fly.


Tapered leader

Leaders have to taper from a large diameter where the butt joins the fly line to a much finer diameter at the tippet to which the fly will be attached. The taper can be factory manufactured, with the diameter decreasing progressively from butt to tippet; alternatively, but with some small loss in presentation, you can construct your own step-tapered leaders using short lengths of nylon of breaking strains from (for example if you are making a trout-fishing leader for a lightweight outfit) 20 lb to 3 lb.



The fine part of a leader to which the fly is attached. As you change flies, so the tippet gets gradually shorter until eventually you need to tie on a new length of tippet.



The turn-over that you achieve is a key part of presentation. If the fly line goes exactly where you want but the leader and fly fall to one side, behind the end of the fly line, or in a crumpled heap, you are not getting a good turn-over. A tapered leader is essential to good turn-over if you are casting small, lightweight flies. There can be several reasons for poor turn-over, but a qualified flyfishing instructor should be able to see immediately what is causing your particular problem.









Light rays of very short wavelength that are present in sunlight. U-V waves cause plastics to deteriorate, and so it is essential to store flyfishing lines (even those on reels and spare spools) away from sunlight. Leader material and backing nylon is also susceptible to such damage.












Wet fly

A fly designed to sink below the surface. Traditional wet fly patterns have swept-back wings that make them look like small fish or spidery, soft hackles that wriggle in turbulent water and are thought to give the illusion of an insect that is drowning. The term wet fly fishing (as opposed to dry fly fishing) is applied to nymph fishing, traditional wet fly fishing and to lure fishing - a technique of luring reservoir trout using flashy flies that may bear little or no resemblance to any of the creatures on which trout feed but which stimulate their aggressive instincts.




Weight forward

A fly line designed for easy casting at long range. Most of the weight of the line is in its forward section (nearest to the leader and the fly). The profile of a Weight Forward line (coded WF) typically comprises a ten-yard section tapering away from the fly, a constant-diameter belly of between eight and twelve yards, and another ten-yard taper back down to a fine 'shooting' line some ten to fifteen yards long. Manufacturers vary these lengths to provide lines best suited to either long distance casting or gentler presentation of the fly.


Wind knots

Tangles and knots in the leader caused by bad casting. A single overhand knot will at least halve the strength of nylon. The best cure for this problem is usually to put less effort into the casting and concentrate on the presentation. A qualified casting instructor will be able to diagnose the true cause of any such problems you may have.

Casting instruction...



X rating of leaders

An old and rather obscure method of rating leader tippets by their diameter. It has now been superseded in the UK (although it remains popular in the USA) and most manufacturers publish the actual diameter plus a minimum breaking strain.











A wet fly pattern that allows me to put an entry under 'Z'.


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An upwinged spinner

Waterlife Quiz

How much do you know about the insects and other water creatures on which trout and grayling feed?

1. Which one of the following insect species is a member of the order Ephemeroptera?

February Red
June Bug

2. Which of these insects is the 'Sherry Spinner' artificial fly intended to imitate?

Male dun of the March Brown
Female spinner of the Iron Blue Dun
Female spinner of the Blue-winged Olive

3. Which one of the following gives birth to live young?

Coleoptera - the beetles
Isoperla grammatica - the Yellow Sally stonefly
Cloëon dipterum
- the Pond Olive

4. Which one of these statements is true?

Some dragonfly larvae take several years to reach maturity
All dragonflies have a one-year life cycle
All dragonflies (Odonata) have four wings and four legs

5. Which one of the following is not an insect (class Insecta)?

Dytiscus marginalis - the Great Diving Beetle
Gammarus pulex
- the Freshwater Shrimp
- the Water Measurer

6. Which one of these flies is mainly found on lakes?

Baëtis scambus
Cloëon simile
Chloroperla torrentium

7. Which of these statements does not apply to Chiromomus plumosus, the buzzer midge?

The larvae are commonly referred to as Bloodworms
The adults have four wings of approximately equal length
Its life cycle comprises egg, larva, pupa and winged adult stages

8. Which one of these insects has a dun or subimago stage in its life cycle?

Centroptilum pennulatum - the Large Spurwing
Sericostoma personatum
- the Welshman's Button
Tipula maxima
- the Large Cranefly

9. Which one of the these beetles is a terrestrial insect?

Gyrinus species - the whirligig beetle
species - the Silver Beetle
Cantharis rustica
- the Sailor Beetle

10. Which of these insects has the greatest wingspan?

A male Baëtis rhodani - the Large Dark Olive
A female Perlodes microcephala - the Large Stonefly
A male Leptophlebia vespertina - the Claret Dun


Your score is:

The correct answers are:

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