Sound like a pro: fly fishing terms to know

20 Fly Fishing Terms You’d Better Know to Sound Like a Pro

Fly fishing in the fresh, cold water of Montana’s rivers is quite enjoyable and is an activity enjoyed by men, women, and children alike. If you are new to fly fishing you might find yourself puzzled when you start hearing seasoned anglers discussing the equipment and gear.  Here are 20 fly fishing terms to know to start on the right foot.

Talk Like a Pro: Glossary of Fly Fishing Terms You’ll Hear The Pros Say  

Here is a list of commonly used fly fishing terms! We’ll have you conversing with (or at least understanding) the pros in no time… . So, let’s get started!


Cast: The motion made when you ‘throw’ your fly rod, reel and line toward the water. There are a variety of casting motions depending on the type of fish you are trying to attract.

Catch and Release: A conservation method where the fish is unhooked carefully, post capture, and returned to the water as quickly as possible.

Delivery (aka Covering): This describes the casting of the fly toward a promising-looking area of water.

False Cast: A standard cast motion used to lengthen and shorten your line or change direction.

Fishing the Drift: Fishing from your target point to where you plan to pick up the line to cast again. There are four drift types to consider – Straight upstream, upstream and across from you, downstream and across from you, straight downstream. If you chose your casting position based on your drift you can maximize the time your fly is in the water.

Setting the Hook: Pulling the hook into the flesh of the fish’s mouth. The amount of effort needed varies with the size of your hook, the type of fish you’re catching, and strength of your leader.

Insects and Flies

Caddis: An important aquatic insect that is commonly imitated by freshwater fly fishers. The adult stage resembles a moth in flight.

Emerger: Name used to describe when the nymph reaches the surface and the adult hatches out. The emerging nymph phase is popular for a fly to imitate.

Fly Pattern (aka Recipe): The fixed design of materials and positioning of parts that make up an artificial fly.

Hatch: A Group of flies of the same species.

Imitative Flies: Flies tied to closely match specific insects, effective on finicky trout living in clear, slow-moving streams supporting large populations of aquatic insects.

Impressionistic Flies: These flies are tied to loosely impersonate a variety of insect families, effective in streams with less aquatic insects and quicker water

Larva: The immature bottom-dwelling, non-swimming stage of aquatic insects.

Nymph: The immature form of insects, this is the stage of aquatic insects fly fishing flies are designed to imitate.


Fly Rod: The most essential component of fly fishing gear which is used to secure catch. In fly fishing, a specially designed fly rod is typically made from a graphite composite, and is used to provide the rigidity and flexibility to catch fishes of various species and sizes. They are typically 7 to 9 feet in length, depending on the type which suits you best and the fishing situation.

Grip: The cork handle of a fly rod.

Reel: The large, circular component attached to the base of the fly rod which is used to hold the line and provide resistance or drag. The more expensive the reel, the more strength it provides.

Rod Flex: The amount bend your rod can withstand during your cast. There are three types of rod flexes to note: Tip-Flex rods bend through the tip section, Mid-Flex rods bend down at the middle of your rod, and Full-Flex rods bend throughout the entire rod during the cast.

Waders: Special clothing worn by fly fishers that prevents them from getting wet by descending into waist-deep water. This waterproof form of clothing come in two forms: Stocking foot waders and boot foot waders.

Polarized Sunglasses: Special sunglasses worn by anglers when fly fishing. The anti-glare glasses have iodized lenses eliminate the glare produced by the sun’s rays on the water’s service, to allow fly fishers to clearly look under the surface of the water.

That’s a good start… there’s so many more terms you will be certain to hear. Stillwater Anglers offers introductory courses and guided trips where you’ll learn even more terms to use on your future fly fishing trips.