No matter what sport or recreational activity you find yourself learning, there will undoubtedly be some slang and jargon that at first pass won’t make any sense at all. It’s part of the learning curve. While some terminology is quite advanced, and the average novice won’t have any reason to understand its meaning quite yet, there are terms that even the freshest of greenhorns should learn right away. Fly fishing is no different.
The following terms get bandied about in fly shops, in magazines, and in casual conversations along rivers and streams, and they are important to learn for a couple of reasons:
- They describe, or relate to, equipment that is necessary for fly fishing,
- They describe conditions that will make or break a day on the water, and
- Their understanding demonstrates that you are developing a passion for the sport.
Here are some examples of jargon that every fly fisherman should know before they head out.
Leader. The clear, monofilament line that connects your fly line to your fly. Leaders come in a variety of lengths and widths, which matter depending on the type of fishing you’re going to be doing and the type of fish you are aiming to catch.
Tippet. Every time you tie on a new fly, you will end up snipping off a chunk of your leader. To combat the gradual loss of a leader, fly fishermen use tippet to increase the length. Tippet is essentially extra line that is tied to the end of the leader, and then tied to the fly. Tippet comes on spools, and runs the same width gamut as leaders.
Riffle. Part of the challenge of fly fishing is learning to read the water. Locating a riffle, which is a bit of slightly choppy water on a river, can be the key to landing a fish. Riffles form when water cuts over rocks or debris that is the surface, creating oxygenated water where fish are likely to hold.
False Cast. Arguably the one thing that everyone knows about fly fishing. False Casting is the act of casting back and forth with the line extended overhead, which serves a few purposes. First, it allows the angler to accurately line up their fly and send it where they want it to go. Second, if casting a dry fly, a false cast will help dry out the fly enough for it to naturally sit on top of the water.
Dry Fly. Dry flies are designed to sit on the surface of the water and mimic the food that fish love to eat.
Nymph. Not every fly fisherman uses dry flies, and for good reason. Many fish will hold at a lower depth depending on conditions, and will be hunting for food that is below the surface. Nymphs ride lower in the water, rather than on the surface, and are designed to imitate insects that are in the midst of transforming into adults.
Hatch. You’ll eventually hear fly anglers talking about the hatch, which is what insects are currently hatching and landing in and on the water. This is important because it’s a key indicator for what type of fly the fish in your water will be interested in eating. “Match the hatch” is a bit of advice that will go a long way towards you having a successful day on the water.
One of the great things about fly fishing, as with other activities people pursue with passion, is that no matter how long you fish you will always learn something new. Take these terms with you to your fly shop, or to the river, and know that you’re well on your way to enjoying a lifetime of incredible enjoyment and frustration all wrapped into one.