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Fly Fishing Definitions for the Beginner

By Al Campbell

"Fly Anglers OnLine has a nice "Terms and Tips" section, but it seemed far too formal for the average beginner. So I have put fly fishing terms into common speak." Al Campbell
Sometimes flyfishers use a lot of terms in their official fly fishing lingo that aren't easy to understand. They don't mean to be confusing, it's just that a lot of the expressions used by flyfishers are unique to the sport. For that reason, these expressions don't get used anywhere else. I hate to see people running around confused all of the time (a mind is a terrible thing to waste) so I decided to attempt to define some of the more common fly fishing terms that might have you confused.

After studying these definitions, you should be able to speak fly fishing with ease, and have a better understanding of the strange things we fly fishers constantly talk about. Give it a try, I think you'll come away from this lesson with a new understanding of fly fishing.

Baetis: Something a catfisherman puts on his hookus. Here's a Latin lesson for you. Add an 'is' or 'us' to the end of a word and you've got the Latin equivalent.

Callibaetis: A concoction I dreamed up by adding calamine lotion to my catfish baetis. It didn't catch any fish, but it did a dandy job on poison ivy.

Hackle: Something that gets raised on my wife every time I tell her I need a new fly rod. This term is usually associated with "dog house" and "alimony."

Free Drift: The mode my mind is in when my wife is discussing my need for that new fly rod. It's also a common mental mode for any other unpleasant subject she wants to discuss with me.

Drag: A term I use to describe life without a new fly rod.

Dry Fly: That new fly you purchased before it hits the water.

Wet Fly: That same fly moments after it hits the water.

Fly Line: A story you're going to hear about your buddy's fishing trip to Montana. For more information on this subject, see "falsehood" and "bald faced lie."

Fly Line Conditioner: The words you use to lead up to the story about your fishing trip to Montana. This is a very important phase of telling a fly line. If you omit it, no one will believe a word you say. They probably won't believe you anyway, but we all have to try, don't we?

Leader: The best liar in your group. This guy has great potential as a writer for fishing and hunting magazines.

Tippet: Something your buddy always does when you take him fishing in your canoe. Why do you think they invented river boats?

Backing: Something you hope your fishing buddies will give you when you're telling one of your bigger fly lines.

Nail Knot: One of the many creative knots you can accomplish by allowing your back cast to get too low on a windy day. Some other knots in this category are 'twig knots', 'bush knots' and the very dangerous 'rattlesnake noose knot.'

Blood knot: What you get on the back of your head when you execute a forward cast with a nail knot in your line.

Surgeon's Knot: Otherwise known as stitches. A common treatment for a severe blood knot.

Strike Indicator: That annoying guy you took fishing that was always yelling, "You got a hit, set the hook."

Waders: A piece of clothing you slip onto the lower half of your body that's always two inches shorter that the water you're going to wade. Other items in this category are sea anchors and concrete boots.

Wading Staff: The large group of people needed to haul you out of the water after you venture in over your waders. Some of the more affluent fly fishers keep a paid wading staff on hand at all times.

Royal Wulff: Something I've been known to do to a hamburger after a long day of fishing.

Stomach Pump: Some medical attention I had to get after eating at Taco Tim's the last time I went fishing on the Big River.

Snake Guide: That shifty eyed guy you hired to show you where the fish are. They call him snake for a reason. Good thing your wallet had a chain on it.

Stripper Guide: Hey, we all have to make a living during the off season. Some people are better adapted to this line of work than others.

Reel Seat: The one item of comfort you're looking for after a long day wading the river. Generally a lot more comfortable than the ant hill you sat on when you emptied the water out of your waders.

Float tube: That container of suntan lotion you just dropped in the river. It's the only thing you can drop that won't sink out of sight in an instant. Instead, it drifts away to be picked up by the game warden who'll ticket you for littering. This usually results in the loss of your fishing privileges for a year or two. Now you know why fly fishermen usually allow themselves to get cooked redder than a lobster rather than risk float tubing.

Fly Vise: A common mis-spelling of a term used to describe our addiction to fly fishing. Related habits might include smoking, drinking and telling fly lines.

Spinner: Another name for the teller of fly lines. If I had gone any further, you could say I was a spinner of lines. Some of you are probably saying that anyway.

Dun: Something you are when you finish all you planned to accomplish. That's exactly what I am at this moment, dun. ~ AC

About Al Campbell

Al Campbell has been on all of the sides of fly fishing. He was a guide for ten years, and fly fishes for a variety of fish. He has been a commercial tier and rod builder. He is an excellent photographer, and contributed the Beginning and Intermediate Fly Tying and Graphite Rod Building sections, plus the Fly of the Week series. You will also find him as a Host in the Chat Room. Since 1994 he has worked in the retail side of fly fishing, for Scheels All Sports. In addition to his duties as part of the sales staff in Rapid City, he teaches the rest of the sales staff in the 18 other stores the finer points of fly fishing. He also does most of the product research of new fly fishing items and gets to decide which of the new products on the market to stock. For more of Al's excellent writing, as well as information on fishing the Black Hills, Click Here! ~ DB

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