Some terms that come up a lot in fly fishing that might require some clarification (and also just to get it all straight in my own head):

  • Back Cast: The part of your cast which goes behind you, away from where you actually want to cast your line/hook. Some might say it’s more important than the forward cast, since the back cast is what sets you up for your forward cast.
  • Bobber: Spherical floatation device, attached to your line, which holds it at a particular depth and also can indicate a strike on your hook.
  • Cast: Flinging your line/hook into the water. Also “back cast” (above), which is kind of the set-up for actually casting the line.
  • Dry Fly: A fly which is intended to be fished on the surface of the water. It has enough body (and little enough weight) to stay on the surface of the water, so that you can catch fish which are rising (or which may be tempted to).
  • Fly: The hook/pattern configuration that actually catches a fish. Usually imitates some kind of bug, which lives either above or beneath the water.
  • Fly Line: Might commonly be thought of as your “fishing line”, although fly line is heavier than traditional fishing line. The line is actually what you’re casting, since it’s what mostly has the weight in it. It is often a non-natural color (like pink or orange), and is quite thick, and usually floats on the surface of the water.
  • Land(ing): Bringing a fish in and actually getting your hands on it, then getting it off the hook. Most people will use a net to help with this, especially if they’re fishing catch-and-release, since it allows you to get the fish faster, and with less injury.
  • Leader: The section of line attached from the fly line, heading towards the hook. In fly fishing, leader is often tapered, so that the end which attaches to the fly line is thicker, and then it gets thinner towards the hook.
  • Pattern: Refers to the style of fly tying being used. Includes all fly styles, for example “a terrestrial pattern” can refer to something which resembles an ant, or a grasshopper.
  • Reel: The hand-reel piece of your rig, which is where excess fly line is held, and which has a handle attached, allowing you to bring in line when you’re landing a fish.
  • Rig: Usually refers to how you have your line/fly configuration set up. Could range from a single dry-fly, through to a dropper rig with multiple lines/hooks under the surface.
  • Rising: Fish are said to be rising when they’re coming to/breaking the surface to feed on insects.
  • Rod: That’s the long thing that your line is attached to 🙂
  • Set: When you have a strike, you mostly need to set the hook, which means giving it a jerk to make sure that the hook gets fixed in the fish’s jaw/lip. You want to do this downstream, since fish will be almost always swimming upstream, so by setting downstream, the hook goes “back” into the fish, and has a better chance of sticking.
  • Strike: When a fish takes a bite at your hook (or you think one does), that’s a strike. That’s when you want to set the hook.
  • Strike Indicator: Anything placed on your line to help you see when a fish strikes. Could be a bobber, or something like a small piece of visible yarn.
  • Tenkara: A specific, simplified style of fly fishing with Japanese origins. Read more about tenkara.
  • Tippet: At the end of your Leader, you attach a length of tippet (of consistent diameter), which just extends the “clear” section of your line down to the hook. The hook/fly is attached directly to the end of the tippet.
  • Waders: These are either pants or overall-style pants which are waterproof, and allow you to wade into a stream without getting wet. Some are made of wetsuit material, while some are made of a thinner/lighter/cooler Goretex style material which provides waterproofing, with less heat buildup.
  • Wading Boots: Specific boots, usually similar to hiking boots, made for wearing over the “stocking” feet of waders. Wading boots have less padding/material to collect water, so that they don’t get as heavy and dry faster. Traditionally with felt soles for added traction, they mostly now have rubber soles (and allow the addition of metal cleats), to minimize transfer of water-borne contaminants.

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