Fly Fishing Tips 1 min read

How to Fish Wet Flies

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

May 21, 2010

This Fly Fishing Tip is brought to you by RiverBum and Jake Ricks of Utah Fly Guides.

I recently received an information request asking about how to fish wet flies. A wet fly is defined as any fly designed to sink and be fished below the water’s surface. There are many kinds of wet flies and many ways to fish a wet fly. They come in 3 major categories: traditional wet flies, streamers, and nymphs. Most of the time, the term “wet fly” probably refers to traditional wet flies like soft hackles, but I’ll cover them all.

How to Fish Traditional Wet Flies

Traditional wet flies are generally fished by casting across and downstream, letting the flies swing across the current, and occasionally pulling them back upstream, keeping a tight line as the flies swing. Strikes are usually felt rather than seen because the line is kept tight. You can also dead drift traditional wet flies, especially soft hackles like you would a nymph. The soft hackles pulse in the water as the fly drifts, creating a life-like look.

How to Fish Streamers

Streamers are also generally fished across, across, and downstream, but the retrieve is a little more brisk and often has a jerky action depending on the stripping method used. Streamers imitate minnows, so you should make them swim faster and more erratically than traditional wet flies, which most often imitate slow-moving hatching insects.

How to Fish Nymphs

Nymphs are generally fished by dead drifting them and using either a strike indicator to see the strike or a tight-line or semi-tight line method to feel or detect strikes. Nymphs imitate immature aquatic insects and other invertebrates that drift in the current and are intercepted by waiting fish.

Remember that at least 90% of what trout and most other fish eat is below the water’s surface. Mastering wet fly techniques will greatly increase your odds of catching more fish.

Jake Ricks
Fly Fishing Professional, Guide, and Author