Fly Fishing Glossary


The larger rear part of an insect's body.

A mature insect; artificial dry fly.

A type of hackle. The colour was originally jet-black, but now the name covers a range of blue-dun shades.

The main forewings of an adult insect.

A highly reflective yet translucent synthetic dubbing.

The tip of an insect's wing.

To fasten by tying , usually a beginning procedure, like "attach the tying thread," etc.

A back referred to in a fly pattern should be tied in at the head and tail of the fly unless otherwise stated.

The part of a hook near the hook point that prevents it from pulling out once it has entered.

The part of a hook near the hook point that prevents it from pulling out of the fish, is flattened or removed. So as to prevent damage to a catch, a preferable method, when "catch and release" is practised.

A part of the fly, usually hackle fibres tied under the shank in front of the body, representing legs.

Floating flies with an additional light coloured hackle in front of the normal hackle as an aid to visibility. In theory any dry fly can be renamed with the bi-visible suffix by including an extra hackle.

The wing feathers of both the cock and the hen bird are used as winging material.

A tool designed to hold the spool with thread; any sort of spool containing material.

A fine, looped wire designed to thread the material through the tube of a bobbin.

See Flexibody.

A general term for the base or bottom or heavy end of a feather, fibre, or material with different diameters in their respective ends; also, a segment of wool or herl wound on the shank to end or divide the body.

The skin and feathers from the head and neck of poultry or some other birds of which the hackle feathers are used for hackling flies and also for some types of wings. See under Hackles and Wings.

A fuzzy, fibrous material used in the making of bodies, particularly popular for lure bodies. It is available in a range of colours and fluorescent colours. There is also a thicker 'jumbo' chenille, a finer micro chenille, a 'sparkle' chenille with a core of silver tinsel, 'speckle' chenille which is banded with two colour, and 'suede' chenille. The introduction of micro chenille has enabled lures to be tied in very much smaller sizes.

A copper bead placed at the head of a subsurface fly. See Gold Head. Sometimes preferred to the flashier gold beads.

The wing feather is used mainly in the winging of wet flies.

A stiff synthetic brightly coloured and reflective winging or ribbing material.

Often abbreviated to CDC. The water repellent feather from the duck's preen gland. They make excellent dun, midge or sedge wings. Natural or dyed.

A method of stillwater fishing practised mainly in Scotland and Ireland. A large well hackles artificial fly is cast out or allowed to be blown out with the wind, and lowered on to the surface. Longish rods with short floss lines are favoured so that only the fly touches the water. In addition to specialist patterns, densely hackles Crane-flies, Mayflies, the Pennell series and Palmers are also suitable.

Deer body hair fibres are stiff and hollow and can be spun on to the hook shank as a body or head material to make an extremely buoyant floating pattern. The most common use for the material is in the Muddler head. Deer hair fibres are laid on the shank where the head is to be formed. Strong thread is wrapped round and, as this is done, the fibres are moved completely to surround the shank. The thread is pulled tight and the bires stand erect. This is repeated until sufficient hair is tied in. The hair is then trimmed to the cone, dome or ball shape required. Some tyers prefer to leave a trailing hackle of some of the longer fibres. Whole bodies can be constructed by using some of the small hairs and trimming them much narrower. Such bodies are virtually unsinkable.

Separate bodies tied on to the shank and not around the shank in the usual manner. They can be built up around a stiff piece of nylon monofilament, bristle, cork, feather quill, or be a specially made plastic body. Detached bodies are often used in Mayfly artificials. See under Hooks.

An artificial fly constructed so that it floats on the water surface. It represents the adult stage of the insect's life or a terrestrial.

Depth-ray-fire. See Fluorescence.

The technique of twisting fur or wool fibres round the tying thread and winding it around the shank to build up a body. The fibres may be picked out with a dubbing needle to represent the legs or wings of the natural. For a shaggy body of longer fibred material the fibres should be placed in a dubbing loop at right angles to the thread and twisted with the aid of a dubbing whirl.

Grey wing quills are used for winging and are easily dyed. Also see Mallard.

The first winged state, known as the sub-imago, of the upwinged flies, the Ephemeropterans. Also used to describe a duller colour shade, ex: blue-dun.

To align hair or feather tips or butts.

The part of a hook to which the leader is attached. A part often used as a reference point for measurement.

A synthetic material used to make buoyant lures and dry flies. It is used in the Suspender patterns of midges and nymphs.

Leftover material to be cut off or in some way hidden.

Individual filaments of feather, hair, or fur.

Measurement relating to smallest width of tinsel; relative measurement with reference to amount.

What you should yell whilst fishing in a crowded situation, when a fish takes your fly. This will enable your neighbouring anglers to withdraw their lines. (Or just bug them and make them jealous)

A metallised plastic mobile material, suitable for supplementing a winging material or as a shell back.

Also known as Waggy Lures, these are standard patterns that incorporate a flexible plastic tail tied in at the rear of the body. Many lures and nymphs can be adapted. The tails come in a variety of colours, some transparent, others fluorescent.

A soft, translucent, flexible body material to be cut to shape and wound.

A natural or synthetic body material, also available in fluorescent colours.

Barb of filament or herl from peacock or ostrich.

A synthetic seal's fur substitute.

Fluorescent materials reflect their own colour under conditions of ultra-violet light, ex: in the hours of daylight. Trout flies incorporating fluorescing materials sometimes prove especially attractive to trout. Even when fished fairly deep, patterns tied with fluorescing materials will reflect ultra-violet light and be more visible than normal materials. Two terms applied to these materials are DRF and DFM which stand for depth-ray-fire and daylight fluorescent material respectively. These materials can be mixed with fur, chenille, wool, herls, hackle fibres for wings, and horsehair. Fluorescent hackles, seal's fur, chenille, wool, and floss and marabou herls are available. One of the secrets of using these materials in imitating natural flies is not to over-use them but to used just sufficient to add interest to the pattern and not deter fish.

Many natural animal furs are used for the bodies of flies. Exotic and domestic animals and household pets are all used in the search for a particular colour shade.

Synthetic flocked material in sheets to be cut into strips and wrapped as a body.

The head (crest) feathers and the neck (tippets) are used mainly for the tails of lake trout flies.

The addition of a gold coloured or brass bead at the head of a nymph or lure makes it into a Goldhead variation. Some beads are threaded over the eye, most over the point.

The herls from the shoulder feathers are used a body materials and are easily dyed. The wing cosset feather is used for winging wet flies.

The neck and under-covert feathers are used for hackling wet flies and are sometimes used on dry patterns. The tail feathers are used for winging, ex: the grouse series. The covert-wing feather is also used for winging.

The long, fine hair on an animal's pelt.

Also called gallina. The plain neck feathers have fibres which have small hairs on them. The fibres make excellent tails or legs of nymphs.

An abbreviation for hair-and-fur. This indicates that the fly has been tied with these materials only, omitting any feather materials.

This has two meanings in fly-tying terms. The first is that part of the artificial fly that represents the legs of the natural or sometimes the wings, or is a false, beard or throat hackle on a lure. This is usually a feather, or feather fibres or animal hair in the case of an H&F pattern. The second meaning is the name given to the neck or cape feathers of poultry or game or any bird's neck feather used in fly tying. The part of the artificial fly known as the hackle comes under these headings.

Collar hackle: A 360 degree hackle, often with a slight rearward tilt, usually described as a collar on lures only to differentiate it from a beard or throat hackle.

Dry-fly hackle: Usually the hackle is tied to represent the legs of the floating insect. A cock hackle is preferred as it has the springiness to support the floating artificial. A hackle with points which are too stiff (a trimmed hackle) will penetrate the surface film; this is to be avoided, as the natural's legs rest on the surface. The hackle is normally wound in turns around the shank behind the eye.

False, Beard or Throat hackle: Tied on wet flies and lures on the underside of the body only, and rear facing. They may be poultry hackles, hackle fibres, hair or other feather-fibres.

Fore-and-aft hackles: A means of hackling a dry fly.

Nymph hackles: These should be tied sparsely to represent the legs of the natural, and usually tied on the underside of the body. They are occasionally tied as a sparsely wound full hackle. If there is a wing-case, the fibres are often tied in over the upper hackles; leaving only those below the body.

Saddle hackles: The longish shiny feathers taken from the side of a bird.

Wet-fly hackle: A hen hackle is preferred on a spider type wet fly because of its softness, which gives a look of mobility or life likeness. On a winged wet fly the upper hackle fibres are bunched below the body and are covered by the tying-in of the wing, or are tied as a throat hackle.

The tapered, short-fibered end of the hackle.

Animal hair is used as wing material in many lures in addition to being used for bodies and Muddler heads. The main animal hairs used for the winging of bucktail lures are: squirrel, stoat, goat, bucktail, calf, badger, moose, marten, mink, monkey, fox. Horsehair is now rarely used as a body material.

Lures of all types should be finished off with a head built up of tying thread and varnished black or an appropriate colour. A painted eye can be added. A small head of varnished tying thread makes a winged wet fly look neater.

A loop with a half twist used to prevent thread from unravelling. A half hitch can be done manually or with a half-hitch tool.

A barb of a feather used for making an artificial fly, or the fly itself.

A variety of hook designs exhibit differing lengths of shank, shapes of bend, sizes of gape and styles of eyes. Each has a role to play. Whatever hook is chosen for a particular pattern of fly, be sure that the hook is strong (to test, place it in a tying vice and gently try to bend the shank), that the point is sharp, that the metal of the bend or shank has no flaws, and that the eye is fully closed. any failure of the hook will represent time wasted and fish lost, so discard any hook that is suspect.
In addition to a variety of hooks with different bend shapes, other specialist hooks are worthy of consideration.

Barbless hook: The barb has been under attack for the possible damage it does to fish in catch-and-release. Flatten the barb with some pliers.

Midge hook: A tiny hook, down to size 28, for floating midge and caenis patterns. It has a relatively wide gape and short body of lightweight wire. Especially fine tying threadis needed to tie patterns on them.

Parachute-fly hook: A small vertical shank around which the hackle can be tied is attached at right angles to the top of the shank.

Swedish/Danish Dry Fly hook: This has a special kink in the shank behind the eye which provides a base for a parachute hackle.

Swimming Nymph hook: A hook with a bend in the cenre of the shank to produce a bent body in the manner of a swimming natural.

A body material or for ribbing, rarely used.

The forward projecting antennae of some special.

Red ibis feathers are used for tail fibres. Substitutes are now used, ex: feathers dyed red.

The blue barred lesser wing coverts are used for throat hackles and sometimes in tails. The dark grey quills are used for winging and the brown elbow wing feather is used for hackling wet flies.

See Crystal Hair.

The legs of an adult fly are represented by the lower part of the hackle. Legs on nymph patterns are copied with a short hackle or hackle fibres.

The grey breast and flank feathers are used for wings and hackles. The following feathers are also used for winging: white-tipped blue wingquill, grey wing quill, brown shoulder feather and white underwing coverts. The brown shoulder feathers are used in the mallard series.

Similar to the wood duck. The brown flank feathers are used for wings and the white breast feather is used for fan-wings.

Turkey fibres which have been extensively employed in fly dressing only in recent years. Their value as wings and tails in lures and nymphs is because the long fluffy fibres, which can be dyed any colour, are extremely lifelike and give the artificials the appearance of mobility when wet.

Fine, tapered clear or coloured stiff nylon for dun and spinner tails.

A translucent sheeting which can be cut to form natural looking wings.

Similar to angora wool. Used as a body material.

A metallic looking plastic tinsel.

A product made of translucent plastic ribbing material or for segmented nymph bodies.

Wing and tail herls are used as body materials.

A method of dressing a fly with a hackle wound along the bodyfrom shoulder to tail. Such flies may be known as Palmers. It is the oldest style of hackling a fly.

A fly with a hackle wound horizontally rather than vertically round the shank. Special parachute hooks are available with a vertical stem on the shank around which the hackle can be wound, but most tyers wrap the hackle around its own hackle stalk, which is tied to stick up vertically, or round the wing base.

The brown back and grey breast feathers are used for hackling wet flies. The wing and tail feather are used for winging.

The eyed tail feather is used for quill and herl bodies. The bronze herl comes from the stem of the eye tail; the green herl comes from the sword feathers at the base of the tail. The blue neck feathers are occasionally used.

The centre tail feather herls of the cock bird are used for the bodies and tails of nymphs and dry flies; and the copper back feathers are occasionally used for hackles. The secondary wing feathers of the hen are used for winging. The centre tail feathers are similarly used.

A synthetic material, the fibres of which are suitable for dubbing and in yarn form for winging. It is excellent for floating flies.

Turns of tying silk, wire, tinsel, herl or other materials to represent the natural segmentation of a natural insect or to add strength to the body.

Spawning site in the river bed.

To fasten with thread or cement.

A strip of feather, division of body, or any one part of a material or section consisting of more than one.

A fish of mixed breeds.

Also known as Antron. It is a synthetic translucent yarn to which air bubbles cling when it is wet. It is an excellent body material for imitations of those insects that carry air bubbles. It is suitable for hatching nymph or pupa patterns.

The adult stage (imago) of the Ephemeropterans.

The wing quills are used for winging. The back and breast feathers are used for hackling.

To superimpose one material on top of another.

Sometimes called a whisk. Usually feather fibres to imitate the tails of a natural insect. Lures and attractor-type flies also have tails, but these are only to enhance the attraction of the pattern.

The part of the insect's body between the abdomen and neck to which the legs and wings are attached.

The binding agent by which all other materials are attached to the hook.

A thin metallic material used for ribbing or making complete bodies. Gold, silver or copper colours are available. Flat, oval, round or embossed tinsels are all used.

See Golden Pheasant.

A hackle wound as a collar divided on top and tied under the shank to represent legs or front of streamer or other such flies. (Also see beard)

To fasten a material with tying thread.

To whip finish or half hitch thread after applying a material or to finish the head of a fly.

The long crest feather of a golden pheasant .

The cinnamon tail herls are used for bodies. The white-tip rump feather is used for winging and the mottled-brown tail feather is similarly used.

The part of the body which is wound on first, over the tying silk, before being covered by another material. The underbody is frequently used to give the fly extra weight.

A wing, usually of a whole hackle, hackle tip or fibres, that is tied in under the body.

Applied to the whip-finish to secure the tying thread. Clear varnish is best used on dry flies, but coloured varnish is used for lures and wet flies. The backs of some fly bodies are occasionally coated with clear varnish. Although varnish bought in Fly Fishing supply stores is best, nail varnish has also been known to do the job.

Solid or liquid wax is rubbed on the tying thread to help bind the materials firmly or to darken the natural tying silk.

The discoloured, meshed portion of a hackle close to the stem

An artificial fly tied to attract fish below the surface..

A method of securing the tying thread at the head of the finished fly. Two or three turns of tying thread are wrapped round the end of the thread and the shank before the end is passed through and pulled tight.

The style and set of the wings varies with the type of fly. The styles most commonly tied are:

Advance wing: A single or split wing tied forward slanting over the eye of the hook.

Bunch wing: A wing made from a bunch of feather fibres and tied in the manner required.

Double split wing: Two sets of wings made by taking two sections from a pair of matched wing quills and tying them with the tips pointing outwards. The second set of wings is less than half the size of the main forewings.

Down wing: Tied low over the back, usually to imitate sedges and stoneflies.

Fan-wing: Two small breast feathers tied curving outwards. Popular on Mayfly patterns.

Hackle-fibre wing: The same as a bunch wing.

Hackle-point wing: The tips of cock hackles used as the wings of adult flies.

Hair wing: Natural or dyed animal hair is used for wings on lures, dry and wet flies.

Herl wing: The herl from some feathers occasionally used for winging. Peacock herl is the most common.

Wet  fly wing: A wing sloping back over the body, not quite flat but at a slight angle.

Usually fine gold, silver or copper coloured wire for ribbing small flies.