I Started Using Wet Flies and it Changed How I Fly Fish | Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

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This article covers everything you need to know regarding getting started with wet flies. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just starting out, understanding wet flies can significantly enhance your fly fishing experience.

I started using wet flies and it changed how I fly fish. I can recall fishing with friends early on and being relatively successful. However, when Tom came to me and handed me a small box of wet flies and gently whispered, "I'm going to show you one of my secrets", it was really a game changer.  He then took me into bear trap canyon and showed be the art of swinging wet flies in seams. It was like a whole new world and a entirely new technique that was easy and effective. 

What Are Wet Flies?

Wet flies are a category of flies used in fly fishing that are fished below the surface of the water. Unlike dry flies that float on the water’s surface, wet flies imitate aquatic insects and other underwater prey. These flies can be highly effective, especially when fish are feeding below the surface.

Aquatic Insect Life Cycle

Before we dive into wet fly techniques, let’s briefly discuss the aquatic insect life cycle. Trout primarily feed on aquatic insects, which include nymphs, emergers, and adults. These insects live beneath rocks, logs, and organic debris in the river. As they develop, they either crawl to the banks to hatch or create air bubbles to rise to the surface. The Fly Crate does an excellent job in this article of describing how trout opportunistically feed on these insects throughout their life cycle.

Traditional vs. Modern Wet Flies

Traditionally, wet flies were simple patterns made from natural materials like feathers and fur. They imitated various insects and were swung across the current. Modern wet flies have evolved, incorporating synthetic materials and more intricate designs. Some even mimic baitfish or other underwater creatures.

What Do Wet Flies Imitate?

Wet flies imitate a range of aquatic insects. Here are two common types:

  1. Caddis Hatches: Caddisflies are prevalent in rivers and streams. Their larvae (nymphs) live underwater and are a favorite food source for trout. Wet flies resembling caddis larvae can be highly effective.

  2. Mayfly Hatches: Mayflies are another essential insect for trout. Their nymphs, emergers, and duns provide consistent meals. Matching the size and color of mayflies with wet flies is crucial.

This article will help you with formulating a way to select flies. 

    Techniques for Fishing with Wet Flies

    Now, let’s explore some techniques for using wet flies effectively:

    1. Swinging Wet Flies: Cast your wet fly downstream and across the current. Allow it to swing naturally as it moves across the water. Reading this article from the Fly Crate can teach you how this technique imitates an insect drifting downstream, enticing strikes from hungry trout.

    2. Wet Flies Under a Strike Indicator: Similar to nymphing, use a strike indicator (a small floating device) to suspend your wet fly at a specific depth. Adjust the depth based on where you believe the fish are feeding.

    3. Leisenring Lift: After your wet fly swings across the current, perform a subtle lift with your rod tip. This mimics an emerging insect rising toward the surface, often triggering strikes.

    4. Selecting the Right Fly Line: A weight-forward floating line works well for wet fly fishing. It allows you to cast accurately and control the swing of the fly.

    Choosing the Best Wet Flies

    While there are countless wet fly patterns, here are a few traditional favorites:

    • Soft Hackles: Simple yet effective, soft hackle wet flies imitate emerging insects. They have soft, mobile fibers that create a lifelike appearance.

    • Woolly Buggers: These versatile flies imitate leeches, baitfish, and other underwater creatures. Their movement in the water attracts aggressive strikes.

    • Pheasant Tail Nymphs: These nymphs resemble mayfly nymphs and work well in various water conditions.

    The Fly Crate has a great selection of wet flies for you to choose from if you are looking to get started.

      Remember, experimentation is key. Observe the water, pay attention to insect activity, and adjust your wet fly selection accordingly.

      Leader Setup

      For wet fly fishing, use a longer leader (typically 9 to 12 feet) to allow the fly to swing naturally. Tapered leaders with a tippet of 4X to 6X are suitable. Adjust the leader length based on the depth of the water and the desired presentation. Below 4X isn't advised for swinging but for under an indicator is ok. 

      This video shows you my preferred method or formula for a swinging wet fly leader. 

      In summary, wet flies offer a dynamic approach to fly fishing. Whether you’re targeting trout, bass, or other species, mastering wet fly techniques can lead to exciting and rewarding days on the water.

      Feel free to explore more resources on wet fly fishing, such as this video tutorial that provides additional tips and insights. Happy fishing!

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      Christian Bacasa, Host of the Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

      By Christian Bacasa
      Host of the Fly Fishing Insider Podcast

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