What a wet fly is: In fly fishing, wet fly is a general term used to describe a type of artificial fly (similar to a nymph) representative of sub-aquatic trout food. Where nymphs are most commonly designed, tied, and fished to closely and realistically imitate insects in their pre-adult or larval stage, wet flies are most commonly designed to be more impressionistic than precise imitations of specific types of food.
That in mind, typical wet flies can imitate drowned insects, small baitfish, sculpins, crustaceans, worms, squid, and other forms of sub-aquatic morsels appealing to larger, hungry, and aggressive fish.
Wet flies are commonly fished exclusively in freshwater except for those coastal areas with brackish channels, deltas, estuaries, back bays, and other saltwater-freshwater mixes — wet flies can be effective in these water types as well.
Because wet flies are designed to ride beneath the water’s surface, these fly patterns often incorporate some sort of weight. The added sinking weight of these flies is achieved with lead or copper wire, bead heads, and lots of water-absorbant fly tying materials. The larger, heavier-gague wire hooks also help to keep these flies in the sub-surface after a cast.
Wet fly fishing materials…
The use of long, wispy, or otherwise shaggy looking fly tying materials in wet flies is a necessary design element to their ultimate effectiveness. The characteristic shaggier or bulkier dubbing fibers and longer hackle collars common to many wet flies help them push water with lots of animated movement. Some classic wet fly patterns are: Leadwing Coachman, the Wooly Worm, the Grizzly King, and the Blue Bottle. These classic wet flies are easily recognized by their married wings and long webby hackles and tails. Wet flies can be brightly colored creations designed to grab a predator’s attention or provoke aggressive action, or they can be fashioned from more drab, subdued, or realistic looking materials.
Wet fly fishing techniques…
Fly fishing techniques commonly employed when fishing with wet flies are often similar to those used when fishing with a nymph. Dead drifting and high sticking are common and fishing a wet fly on the swing is another classic presentation style. Wet flies can also be stripped like freshwater or saltwater streamers.
Wet flies have enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity over the last few decades and fly anglers and fly tyers across the globe continue to experiment with these important fly patterns on a range of target game fish species in all types of fly water.