Dry Fly vs Wet Fly

Dry Fly vs Wet Fly

The choice of dry fly vs wet fly is solely decided by the fish and what they prefer to eat. If the fish around you are feeding underwater, there’s no use throwing dry flies at them. They wish for only this particular thing on the menu.

A good angler knows that they’ll need both wet and dry flies for a successful fly fishing expedition. Although everyone has their likes and dislikes, we don’t get to decide which fly we’d put to work.

Many anglers believe dry flies to be more exciting because they see the fish biting on their fly. This makes the setting of the hook more exhilarating. However, it doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the only fly that should be used is the one the fish want.

How Are Wet Flies and Dry Flies Different?

One major difference between wet flies and dry flies is their size. Wet flies are generally larger than a size 10 while dry flies are usually smaller than 12.

Dry Flies Land on the Top of the Water Surface

The buoyant dry flies are designed to float and stay on the water surface in perfect resemblance to the insects that feed on the surface.

They are commonly used in freshwater, mainly because insect hatches seldom occur in saltwater. Fish tend to feed on the grown-up insects that land on the water surface. Dry flies take advantage of this instinct.

Wet Flies Are Thrown Below the Water Surface

Wet flies resemble insects that live beneath the surface of the water. These include the nymph stages of various insects that move along with the water current. Fish aim for such insects that appear to be drowned and we aim for fish by making our wet flies sink.

Wet flies sink because of the incorporation of weights in their structure. These features could be bead heads, copper wires, or fly-tying materials.

Dry Flies Are Made of Buoyant Materials While Wet Flies Use Shaggy Materials

How Are Wet Flies and Dry Flies Different? The reasons are clear. The dry flies need to be light in weight to float on the water surface. Dry flies will often incorporate feathers or hair in their structure to float better.

Fish can easily detect fraud with objects on the surface. This is why it is more challenging to make dry flies that appear realistic and introduce them naturally.

The wet flies need a heavier structure to sink into the water. This is why shaggy and bulky materials are used in making wet flies. These materials further absorb water and sink deeper. One major purpose of shaggy materials is to create wriggly movements in the water.

Such animated movements entice the fish and they pounce immediately. This is why wet flies are often more successful in landing fish. Wet flies are colored brightly and are fashioned to attract an aggressive reaction from the fish.

Flies Are Chosen According to the Season, Weather, and Location

If your fly matches the natural criteria of a fishing spot at a certain point in time, it will increase your chances of landing a catch. Even a small river has a vibrant ecosystem composed of specific organisms. The fish wouldn’t want changes in their usual menu.

A fly is decided upon after carefully observing the water surface. The current and the time of the day dictate what the fish will be feeding upon. When you see the fish feeding on the water surface, you can notice what exactly they are feeding on and then imitate their food.

When you don’t see any fish feeding on the water surface, it is probably because they are feeding below. This is when you throw wet flies to lure them. Some anglers use both types of flies at the same time by making multiple throws.

Dry Fly vs Wet Fly: Which Is Easier to Work With?

When anglers are first taught fly fishing, they start with wet flies. This is mainly because it is easier to cast wet flies than dry flies. Moreover, one needs to be a lot more cautious with dry flies because they have to be introduced in a very natural manner. If the fish suspect that your dry fly is not actual food, they’d take little time to flee and make the whole school scatter.

Wet flies don’t have such technicalities. It is easier to fraud the fish deeper in the water than on the surface. Wet flies are imitations of insects that usually live below the surface of the water.

Once they hatch, they start floating on the top. Most wet flies resemble creatures like leeches and crawfish. Dry flies are imitations of insects that commonly land on the water surface.

The Casting Strategy for Dry Flies and Wet Flies is Different

The main difference between the two types of flies arises because of their weight. Dry flies are light in weight and are designed to float on the surface of the water. Wet flies are made heavier because they are meant to sink below the water’s surface.

Because one ought to be more careful, the dry fly casting techniques have a tight and flattened loop when an overhead cast is thrown. On the other hand, wet flies have a loose and open loop at the time of the throw.
Casting Strategy for Dry Flies and Wet Flies is Different

Throwing a Cast with a Dry Fly Employs More Technique

Anglers usually begin dry fly fishing with a roll cast where there is no false casting. This method has its downsides in limiting the casting distance.

It is important for anglers to not become too eager while using dry flies. Most anglers make the mistake of casting at long distances whenever they see a fish rise at that point. This is not how you will land a fish.

While using dry flies, your cast should not be thrown farther than fifteen feet. There are two reasons for this. A shorter distance will allow you to keep an eye on the movements of the fly.

It will also be possible to make the catch when the fish bites. A longer cast may itself appear one of a kind. But it will not let you land any fish.

The imperfect casts thrown with dry flies could scare away the fish if anglers try to correct them. Your casts should be thrown perfectly and within an operable distance.

Casting a Wet Fly Is Less Technical

Casting techniques for wet flies differ with the type of fly.

A streamer will ensure more success if it is thrown into a rapid turn entering a still water body. Casting into the rapids will ensure that the wriggly and animated movements of the streamer increase and there is success in attracting aggressive strikes.

It is advisable to keep your casts short so that they are taken back easily with extra force.

The right way of casting streamers is by letting them float naturally in the pool after navigating them through the rapids. Let your rod tip be high as your streamer flows through rapids so that there is no chance of it getting stuck in a snappy portion.

Experienced anglers know that nymph fishing employs as much technique and accuracy as fishing with dry flies.

The right method of nymph fishing is by casting up to five to ten yards up the stream while keeping the tip of the rod high. This will ensure that the fly line doesn’t ruin the natural introduction and descent of the nymph fly into the water.

Your hook should be set as soon as you feel a tug on your line. You might even see the fly being taken away in front of your eyes. There is little time for you to make the catch, do it now!

You’ll know better about the right ways to cast as you gain experience. Emerging flies are cast similarly to dry flies. The tips of the wings of the emerging fly should be visible on the top of the water.

A strike is identified by visible action when the fly is located at the end of the fly line.

Remember that fishing is not about dipping the fly and waiting for action. You have to pay attention because the fish usually won’t make any noise.

Wet Flies Always Guarantee Success

The use of dry flies requires acute observation, knowledge, and skills. It is only successful when you’ve recognized the food right and worked in favor of the conditions.

Wet flies can be used whenever and wherever. There is no particular time they will be more rewarding. Fish prefer a streamer even when they are feeding on topwater hatches. They will attack streamers even when the day is too hot and the fish have gone too deep.

The wriggly movements of a streamer are hard to avoid for fishes. Anglers need to be prepared for a heavy and aggressive strike after letting a streamer into the water.

Wet flies like nymphs are better used in the early morning hours. Flies appear like nymphs when they just start hatching. This is when your nymphs will be the most successful. Their heavy beaded heads will enable them to reach an adequate depth.

Anglers use emerging flies just before hatching starts on the top water surface. Emerging flies have underdeveloped wings because of which they cannot get on top of the water.

If you see fishtails popping out of the water repeatedly, know that they are feeding on emerging flies.

Your emerging fly imitation is a wet fly that mimics this beloved natural food of the fish. With focus and clear observation, you can detect when to put an emerging fly into action and expect the best results.

Dry Flies Are Used Best at the Time of Hatching

There is no reason the fish will navigate to the top of the water when they are getting an adequate food supply below the water surface. Dry flies are best used at times when hatching occurs on the surface of the water.

The anglers fond of dry fly fishing usually align themselves with the rising or the setting sun because that is when the hatches occur and the fish feed on topwater.

Different Hooks Are Used for Different Flies

Wet flies generally utilize hooks of size 10 gauge or lower. Bigger hook sizes are defined by smaller numbers. The shank of the hook is usually regular but longer shanks are employed for the streamer, leech, and nymph flies.

Beginners Need to Learn How to Differentiate the Flies Based on Appearance

The hooks and collars of dry flies are light in weight and the material of construction is usually elk hair or foam that can float on water.

While the dry flies are made of stiff materials, wet flies like nymphs are made of softer materials that have incorporated weights near the top of the hook to make them sink. Their size is smaller than other wet flies.

Streamers are the largest wet flies and they are made to look like bigger things on the fish menu. Their size could range from 8 to 1 hook and they are meant to attract predator fish. The bigger the streamer, the bigger the mouth of the fish that bites.

Wet flies are generally soft in construction and utilize water-absorbing materials to make them sink. They imitate flies that live below the surface of the water and often have attractive features to quickly catch the attention of the fish.


The truth is, we don’t decide which fly we get to use. This job is done by the fish and their environment. Well, unless you are thoroughly aware of their feeding pattern in a particular stream. Then you can have a tryst with the fly you prefer and the fish will bite anyway.

While it is very exciting to fish with dry flies because you get to see the fish falling for the fraud, wet fly fishing has its set exhilaration owing to the amount of fish it allows you to catch.

References and Further Reading

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