Many anglers who are new to fly fishing consider dry fly fishing the “traditional” way of catching trout. Well, that’s not entirely true. Wet fly fishing dates back hundreds of years, well before dry fly fishing came around.
Wet fly fishing is one of the best ways for anglers to get introduced to sub-surface fishing. Unlike nymph and dry fly fishing, where skill, practice and precise imitations are needed to effectively take trout consistently, wet fly fishing can provide rewards quickly – even to beginner anglers. Unlike dry fly fishing and nymph fly fishing – when using wet flies, the angler is not attempting to precisely imitate any particular insect.
Wet Fly Fishing : Basic Overview
Instead of looking precisely like a particular type of insect, a wet fly is more an imitation of a stage of life of aquatic insects. Many wet flies imitate a struggling nymph as it attempts to reach the surface of the river. These same wet flies also suitably imitate dead or drowning insects. Either way, one thing about wet flies is that they generally imitate aquatic insects in motion (moving to the surface, drowning in the water, etc…) – not just floating merrily along in the current, completely helpless (although that is done, too!).
Unlike dry fly or nymph fly fishing, wet fly fishing can also be very rewarding to beginner anglers. Perfect, or even good technique, is not needed for new anglers to hook some nice fish. And the reason for this is because of the way most wet fly fishing is done – neither requiring perfect casts nor split-timing when setting the hook.
When fly fishing with wet flies, anglers frequently will use 2 or more flies together. By using two or more flies together in a dropper setup (described later), an angler can improve their chances of finding biting trout.
So, let’s take a close look at how wet fly fishing works, what is used and why any angler should give it a try – even on those rivers that are normally the dry fly fisherman’s playground.
There are many different types of flies available for wet fly fishing. Normally, most wet flies have soft hackling.
The reason for this is because this type of hackling has fibers in it that move around in the water – sort of inviting the trout to take it in.
Additionally, unlike most nymphs, wet flies are designed to sink rather quickly, since wet fly fishing is generally done closer to the bottom of the river. For this reason, many wet flies tend to be a bit heavier and are tied in a wide variety of ways. Each way designed to sink the fly in a particular manner than the typical nymph.
Frequently, wet flies tend to be fished in areas that have fast moving water. Because of this, many anglers fly fish wet flies using a sinking tip line. While using a sink-tip fly line can definitely aid the fly in getting down to the right depth, an angler who only has a floating fly line should not despair. Generally, simply using weights on the leader or the fly line can do an adequate job of pulling down a wet fly to the right depth.
Wet Fly Fishing : Dropper Flies
As mentioned, wet flies are frequently fished in groups of flies – not just a single fly by itself. When a second, or third, fly is used, it is called a “dropper fly”. A dropper fly, which is a very effective and rather ancient method of wet fly fishing, is a fly that is tied to the main leader.
When rigging up your fly fishing gear using a dropper fly, simply attach the first fly onto the end of the tippet as you normally would. Then, for the second fly, take a 12 inch of tippet material and tie it to the leader about 12-24 inches above the first fly. Attach the second fly to the end of that line. You now have a dropper fly set up.
Additional flies can also be attached – you are in no way limited to just using 1 or 2 flies. However, the more flies you have, the greater the likelihood of tangles occurring – both when casting and in hooking underwater obstructions. For beginner anglers, it is probably best to start with one fly, then go to two flies when comfortable with basic casting and wet fly fishing technique.
Either way, one nice thing about a dropper fly is that it allows anglers to test out flies at the same time. Thus, you can tie on one type as normal, then tie on a completely different looking wet fly as a dropper fly. It’s a great way to quickly experiment around to see what works and what doesn’t on a particular river (especially a new one you’ve never fished before). you may even be rewarded with having two or more fish hooked simultaneously.