Wet fly vs streamer [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Wet fly vs streamer

12-28-2005, 06:18 AM
After watching a bugger get bumped, I ties a #14 Prince to the hook bend, and started catching fish. That got me thinking about the basic difference between a wet fly and a streamer. Is the difference in the way we fish them? Size? Type of dressing? If a strip a Prince does it become a streamer? Or if I swing a wolly bugger, does it become a wet fly?

John Desjardins
12-28-2005, 07:25 AM
Tradition is the answer to basic question of streamer vs wet definition and some flys have characteristics of multiple fly types that confuse us more than the fish. Does it matter what you call the fly if your catching fish? Dries for instance we spend considerable effort to keep on the surface while they can work better if sunk an inch or two under the surface.

Its funny but I think of a wooly bugger as a big wet/nymph rather than a streamer. Just my 2 cents.

12-28-2005, 08:42 AM
Josko -

Interesting question! Why don't we try to define it right here and now?

I propose:

Wet fly - A fly fished on a natural drift beneath the surface of the water unlike a dry which is fished above. It is intended to imitate an insect that is helplessly passing with current or suspended below the surface as if an "easy meal".

Nymph - A specialized form of wet fly that is usually weighted to penetrate deep into the water column. Often used in tandem with another fly which floats to aid presentation and indicate a strike.

Streamer - A fly that is designed and manipulated with a life-like swimming or darting effect using current against line tension, stripping of line, or other means. It is intended to imitate or stimulate as if an elongate higher order organism like a minnow, smelt, sculpin, swimming insect pupae, leech, etc.

12-28-2005, 08:51 AM
But wouldn't that define the 'wet fly swing' and most steelheading tactics as streamer fishing? The fly does move appreciably wile it's swinging, not to mention letting it sit in the current at the end of te swing.

12-28-2005, 09:00 AM
I believe the term "Streamer" has a narrower definition than the more general "Wet fly" which, as John mantioned, describes a style of fishing as well as a type of pattern.

When I think of wet flies the names Invicta, Alexandra, Peter Ross, Soldier Palmer and a "team of three" come to mind.

One of my old fly dressing guides from E Veniard has a page devoted to "Streamer Flies" that include patterns such as:

Matuka, Spencer Bay Special, Chief Needabeh, Bumblepuppy, Black Ghost

My guess would be that the term Streamer is most correctly applied to North American patterns tied to simulate fry and immature baitfish.

In the UK. we used to refer to Streamer style flies as "Lures". Favorites included Sweeney Todd, Viva, and Ace of Spades.

12-28-2005, 10:56 AM
Josko -

IMHO two different animals - the trouter and the salmon/steelheader.

I think the vernacular of the trout angler and the salmon angler are different in that the trout angler has a precise delimination of fly types like dry, wet, nymph, streamer, terrestrial, etc - whereby the salmon steelhead swinger has dries and wets, within which a different type of precision lies e.g. Spey patterns, Dees, hairwings, etc.

So the wet fly in a trouting sense is more specific than a wet fly in a swinger's sense however a single variation in a 'wet' can define a very strong typing of sorts as shown in the 'bomber', 'mixed wing' or 'Dee' etc.

12-28-2005, 11:47 AM
Here's my breakdown:

Wet fly - any fly intended to be used below the surface.
> Streamer - a wet fly that resembles a minnow.
> Nymph - a wet fly that resembles the nymph stage of an insect.

Dry fly - any fly intended to float on the water's surface.
> Popper - a large dry fly that makes noise as it's retrieved.
> Terrestrial - a large dry fly that mimics land-based insects.
> Hair bug - a large dry fly made of hair that's intended to mimic large prey.

There's more varieties, but I'm too lazy to type them all now. ;)

Nate C
01-03-2006, 01:00 PM
I'm going to have to disagree with the way some of you are defining a wet fly. To my knowledge (or maybe opinion) a wet fly is not any fly fished under the surface. I believe that wet flies have just as narrow a definition as streamers. I believe classic wet flies are the only true wet fly. The classic European wet fly patterns that are used very little now a days. Also, these classic patterns were swung more often then dead drifted. The term wet fly swing came from the use of these classic patterns and was later applied to streamers. Granted, many patterns can be fished in a way that is not typical of that pattern. Buggers can be dead drifted, stripped or swung just as a dry fly can sink and be fished like a nymph. I fish wet flies on the surface quite often but they are still wet flies even if they are floating. I think a wet fly could be used as a streamer, nymph, or dry fly but is classified as a wet fly because of the style in which it is tied. Difining flies is tough these days since many patterns are combined or used in unorthodox ways, but this is the best way I can describe a wet fly- a traditional European pattern that can be swung or dead drifted dry or wet. However,I do not believe the term wet fly is a generic name for any fly fished below the surface under which nymphs and streamers are subcatagories. I believe them to be distinct and seperate classifications.

Juro-- I am a little confused with a word used in your last post---delimination---to my knowledge this is not a word--did you mean delimitation? in this case I can see how it's use would make sence but you deserve 100 points for using such an obscure word.

01-03-2006, 01:24 PM
As my daughter would say "Whatev" :lildevl:

Yes, I missed the one letter - and that word is common in design circles as derived from delimited / divided / defined or measured.

01-03-2006, 04:07 PM
I hope Flytyer chines in on this thread.

No expert but to me the wet fly American style is rarely used today. I have no knowledge of its history but the ones I have looked at and fished from the 1940's to early 1960's were beautiful. Most had a mallard wing back and slightly swept
back. The wing was usually grey even if the rest of the fly was tied in bright colors. All of the ones I came into contact with was from fishing with good local Montana folks older than myself back in the 70's. What was interesting was that each fly had its own leader about 6 to 8 inches long ending in a loop knot. They could be fished anyway one wanted and most of the time they were cast out at a 90 degree from shore and swung without any mend. Often they would hang down stream for what today we consider a long while. When I first watched locals fishing with them I thought it a bit crude but these same locals could really tie wonderful patterns for spring creeks I latter found out. The wet fly was part of enjoying big rivers like the Yellowstone from Gardiner to Big Timber. It was a way to put the hip boots on a plaid shirt, carry a creel and enjoy a day viewing the mountains, trees, wildlife along the river and bring a few trout home for dinner. Another thing about these locals when they fished the wet fly was they all loved using auto reels and glass rods for it. Yet the next day on a spring creek they had out their Winston cane and Hardy reels. In Montana the wet fly held a certain type of special religious service to days gone by. Once I got over my elitest tendency I enjoy fishing this style once in a while too.

I have in recent years started fishing these exact type of flies for summer run steelhead and have done well indeed. I even bring out the old cane and Phluger reel for the occassion. It makes one feel like they went back to a simpler time in life.

01-04-2006, 06:57 AM
Just a while back I read Dave Hughes book "Wet Flies". He includes the winged wet flies most people consider "traditional" wet flies. But he also includes Soft hackled flies, (wingless wets), flymphs and fuzzy nymphs. (Fuzzy nymphs, IIRC, are kind of fuzzy blobs without the traditional nymph wing case.)

The book shows that there is a gray area between fly classifications. There are flies that you can be cetain as to their classification. A grey Ghost is a streamer, a Mickey Finn is a bucktail, a gold ribbed hare's ear nymph is a nymph and a Partridge and Orange is a wet fly. But there are many more that don't eaxctly fit a category.

Which is why any book with fly patterns in it MUST have an index. (Tom Rosenbauer's Orvis Fly-Ting Guide doesn't and I curse him for it. :tsk_tsk: )

Nate C
01-04-2006, 12:49 PM
I wasn't trying to break your b***s with the spelling correction. It's just that I doubt many people know the meaning of the word delimitated. Your probably the second person I've ever heard use that term. Granted I'm not in any design circles (I guess you mean fly design circles) but I doubt many others here on this board knew the meaning of that word. I consider myself somewhat of a wordsmith, but I try not to use obscure words when posting on boards like these as it usually causes confusion, when the same thing could be said using common vocabulary that everyone understands. I am new to this board and I don't want to ruffle any feathers... just yet, but I just wanted to clarify your post for those who are not familiar with words like that.

Go to the fly fishing museum in the catskills on the Beaverkill and you can view lots of traditional wet fly patterns. American flyfishing was born in eastern New York State in the Catskill mountain area on the beaverkill, willoweemoc, delaware, neversink, etc and the patterns first fished here were traditional wetfly patterns that originated in Europe. I don't know exactly how long flyfishers have been tying wetflies(over 100 years) but I do know that these are some of the earliest patterns ever tied, and I believe the history behind these flies alone should give them there own seperate distinction from other flies fished subsurface.

Dble Haul
01-04-2006, 01:26 PM
I consider myself somewhat of a wordsmith, but I try not to use obscure words when posting on boards like these as it usually causes confusion, when the same thing could be said using common vocabulary that everyone understands.

Please don't underestimate the intellect of our members. After all, we've been successful at fooling animals with tiny brains into biting hooks full of fur and feathers. :wink:

01-04-2006, 04:01 PM
I love old style wet flies. The March Brown is one of my favorites. I have never done really well in a march brown hatch with a dry. But put one of these babies on and look out! :eek:


01-04-2006, 06:34 PM
I love old style wet flies. The March Brown is one of my favorites. I have never done really well in a march brown hatch with a dry. But put one of these babies on and look out! :eek:


If you haven't yet, you should check out Dave Hughes book "Wet Flies". I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to fishing a lot of wet flies this summer.