When I first began Fly-Fishing I loved Fishing Dry Flies and got some of my best catches with them. Over time, however, I learned some fish do not want to respond to an above water stimulus. In these cases, I have learned to switch over to a Wet Fly to greatly help improve my chances.

So, What Exactly is a “Wet” Fly in Fly-Fishing?

A Wet Fly is an ancient Fly Fishing Pattern that dates back to the beginnings of fly fishing. The wet fly is fished underwater often with a deliberate action caused by current or angler. The wet fly is usually sparsely tied with minimal hackle and a thin body.

The Differences Between a Dry Fly and a Wet Fly

wet fly vs dry fly
wet fly vs dry fly

Casting Wet Flies with a Fly Rod

Although many beginner Fly-Fishers love to use Dry-Flies for their aesthetic appeal and differentiation from Spin-Reel fishing, Wet Flies can actually be extremely useful for those just beginning the learning process of how to cast a Fly-Rod. When casting a Dry Fly, the most important thing you are trying to achieve is a believable landing upon the surface of the water. If you don’t achieve this then the fish might never strike because it is spooked by unnatural display it just witnessed. This means that is can be very difficult to cast a Dry Fly when you’re still perfecting your casting technique.

When you are casting a Wet Fly, everything changes. The fish you are looking for are most likely deeper in the water and, therefore, won’t even see the fly until its already broken the surface of the water and has begun to sink. It is for this reason that trying to cast in a “natural” way is not necessary. With a Wet Fly you can make plenty of mistakes in casting and still have a pretty good chance of getting a fish to strike.

Visual Differences Wet and Dry Flies

As I intimated before the experience of using a Dry-Fly, the experience of seeing a trout jump out of the water to strike at your fly, is like nothing else. When using a Wet Fly everything is happening under the water. If your main goal is simply to catch fish, however, your trip could be saved by having a few Wet Flies to alternate with when your Dry Flies just are not getting any strikes.

Elk Hair Caddis - Dry Fly
Elk Hair Caddis – Dry Fly

In terms of the fly itself most Dry Flies have a very distinctive look. Of course, they are created to look like the imitated fly, but they also are created to have as much surface area as possible. The more surface are the better the fly with float upon the surface tension of the water. In contrast, Wet flies are often highly hydrodynamic and manufactured to drag quickly through the water. Additionally, often times Wet Flies will be weighted to help them sink down to where the fish are.

How a Wet Fly Drifts in the Water

When fishing Dry Flies, the drag settings of your reel are very important. If your fly is floating downstream with the current it is extremely important to allow that floating to be as natural as possible. With a Wet Fly this is much less of a concern. Your fly shouldn’t be floating backwards away from your reel, because it would look unnatural, and so having specific drag settings is not necessary.

When to Consider Using a Wet Fly

As I mentioned before beginner’s should highly consider fishing Wet Flies for their forgiving qualities in casting and how much attention is needed to drag settings. Additionally, when fishing for deep water fish Wet Flies are really the only way to get their attention.

Although, specifically, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, “Generally, fish are in shallower water in low light and choppy conditions, and in deeper water when the sun is bright and winds are calm,”. This means that on days where the sun is not out and the water is at a state of unrest it would be smart to try a Wet Fly. Inversely, if the sun is shining and the water is completely still, a Dry Fly would be my first choice.

Moreover, “Fish are often shallower in the spring and early summer,” (Missouri Department of Conservation). This means that at the beginning of the season you will probably be getting more use out of your Dry Flies. Later in the summer, however, warmer temperatures force an exodus of fish from the surface of the water to deeper down to hopefully find cooler conditions.

This means that through late summer and into the fall Wet Flies might be your only bet at getting a catch. In the winter Flies tend to stay near the surface so if you’ve got a river that has not frozen over then a Dry Fly should work just fine.

Thinking about summer fly fishing reminds me of one of my favorite summer time fly fishing pass times catching bluegills. Read more about how and the tips and techniques I use in this article. A Complete Guide to Fly Fishing for Bluegills

How to Fish a Wet Fly

The most natural way to fish a Wet Fly that I have found is to first cast it upstream a far way. This is going to allow your fly to drift downstream in a way where the tip of the fly is facing the direction of the current. Fish pick up on this fact and along with it look more natural, fish love to come up behind a fly like this before they strike.

At the point where your fly is beginning to cross where you are standing you can let your fly drift a little bit farther as long as you’ve got some slack in the line but after that I would recommend reeling in and recasting. This is simply because fish will be less likely to strike at a fly who looks like they are swimming upstream.

What is the Best Wet Fly?

green caddis wet fly
green caddis wet fly

As with any type of fly there is no single BEST fly when it comes to Wet Flies. The best fly is the one that the fish strikes at. Your main goal when choosing which Wet Fly to use should be to match which flies are hatching right now. Specifically, which flies amongst those who hatch underwater are hatching right now. That being said there are some classic Wet Flies which I would recommend always having with you.

  • The Caddis Wet Fly, being one of the most common trout foods having one of these is a must have for any of my fly boxes.
  • A Frenchie, these seem to be a favorite amongst the fish near me and for whatever the reason I am grateful. They resemble many flies and with their color triggering head, they are a must have for any trip I go on.
  • Cannon’s Worm (RED), having a Wet Fly that imitates a worm may be a turn off for many Fly-Fishers but if you set pride aside, a simple worm can catch a fish pretty much anywhere in the world and I know they have helped me with more than a few catches.
  • Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear, this is a classic fly and is meant to resemble the common mayfly, The gold color trigger and rabbit fur attached simply seem to make fish want to strike.

I have written a HUGE article on my favorite flies used for catching brown trout. Read it Here: 13 Favorite Flies for Catching Brown Trout

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