In contrast to the dry fly which is intended to simulate an insect floating or alighting on the water, the wet fly represents some small insect or creature living and moving actively below the surface.

The dry fly usually represents the winged fly only, but a wet fly may represent the insect at any stage of development except the egg. It may imitate a halfdrowned winged fly or even the critical transition stage when the pupal nymph is struggling to hatch into the adult stage and break through to the surface. It can also represent the free swimming or crawling larva, or the partially developed nymph darting among the lower layers or ascending towards the surface. Other creatures simulated by many wet fly dressings include water spiders, shrimps, snails, beetles, and fish fry.

Difference between wet and dry fly

The fundamental difference of function between wet and dryflies is in the manner of tying and in the softer, more absorbent, materials used for wet flies. Wet flies must sink, and generally fairly quickly. Soft, easily wetted hen hackles or the larger, softer, cock hackles are used, both to provide a clean entry and to give a semblance of limb movement when the fly responds to the vagaries of the current, or when it is retrieved. If the fly is winged, the wings are tied sloping rearwards, almost horizontally over the hook shank. This also assists entry and streamlines the fly in the water.

Swift sinking is essential for those flies intended for deep fishing. In this event the body is weighted with lead or copper wire to get the fly down quickly to the right depth.

Traditional wet flies

Traditional wet flies very often tend to fall into the ‘attractor’ category, bearing no close resemblance to anything in nature. Nevertheless, there are others that imitate, either in colour or shape, living creatures such as small fry or the pupal or lorval forms of insects.

Of the vast range of lures now available, some are designed to resemble small fry of all manner of species, while others merely suggest small fish by their outline and the way that they move in the water when retrieved correctly. It is probable, however, that the majority are neither shaped nor coloured like small fish or fry, and succeed in catching trout by the attractor principle.

The traditional version of wet fly fishing involves the use of a team of three flies, although in times past there are records of anglers using a dozen or more patterns at the same time. A modern wet fly leader has one fly attached to the end of the leader: this is the ‘point’ fly, and more often than not is a dressing tied to simulate a nymph or bug. Perhaps a yard above the point fly there is a ‘dropper’, a loose length of nylon projecting from the leader to which the second fly, also called a dropper, is attached. This often tends to be an attractor pattern, like a Bloody Butcher, which some anglers believe to be recognized by the trout as a tiny minnow or stickleback.

The bobber

A yard or so above the dropper is another dropper, to which the ‘bob’ fly is tied. This usually tends to be a biggish, bushy dressing, such as a Zulu or a Palmer, which bounces across the surface of the water when retrieved and is often snapped up by a roving trout.