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The Ways Things Should Be - Part 2

By The Fly Fish Ohio Curmudgeon-in-Residence

The opinions of the Fly Fish Ohio Curmudgeon do not reflect the position of the Fly Fish Ohio web site or team.  These are the ramblings of a so-far unidentified feather flinger who occasionally slips an article under the door jam when we're not looking.

"I have opinions of my own -- strong opinions -- but I don't always agree with them."
George Bush (1924 - )



Thoughts About Wet Fly “Purists”


One thing (among many) that burns my butt, is the way some fly fisherman react when I say that I prefer to fish dry flies whenever possible. They invariably have a condescending attitude and start throwing out terms like “dry fly purist”. I therefore, think it appropriate at this time to explain to these ill bred dogs the meaning of the term “dry fly purist”. It was first described in this country by Emlyn M Gill in an article he wrote for Field and Stream in 1911 (a year before the first American book on dry fly fishing was published).


“The dry fly “purist,” as he is known, casts his fly only when he sees a trout rising; he “stalks” the stream; if he sees a rise, he goes within casting distance of the spot, carefully places his fly so that it falls exactly where the trout had risen, or just above it, so that the fly will float down over the fish. If he does not get a rise, it is not incompatible with his code of ethics to try a fly of a different pattern; if he finally gives up his attempt to catch this particular fish, he again “stalks” the stream, but does not make another cast until he again sees a rise. If no rises occur within his vision during the day, he does not fish.”


Does this sound like anyone you know? Ever meet a guy like this on the local bluegill pond? Of course not! At least you’ve never met one on this side of the big pond. Having been subjected to this kind of verbal abuse (or compliment) many times, I have drawn a few conclusions regarding this strange behavior displayed by these wet fly flinging knuckle heads. They always seem to get defensive as evidenced by their need to repeat all the wet fly fisherman’s mantras, such as “70% of a trout’s diet is subsurface”, “trout only feed on the surface for an hour or so a day”, “I like to feel an occasional tug on the end of my line”, and my favorite, “nymph fishing is more difficult than dry fly fishing anyway”. It’s not as though my preference for dry flies was stated in some threatening way, but these clowns seem to take it as a threat. I have therefore concluded  that these wet fly “purists” are attempting to cover up the fact that in spite of having been fly fishing for years, have not acquired the basic skill set that used to be part of the fly fishing learning process. I am amazed at how many so called fly fishermen only know how to tie on a nymph, fling it upstream, and watch the “bobber”. Cane pole fishing with a bobber in a farm pond was fun when we were kids, but it’s time to grow up! In my honest desire to help these misguided souls better understand the error of their ways, I have summarized what is good and pure about fly fishing in the table that follows.


                 Dry Fly Fishing                                                             Wet Fly Fishing


Dry fly fishing is “far and fine”. Leaders are long and fine and the delicate flies must settle gently to the surface. Fly casting under these conditions is a joy.

To be successful you must learn to read the water, determine the best casting position, make an accurate cast, and properly mend the line to get a drag free float.


Wet fly fishing is “close and coarse”. One “flings” the weighted wet fly which alights on the water with a resounding “kerplunk”! This can be hazardous to your fly rod and the back of your skull!



Knowledge of stream entomology is a must. You must be able to identify the hatches and match the fly in size and pattern.


Tie on a pretty one and fling it!


Dry flies are delicate and beautiful. Tying them is in itself very satisfying.


Wet flies are heavy and intentionally crude.


Dry fly fishing is very visual. The thrill of getting everything right and having a trout smash your fly is exhilarating and never forgotten.


Get a glass bottomed bucket if you want visual

The sport of dry fly fishing is open ended. You can make it as easy or as complicated as you wish, but you will never run out of things to learn.


Not much to learn, hence the appeal.


Dry fly fishing (especially for big or wild fish) is not easy. To quote James R Babb, “fly fishing is supposed to be full of difficult uncertainties; otherwise it would not hold an intelligent person’s interest”.


Nymph fishing was difficult in years past, but “bobbers” have changed all that. (see Babb quote).


Dry fly fishing is best when it’s most pleasant to be on the stream (mid afternoon in early and late season and dusk in the heat of summer).


Like “mad dogs and Englishmen” you can go out and fish in the noon day sun!


It is fun.


Wet fly fishing is more fun than going to the dentist.



For those wet fly fisherman who don’t get it and were not offended by my comments, let me try again! What part of the word “fly” (as in fly fishing) don’t you people understand? I’m sure you remember from high school biology class that flies are insects with wings that can fly (hence the name)! Has anyone out there ever seen a nymph or baitfish fly? Then stop referring to flinging wet flies with a fly rod “fly fishing”! How about calling it nymph fishing or streamer fishing, or fly rod spin fishing? I am really trying to help here. Think about it. You only get a finite number of days on the water in one lifetime, so why don’t you start making them count? To quote John Gierach, “a 12- inch trout caught on a dry fly is 4 inches longer than a 12- inch trout caught on a nymph or streamer”.

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