Dry Flies VS. Wet Flies: What’s the Difference?

Kristian Ole



Anglers use either wet or dry flies. Every fly type has a unique casting procedure and time. Today, let’s learn about dry flies vs. wet flies.

Fly fishing is a modern kind of fishing that uses light gear. If you’re getting started, you will be amazed to learn various terminologies and techniques of fly fishing.

Despite the challenge, fly fishing is fun if you know the types of flies to use for each specific fishing spot.

Luckily, fly fishing has unlimited options. When you come to flies, you will find a wide variety used to fish various fish species.

To summarize, fly fishing mimics certain insects that serve as fish food. The goal is to fool the fish to see them as the real prey.

Read on and learn the differences between dry flies vs. wet flies.

Dry Flies VS. Wet Flies

1.     Wet Flies

wet fly

Wet flies mimic the kind of insects that live under the water surface. Usually, eggs are laid at the bottom and hatch into nymphs. Then, nymphs transform into emergers.

All these kinds of flies are referred to as wet flies. Other types include crawfish, leeches, and other small fish.

When to Use Wet Flies

Wet flies are fished at the beginning of the hatch, up to emergers. You will notice fish settling at the bottom of the water while feeding on nymphs.

When emergers start to develop, you will see fish below the water surface with noses pointed up as they gobble the insects.

At this time, it’s wise to fish your wet flies that imitate the type of insects they are feeding on.

Wet Fly Fishing Gear

  • Rod and reel
  • Floating line
  • Leader and tippet
  • Flies
  • Weight – it helps in sinking the wet fly to the water’s bottom.

Why Are Wet Flies Effective in Fishing?

Wet flies are softer compared to dry flies. Secondly, they are easily reached by the fish since they are fished directly to their location. Most fish may be suspicious of coming up to the water surface. But you can easily trick them using wet flies.

2.     Dry Flies

three different dry flies

Dry flies imitate the adult flies that have transformed from emergers. They are much lighter and have a fluffier wing style.

Dry flies are insects that have found mates and fallen on the water surface after death. It’s easier to determine the type of dry fly to fish because they lay on the water surface hence easier to identify.

Examples of dry flies are stoneflies, caddis, and mayflies.

Related read: Learn how to fish your emerger flies

When to Use Dry Flies

When you notice the emergers turn to adults, you can fish your dry flies. The adult stage is when the insects find mates. On the other hand, spinners are insects that have already found a mate.

At this time, it’s wise to observe the insect’s activities and the fish behavior to determine the kind of flies to fish.

Dry Fly Fishing Gear

  • Rod and reel – 9 feet and 5- weight.
  • Floating line
  • Leader and tipper
  • Floatant- it helps the dry fly to float on the water surface.
  • Flies

Why Are Dry Flies Effective in Fishing?

Dry flies imitate adult insects that are high in protein that trout love. By seeing these large flies on the surface, trouts are tempted to move up and gobble them.

Related: How to properly store your flies

Dry Flies VS. Wet Flies Comparison Table

Wet and dry flies have unique benefits for fly fishing. To advance your fishing knowledge, study the comparison table below;

Wet flies Dry Flies
They are larger. They are fairly smaller in size.
They have mobile tails that help them to move under the water. They have substantial wings.
The eyes of the hook are usually downward pointed. The hook eyes are upward pointed.
They have weighted heads usually made of gold or lead metals. They are incredibly light.
They mimic insects developing or other creatures under the water surface. They mimic floating adult insects that are finding mates or have died.
The angling location is underneath the water surface. The angling location is on the water surface.
They are effective in all seasons of the year. They are effective during spring and summer.
They are made of heavier body material to sink in the water easily. They are made of buoyant materials like foam and animal hair.

Advantages of Wet Fly Fishing

  • They are easier to cast.
  • They are good for newbies since they tend to tempt trout at their hiding location.
  • 70% of trout food is underwater insects.
  • You can target deeper water bodies like lakes.
  • They are effective in nearly all water bodies.

Advantages of Dry Fly Fishing

  • Effective in adult imitation that tricks most fish.
  • Easy to observe and match with the actual food the trout are feeding on.
  • Easy to see fish coming up to gobble the dry flies.
  • Effective in nearly all water bodies.
  • Lightweight hence easier to cast.

Dry Flies VS. Wet Flies: Which Type is More Effective?

All types are effective in fly fishing. The most important thing to master as a newbie is the insect’s development cycle. Secondly, observe the fish behavior to determine how you should fish.

The insects’ development cycle goes as described below;

1.      Nymph

2.      Emerger

3.      Adult

4.      Spinners

Stages 1 and 2 are when fish are feeding under the water’s surface. You may be lucky if you choose to fish dry flies at these stages.

Additionally, observe the type of dry flies they are feeding on. Different types may bring suspicion.

At stages 3 and 4, you should fish dry flies. It’s easier to observe the water surface and determine the kind of dry fly to fish.

How Can You Tell Wet Flies From Dry?

Dry flies are lighter and have wings, while wet flies are heavier. Wet flies have a mobile tail instead of wings.

Is a Nymph a Wet or Dry Fly?

Nymphs are wet flies that mimic insects at the larvae stage. Larvae crawl at the water bottom.

What Does a Dry Fly Look Like?

Dry flies imitate adult flies that are finding mates. They are fully developed with wings, and they can defend themselves.

When it comes to dry flies vs. wet flies, every type is beneficial in fly fishing. Happy fishing!


About Kristian Ole

Kristian Ole Rørbye, a marine biologist and seasoned angler, shares his fishing adventures and expertise on FishingKris. Join him as he explores the world's waters, one cast at a time.

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