What Is the Difference Between Wet and Dry Flies

Difference Between Wet and Dry Flies

I was enjoying some breakfast with my Grandson the other day. We were talking about how much we enjoy fly fishing. The conversation turned towards different types of flies and he asked me:

difference between wet and dry flies

What is the difference between wet and dry flies?

  • The biggest difference between wet and dry flies is the size of the flies. Wet flies normally run from a size 10 and larger. Dry flies typically run from a 12 and smaller.

Dry Flies

difference between wet and dry flies

The dry flies are designed to float or be buoyant or land softly on the surface of the water. Dry flies typically represent the grown-up form of an aquatic or terrestrial insect.

Dry flies are generally considered to be freshwater flies because they don’t have many bug hatches on saltwater.

If you are new to fly fishing, then choosing the right fly or bait as some might call it, might prove to be a lot harder than you think.

There are mainly two types of flies used in fly fishing, they are wet and dry flies.

Knowing the difference between the two might help you in making your first fishing experience more enjoyable.

Wet and dry flies are flies that are used for fly fishing. Most fly fishermen agree that your success in getting a lot of fish can depend on the type of fly that you are using and the technique that you are using.

While these two types of flies both resemble insects (in varying stages of their life), there is a slight difference in how they are used for catching fish.

Wet Flies

difference between wet and dry flies

Wet flies are the types of flies that resemble insects (includes the insect’s nymph stage and the like) beneath the water’s surface.

These flies normally go with the current and act as if they were drowned insects that fell in the water. Some flies are even designed to sink all the way to the bottom or as far as the line can permit them.

Of course, there are some things that you can do to make them more enticing to ensure that the fish will be impressed enough to take it.

Because wet flies are designed to go beneath the water’s surface, these fly patterns often incorporate some sort of weight.

The added sinking weight of these flies is achieved with lead or copper wire, bead heads, and lots of water-absorbent fly tying materials.

The larger, heavier-gauge wire hooks also help to keep these flies in the subsurface after a cast.

What size hook?

Normally wet flies typically use size 10 gauge and lower size hooks. The way that the hook size is figured is smaller is bigger.

So size 8 is bigger than a 10 and 6 is larger than an 8 and so on. The shank of the hook is of the normal size, but they use a lot of long shank hooks also for the streamer nymph and leech patterns.

They will also use bead heads and other items to help make them heavier to go to lower depths.

Wet Fly Fishing Materials

The use of long, stringy, wispy, or other shaggy looking fly tying materials in wet flies is a necessary element to be effective.

The shaggier or bulkier dubbing fibers and longer hackle collars are common in many wet flies to help them move the water with lots of animated movement.

Some classic wet fly patterns are Leadwing Coachman, the Wooly Worm, the Grizzly King, and the Blue Bottle.

The classic wet flies are easily recognized by their married wings and long webby hackles and tails.

Wet flies can be brightly colored creations designed to grab a predator’s attention or provoke aggressive action, or they can be fashioned from drab, subdued, or different realistic-looking materials.

Dry Flies

Most dry flies are designed to float or land softly on the surface of the water. Dry flies typically try to represent the adult form of an aquatic or terrestrial insect.

The dry flies are considered to be freshwater flies because there are not too many bugs in most saltwater areas.

The art of dry fly fishing takes a floating line along with a tapered leader and make sure the tapered leader is tied to a fly.

These flies are usually tied on smaller size hooks from a size 12 to a size 20 which is very tiny.

Some of the more well-known flies are the Parachute Adams, the Elk Hair Caddis, Mayfly or the Royal Wulff.

Some of the basic materials besides the leaders and lines are the thread, feathers of chickens, Mallard wings, pheasant, peacock, marabou, dubbing, and fur.

You don’t want to forget some flotant there are several varieties to help keep your flies floating.

Dry flies are flies that resemble insects “floating in the water” or have just fallen on the water’s surface. Anglers, who use these types of flies, often choose the season in which insects are plentiful.

These flies are sometimes oiled or use feathers or hair to make them float. Anglers say that this fly is challenging and requires a certain amount of skill to make it appear more realistic.

Seasons for Wet and Dry Flies

Most anglers choose their flies depending on the season, weather, and location of where they are going to fish. Even if it’s a small river or lake, the flies you use will increase your chances of catching a fish.

Looking at the water’s surface can also help you understand the current feeding habits of fish in the area. If you don’t see fish feeding on the surface of the water, then that means they are feeding underwater.

In this case, it is best using a wet fly to give you an advantage. Some wet fly fishers use multiple flies on their lines to increase the chances of luring fish.

Fly fishing in the rain has been some of the best fishing I’ve ever done. Don’t forget to dress appropriately so you can fully enjoy yourself.

If the fish are feeding on the water’s surface, then using a dry fly will work in your favor perfectly.

While these two flies are normally fished separately, there are some anglers who use them at the same time. This is kind of an interesting form of fly fishing. 


Because no matter what type of fish is out there, they are bound to take it sooner or later. That is if the fly is good enough to make them bite.

Now you know the difference between wet and dry fishing. All you have to do is decide if you are going to be mostly dry fly fishing or wet fly fishing.

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