The traditional method of wet fly fishing nymphs on rivers seems to have been largely forgotten by the majority of anglers with the popularity of techniques such as French / Euro fly fishing in lakes take over in recent years.

Although we must confess that in many cases, fishing wet flies on a lake has taken a back seat for me, we know from past experience that more modern methods can still out-fish, and therefore it is still worth carrying a variety of spider patterns at all times.

Upon reflection, wet fly fishing on a lake has been remarkably productive for you in the past, it played a vital role in some of my fishing success in competition, and we recall using the technique in winning sessions in several national and international championships.

We can recall wet fly fishing casts on rivers working exceptionally well at many international venues during the World and European Championships. This technique has also travelled well.  This included circumstances as varied as the Scandinavian grayling, the New Zealand wild rainbows and even the Slovak chub!

Types of nymphs

Nymphs fly fishing come in a variety of types and designs, much like dry flies. Nymphs are technically a form of a wet fly. In general, the term wet fly refers to any fly trapped under the surface of the water. That said many anglers use "wet fly" explicitly to refer to typical wet winged flies, which are typically swung, and up to ten at a time have traditionally been fished.

While technically wet flies fly tying nymphs refer to subsurface flies that explicitly resemble insects or crustaceans, typically have no wings such as typical wet flies, and often have added weight beads. While it's not an exact science to categorise nymphs, there are many notable forms, styles, and characteristics used to distinguish them. Here are a couple of the more important ones.

Non-bead head nymphs

Some of the simplest ones out there are nymphs without beads and can be very powerful. Non-bead head flies could be the way to go in heavily-pressured areas where fish are wary of flashy stuff.

Beadhead nymphs

The bead head nymph is one of the most commonly-fished types. These nymphs have, as their name suggests, a bead near the eye of the hook. It makes them heavier. While an angler can add weight to the split shot line, it is typically more convenient, effective, and easier to cast to have the weight integrated into the fly.

Euro nymphs

In general, Euro nymphs refer to a group of very heavily weighted bead head nymphs that ride underwater "upside down." These flies are gaining more and more popularity because getting down in the water column quickly is necessary for nymphing.

Emergers and soft hackles

These two types, often grouped separately from other nymphs, are very productive and worth noting. Emergers represent fragile insects that are progressing to the next life cycle stage on their way to the surface. This weakness is taken full advantage of by trout fishing with nymphs.

Emergers, far higher than other nymphs, are fished right below the surface or suspended in the video. Soft hackles often imitate emerging insects, and while they can be drifted dead, they are usually swung to entice hungry trout in the current.

Ways of nymph fly fishing


Swinging is a classic technique, and soft hackle flies are also used. This strategy involves casting out into a current and allowing the line to pull close, causing the angler to "swing" down and across the fly. Swinging is one of the easiest ways to thoroughly cover a sprint, as no area untouched is left by the wide arc of the fly as you take steps downstream.


It is possible to strip fly trying nymphs in rivers, but more frequently they are stripped by Stillwater. Since most aquatic insects are unable to battle a river's flow sufficiently to purposely travel through a channel, stripping nymphs in flowing water may look unnatural. In a pond or lake, though, a quickly-stripped nymph may provoke violent strikes from cruising fish.

When should you Fish Wet Flies?

Wet flies can operate at any time of the year, but they are most common early in the season, where they can be used to mimic hatching nymphs and patterns that can be deadly, such as Greenwell's spiders, Waterhen Bloa and March Brown imitations. Early in the season, wet flies are as productive as they allow the angler to cover lots of water and also effectively fish the slower glides were at this time of year the fish prefer to hold.

During the summer, as the fish migrate into the faster water, anglers migrate over to tungsten nymph patterns and forget that wet flies can still be used effectively in the slower glides or when fish take food items drifting only underground.

In some of the slower glides, we had some excellent success with small wet flies in the summer; they also allow the angler to cast a relatively long line and as a result, did not spook fish in slow water where nervous fish can easily detect any disturbances. Anglers are typically restricted to either dry or streamer fishing in this slow water, using wet flies to open areas where fish can be taken on subsurface patterns at the range.

Fishing Wet Flies/Spiders

Wet fly fishing on rivers is one of the few strategies that can be effective both up and downstream fishing, the choice is to fish them upstream on smaller rivers, either directly up or 'up and across' the creek. Takes are marked by watching either a swirl as the fly is taken or some unnatural fly line tip movement.

For this reason, treating the tip of the fly line with a floating gel or grease is necessary to help identify takes, while recasting, a high floating line can also be raised smoothly from the water.

In a general view, wet flies really come into their own in the slower glides on larger rivers, and the angler can cast too hard to reach places in these areas and avoid getting too close to the fish while still imitating food items drifting in the column of water.

Depending on how quick and deep we want my flies to fish in these places, we like to cast across or 'across and down' at different angles to the current. Generally, due to the drag of the current on the fly line, the more the cast is angled downstream, the quicker the flies can fish.

It is also appropriate to 'mend' the fly line when fishing wet flies on rivers. In order to shift the belly of the line and change the drift of the flies, this includes using the rod tip. Mends are normally upstream to decrease drag and allow the flies to fish with the current slower and more naturally. However, you can also use downstream mends to increase the velocity and drag on the flies. Although this is not a standard technique, it can be helpful.

Hopefully, this blog has provided an overview of an often-forgotten method, and we know that fishing spiders can be extremely efficient in many situations from past experience and it may just give us another way to complement modern nymphing tactics and encourage us to catch a few extra fish from certain river areas!

The Technique – Wet Fly Swing

The swing of a wet fly is just what it sounds like. In a very methodical way, swing your fly over the water to cover all the water. This is a very productive technique if you don't know where the fish are in a sprint.

The Steps to A Run Cover

  • Start by first covering the water right in front of you. (Note: Several newbie’s moves right on and overfish on broad rivers going out into deeper water).
  • For each cast, at about a 45-degree angle, make it out and downstream and through.
  • Most of the time, you would want to make mend in the line to reduce the line speed and drag after we make your cast downstream and through. The trick to the game is to monitor the speed of the fly, so make sure to use mending to ensure that your fly naturally appears to the fish.
  • Keep a tight line on the fly as it swings after making your mend so that we feel some contact from a fish.
  • The fly line swings and flies down below after the current swings, making sure you let the fly dangle for a few seconds. Fish will take the fly or hand down on this dangle, so be alert.
  • After a few seconds of hanging, take a step or two downstream, pick up the line at a 45-degree angle and make a similar cast out.
  • Until we finish the sprint, repeat these steps.

Fly patterns for swingers

We most frequently try to reassure the trout when using this technique that the fly is an insect swimming or floating up from the bottom of the stream to the surface where it will turn into its winged dry-fly shape.

Flies are called 'Emergers' in this phase of their life-cycle. Emergers, along with nymphs living on the bottom, form the vast majority of trout food-the smallest component of the intake of trout food is dry flies.

Due to the way they feed on Emergers, it is always possible to assume that there is no trout in the stretch of water you are fishing because you have not had any luck with nymphing or dry-fly fishing. But in mid-water, the trout are happily eating away, and you are fishing over or under them.

Wee Wets

Originating in Scotland, hence the word "wee" means small or small, wee wets are intended to mimic or closely approximate the appearance of insects. Of all the wet flies, these flies are the most traditional-but they still account for many trout.


'Flymph' is the word 'invented' to describe a soft hackle-tied nymph. The soft hackle’s movement can imitate the legs or wings of an Emerger fly pattern. The soft hackle is now dispensed with by several fly levels, and thin rubber legs are used to make the fly 'normal' movement. Flymphs, as for Tenkara flies, can also be tied with the hackles curved forward (see next paragraph). There's very little difference between a wet fly and a Flymp, to my mind, and we believe a trout mind.

Spider and Tenkara flies

Spider flies are very old patterns, like wee wet flies, but originated in the north of England. The word 'Spider' is not because the pattern in the water is meant to resemble a spider, but to identify it when it is dry and out of the water.

Good Spiders are very sparsely bound, and the long hackles are intended to resemble a nymph's legs breaking out as the Emerger heads for the surface. They were, and continue to be, very successful, despite the anorexic look of Spider flies. Tenkara is a method of fishing which originated many hundreds of years ago in Japan.

Among the Tenkara flies is somewhere the hackle is attached so that, as seen on the vast majority of 'western' flies, the feather curves forward not back. As the fly moves in the water, this technique of tying in the hackle seems to me to have even more animation. We now tie most of my wet hackled flies, nymphs included, with the hackle curved forward.

Butchered and drowned Dry Flies

If a person is caught with no wet flies, successful replacements can be made by attacking some of our dry flies. Hack your wings off, or leave a wing stub, and use it like any wet fly. Or in the leader-sink, soak a dry fly and fish it again like any wet fly.


Drowning a terrestrial fly like a hopper, beetle, moth or cicada will do the trick occasionally. This can be particularly successful if we know or believe, that small emergers are feeding on the trout, like placing a large steak on a table with little nibbles surrounded by plates.


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