EFFA Glossary of Fly Fishing Terminology


A term to describe the flex of a fly rod. This is determined by how dense the graphite composite in the rod is. A fast-action rod feels stiff except near the top where it flexes, a medium action will flex in the middle and a slow rod flexes all the way to the cork grip.


Aerial Mends
The action the caster impacts to the fly line before it falls to the water.


Sometimes called line-stick or line grip. This is the fly, leader or fly or leader and a portion of fly line touching the water when forming the D-Loop. Proper anchor creates enough tension for the D loop to form and not jump out of the water.



The center of a fly reel where the line is held. Today’s reels are typically large arbor, which means they will pick up more line in a single turn, yet can hold as much line capacity as a traditional small arbor reel.


Attractor Fly

A fly that doesn’t imitate one particular insect, but “looks good to eat” to most fish based on its size, shape and color. Royal Wullfs are a perfect example of an “attractor fly.”


Back Cast
            The rearwards movement of the rod and line. The rod tip should travel in as straight a line (horizontal) 
            as possible in its rearward movements.

Back Eddy

Places in rivers where the effect of the bank’s contours makes the current turn and go back upstream in a circular motion. Lots of surface debris, foam, and insects collect in these areas. These are favorite homes for tricky trout.



Braided line that runs between the reel and the fly line. Backing fills out a reel, keeping the line near front, and more importantly gives anglers a way to fight fish that have pulled out all the fly line.



The dry ground that runs contingent to any body of water.



The raised piece of metal immediately behind the point of the hook. The barb makes it difficult for the fish to come unhooked but it can also damage the fish’s mouth. You can “pinch” the barb down by squeezing it with a pair of pliers and make the fly “barbless”.


The weighted portion of the fly line, that is found near the front of the line, behind the tapered section. It is the thickest section of a fly line.


Bottom Hand

The hand that holds the lower grip on two handed Rods



The end of a fly rod below the cork grip, or a thick piece of monofilament used to connect a leader to a fly line, thus keeping the fly line from being cut back when an attachment is necessary.


Casting Arc

The angle of the rod butt in relationship to start and finish of the stroke

Casting Stroke
            The length the rod butt travels from the start of the straight-line path to the stop.

Constant Tension

A straight or curved path movement that loads the rod through

continuous motion during the movements of the cast all the way through to the stop.



A casting fault that usually takes place between the back and forward casts, where the fly rod incorrectly “creeps” forward instead of remaining still. Actually, this is a slow movement of the rod tip opposite that of a still unrolling loop which shortens the available stroke length. This often results in a tailing loop. 

Caddis Flies

Moth like aquatic insects that are prey for trout. They may be identified by a pair of flat wings over their body and are often associated with low light periods. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, but most retain their “tent” shaped appearance.


Stands for the French words that mean “butt of the duck.” CDC feathers come from the rear end of the duck where the highly buoyant preen oil is discharged from a gland. In recent years fly tiers have found many creative uses for these feathers. CDC feathers are remarkably buoyant by themselves and should only be treated with a powdered form of floatant.


Chalk Stream

A term for a highly alkaline, gently flowing body of water, often associated with spring creeks.


Cripple Fly

An imitation of a stillborn or crippled insect during its transition from nymph to winged insect. Often the wings have emerged, yet the body remains captive in the nymphal shuck. They are then stuck in the water, unable to fly off and become easy meals for hungry trout.



A loop or belly of line formed under and behind the rod tip; this loop or belly of line assist in loading the rod.


Damsel Fly

Resembling a small Dragon Fly, damsels are a relatively large aquatic insect found in very slow moving and still waters. They are often bright blue as well as green and brown.


Dead Drift

The act of getting one’s fly to float down a current lane with no pulling effect of the line and leader. The artificial should float exactly like the natural: not too fast or slow and not pulling across current lines.


Double Handed Rod

A fly rod with an upper and lower cork grip, used with two hands. Also known as a Two Handed Rod.


Double Haul

Line hand’s „down-up“ motion technique; generates higher line speed and enables better line handling and controling the line during casting. A pull with the line hand on both forward and back strokes.


A fly-line design in which both ends of the line are tapered so that when one end wears out the angler may reverse the line on the reel and have anew section to work with. Double Tapers also have shorter tapers allowing for a more delicate and quieter presentation. They are effective for short casting situations often found on spring creeks.


Drag (Fly)

The unnatural movement of an artificial fly caused by the line pulling the fly across currents instead of naturally down a single current line. Drag often causes fish to reject an artificial fly.


Drag (Reel)

The mechanism inside a reel that slows the outgoing line when a fish runs. Drag can usually be adjusted with a knob or dial allowing anglers to keep steady pressure against a hard fighting fish without the line going slack or back lashing on the reel.



A substance, generally an oil, grease or powder that seals the fur and feathers of an artificial fly, allowing the fly to float for long periods of time.



The path of an artificial fly as it moves with the current. A good drift is normally drag free, while a bad drift means the fly is being influenced by the line.


Drift (back)

An advanced technique where the rod tip drifts back in the line of the back cast, to lengthen the forward stroke.


Dry Fly

An insect imitation representing the fully emerged winged insect sitting on the waters surface as it dries its wings.


The dun is the freshly emerged aquatic insect that will leave the water once its wings are dry and hardened.


Emerger Fly

An imitation of a nymph that is transitioning into a winged insect. This may take place anywhere or everywhere in the water column, depending on the type of insect. Fish key on specific stages of a bug’s life, and during a hatch situation the emerger becomes very important.


False Cast

Moving the rod back and forth a number of times while keeping the fly line in the air. The act of feeding line out while casting, or positioning the fly for the presentation. False casting also keeps dry flies dry. One false cast consists of a back cast and a forward cast. 


The thin membrane that is formed when water meets air. Insects concentrate just below, in, and on top of the film.



A shallow area in a stream, lake, or tidal water. Flats are usually mud, sand or turtle grass and may be exposed to the air at a low tide. They are favorite feeding areas of fish when water levels permit them access.



A grease or powder that may be applied to a dry fly to keep it floating. Grease is most often used as a sealant, while the powders are used to dry a fly after it’s been wet. Powders may also be used to float specific parts of flies for greater visibility.


Forward Cast
            The forward movement of the rod prior to the stop and pause.

Forward Spey

Another term for the Switch Cast.


Forward Stroke

The final rod stroke that fires the line out into the river.


Freestone Stream

A river or stream that flows unimpeded from its source which is snow melt or glacier runoff.


           The hand position on the rod. There are a number of ways to hold the cork/grip of the rod;  
           namely, index finger on top, thumb on top and the key or V grip (thumb and index finger opposite each
           other and to the side of the grip, you'll notice a V formed by the thumb and index finger).

Guides (Rod)

The fixed loops aligned along the length of a fly rod that the line passes through. The guide closest to the reel is the stripping guide and is often lined with a ceramic material to reduce wear on the line.



Feathers from the neck and back of a bird. Hackle may be dyed different colors and when wound onto a fly the hackle becomes the surface area on which a fly normally floats.



The emergence of any given group of aquatic insects from the water to the air. A hatch may last a few hours a day, but may go on for weeks, months or throughout the year. 



A tug on the fly line to increase its speed during the pickup, the back cast, or the forward cast. The speed translates to weight, thus loading the rod with more flex and propelling the line further and easier.


Hook Eye

The circle at the front of the hook where the line is attached.


Hook Shank

The long straight area of a hook. It is the longest part of the hook, from the eye to the beginning of the bend in the hook.


Horizontal Casting Plane
            Casting with a horizontal rod plane. Used for many different casting applications (i.e. casting under
            trees or sometimes dealing with wind).


The area of a lake, bay or the ocean where water enters from a source like a river or stream.


Intermediate (fly line)

The fly line with with very low sinking rate, enabling to sink just below water surface.


Jump Roll

 Another new term for the Switch Cast created in the UK.



The grub-like stage of an aquatic insect after being hatched from an egg.



The section of line between the fly and fly line. The leader is usualy tapered from a larger to a smaller diameter.


            The first movement in an Underhand Cast, a roll/spey or overhead cast. The lifting of the rod clears
            some of the line from the water and adds tension to the system.

Line Belly

The section of the fly line which is used to load the rod for casting, typically comprising of the thicker section of the fly line.


Loading the Rod
Is bending the rod, during certain phase of fly casting.


The loop of a fly line is found when casting and the line comes over the top of itself forming a big horizontal “U” in the air over the fly rod, eventually straightening to a perfect line. Loop formation starts in the moment when the rod tip is flipping backwards after it has reached the the end position of the forward stroke(bent down rod tip). Loops are described as open or closed. Open loops mean slow casts and delicate presentations, while closed loops mean a quick line and hard landing, but effective for casting under structure and against the wind.


Loop to Loop

A quick connection joining two sections of line together with two loops.




A fluffy type of feather that is very soft and undulates in the water, adding action to the fly.



Any of various fragile winged insects of the order Ephemeroptera that develop from aquatic nymphs and live in the adult stage no longer than a few days.



To manipulate the fly line in the water during a drift in order to make the fly act a certain way depending on what the angler is trying to accomplish with his or her artificial imitation.



aka; “Snow Flies.” Gnat like flies of the family Chironomidae. This family includes the mosquito and is often associated with the mosquitoes cold weather relatives that hatch in the winter months, but without the bight of their cousins.



Single-strand nylon fishing line used for fly leaders and tippet.


Narrow loop (Tight Loops)
              A loop in which the lines (legs) are close together and parallel, produced by an almost straight line path 
              of the rod tip.

Negative Curve Cast
             The action the caster imparts to the rod that directs a curve from right to left.


The stage of an aquatic insect life between hatching from the egg and shucking its armor as it emerges from the water to become an air born adult.


Nymph Fly

An artificial imitation of an aquatic insect underwater. It is normally fished on a dead drift with a strike indicator or on a tight line swing underwater.


Open Loop
            Sometimes called "no loop". The lines (legs) are widely separated. This is produced by   waving the rod
            so that the tip moves in an exaggerated convex path.


The stream or river draining a lake or pond often found opposite the inlet.


Overhead Cast

A straight-line cast that has an areialized back loop and front loop. It is a basic, simple and efficient cast.



The first stage of an overhead cast, when the fly line is lifted from the water to begin the back cast.


Pocket Water

Water in a river that is broken up by a large amount of rocks, boulders and other debris, forming small holding areas for fish. It is often associated with rapid sections of water and small streams.


Polarized Lenses

A type of lens for sunglasses that removes the glare from the water so the fisherman can see below the surface.



The main body of water in a river that slows and deepens between rapids or quick moving riffled water.



A fly usually made from foam or cork that floats on the surface and creates a “pop” when the angler strips the line in.


Power Application
            The graduated acceleration of the fly rod within the casting arc. A smooth application of power is most


The act of laying a line down on the water and presenting the fly to a fish or spot.



The stage in the life cycle of a caddis fly or midge between larva and adult, or the artificial that imitates the stage.



A stretch of stream where water flows quickly over boulders and small rocks. Often called white water.


Reach Cast

A cast performed by reaching the rod across one’s body or away from one’s body, effectively turning the direction of ones line. Reach casting is a way to mend the fly line before it hits the water.



The appearance of surface water as it runs over gravel and shallow spots. It is not quite whitewater but not flat water, either. Often pyramid shaped on the surface and sparkling.



A stretch of water in a river, estuary, or tidal channel made rough by waves meeting an opposing current.



The movement when a fish comes to the surface to take an insect.


River Left

The left side of the river, when looking downstream. The current would flow from right to left. Also known as the Left Bank.


River Right

The right side of the river, when looking downstream. The current would flow from left to right. Also known as the Right bank.


Rod Plane
            Orientation of the rod from vertical to horizontal on either side of the caster.

Roll Cast

One of so called water casts“, using the water’s resistance instead of a back cast to load the rod.  A cast with no back cast, no change of direction and limited distance. Used in tight places, to straighten slack line, or bring a sink tip to the surface. The way the roll casts are performed today is far different from the roll casts in the past. In fact if we go into physics they are no real roll casts any more because they use a totally different physical principle than the ancient roll and original spey cast.



An entire length of water in a river from the top of one rapid, to the top of the next rapid.


Running Line

The level, non tapered section of line found behind the belly and taper of a fly line. Too thin to cast with, it aids shooting line for distance.


Selective Feeding

Occurs when fish key in on a certain food source because of its abundance, rejecting other foods.


Shock Tippet

A heavy piece of monofilament or wire that is attached to the end of a leader on which the fly is tied to. A shock tippet protects the fly from breaking off in the mouth of fish with rough lips or teeth, yet allows an angler to fish leaders that can still taper and turn over properly when cast.


Shooting Head

A short, weighted section of fly line that is heavier than normal, allowing an angler to cast a long length of line with one good false cast. It was created first by the Swede Göran Andersson originator of the Underhand Cast. Underhand casts are performed with shooting heads.

Shooting Line

A thin, level line that attaches to shooting heads for distance. Can be either a hard nylon, or a thin, coated fly line.


Single Haul
            A pull with the line hand on either the forward or the back stroke.

Single Spey Cast

A classic change of direction cast that is performed with the upstream arm and used when there is no wind, or an upstream wind.


Sinking Tip

A fly line designed to sink below the surface at a specified rate to present the fly at a choosen depth.


Skagit Casting

A style of double hand casting that originated on the Pacific North West rivers. This style utilizes short, heavy shooting head lines and is particularly useful with heavy flies and sink tips, or in tight restricted back cast situations. The basis of the Skagit is the Underhand Cast.


Slack Line
           Unintended loose line under no tension between the rod tip and fly, or between the line hand and the rod
           guides. This should be kept to a minimum.

Slack line presentation
           Putting wiggles in the fly line to deal with the different water currents often used when presenting a dry

Snake Roll

A change of direction cast with no back cast. This cast is performed with the downstream arm and used when there is no wind, or a downstream wind. This cast originated by Simon Gawesworth is a faster change of direction cast than the Double Spey.


Snap T

A change of direction cast with no back cast. This cast is performed with the upstream arm and used when there is no wind, or an upstream wind. This cast uses and aggressive, vertical straight line path snap at the start of the cast. It was created by Günter Feuerstein. The name was given by Canadiens.


Snap Z (or aerial Snap T)

A change of direction cast with no back cast originated by Günter Feuerstein. This cast is performed with the upstream arm and used when there is no wind, or an upstream wind. This cast uses and aggressive, angled straight line path snap at the start of the cast.



An aquatic insect that has died after spinning and whose wings have gone flat on the water.


Spey Casting

A form of casting with double handed or single handed rods that has no back cast. A loop is formed underneath the rod tip on the back stroke that connects the rod tip to the water. Usually involving a change of direction. The way the cast is performed today is much different from and uses a totaly different physical principle as the original spey cast. What is called Spey Casting today is more a hybrid technique that can be better just describen as long line fly casting technique for double hand rods. Todays Speycasting uses more and more elements of the Underhand Casts but is misleadingly still called Spey Casting.


Spey Fishing

A style of fishing with a special two handed spey rod –utilizing the length of the rod to precisely control the fly's swing.


Spey Line

A fly line designed for spey casting with a two handed rod. Usually with a longer belly than a standard weight forward, a long front taper and more weight than the equivalent regular fly line. Original spey lines were DT lines.


Spey Rod

A fly rod used for spey casting – usually a two handed rod. With original spey rods overhead casts and
            shooting of line were both not possible. Today the name spey rod is only used for marketing reasons.



The position of the caster in relation to how the feet are positioned.


Spinner Fall

Takes place when the insects return to the water. The insects mate in the air, lay their eggs in, on, or above the water; and die shortly thereafter.


Spring Creek

A stream fed by a subterranean water source.



Any of numerous weak-flying insects of the order Plecoptera, whose flat, elongated nymphs live under stones along the banks of streams.



The movement of the rod butt momentarily stops, forcing the rod tip to turnover, transferring the energy
            of the bent rod to the line, forming the forward loop.



A style of subsurface fly designed to imitate a small fish, leech, or eel.


Strike Indicator

A piece of buoyant material attached to the leader that bobs or hesitates in the current to indicate that a fish has taken a subsurface fly.



Retrieving  the fly by pulling the line back in short strokes.


Stroke Length
            The distance the rod tip travels within a given casting arc.

Switch Cast

A more advanced form of the Roll cast. No back cast, no change of direction but great distances possible. Also known as the Forward Spey and Jump Roll.



A river or stream that flows out from a dam. Tailwaters are very good fisheries as the water is released from the bottom of the reservoir, keeping the temperatures cool and consistent all season long.


Tailing Loop

A loop shape where the top part of the loop crosses path with the bottom part of the loop in the same plane. Caused by a concave rod tip path. This happens when the tip travels in a concave path (could possibly cause knot's in your leader).



The back end of the run before the water pours into the next downstream rapid. A usually calmer section of water where fish go to eat on smaller, hard-to-see insects.



The narrowing of a rod, line, or leader.



Land based insects that occasionally fall into the water and become prey for fish, such as grasshoppers, bees, ants and beetles.



The length of time of each movement of the cast as well as the ability to see each casting movement, and an understanding of when to make the next movement, i.e. casting stroke from front to back.



Spools of monofilament with certain and precise diameters; designated as an X, such as 5Xor 6X tippet. Tippets are used to build leaders per specific angling situations, allowing anglers to quickly change the diameter of the line where it meets the fly.

TLT (Technica di Lancio Totale)

An Italian fly casting technique created by the Italian EFFA master flycasting instructor Roberto Pragliola. The TLT technique is a superb and unique dry fly technique that allows presentations under bushes and other obstacles in a perfect way. The line is fired like a bullet. This requires very special tackle. Because of the high speed of the cast it is not possible to cast a nymph with it except a very light and small one.


The path of the rod tip as it travels through the entire cast, from start to finish.


Trailing Shuck

The nymphal shuck that is still attached to the back end of an aquatic insect as it attempts to wiggle free from it into a fully emerged dun. Cripple flies may never shed the trailing shuck, and it is not uncommon for fish to key in on this.


Underhand Technique

A modern technique of double hand casting that utilizes shooting heads, long leaders and fast action rods. Most of the rod moves are made with the lower hand. Developed and popularized by Sweden's Göran Andersson is the cast known as the most useful and versatile one of all double hand casts.

           Same as the D-Loop with a more dynamic pointed or wedge shaped belly or loop.

Vertical Casting Plane
           Casting with a vertical rod plane. Most desired when casting directly over-head. 

Weight Forward

A fly-line design in which the heaviest portion of the line is very close to the tip and elongated for casting longer distances.


Wet Fly

An artificial fly designed to sink and to simulate aquatic life below the water. Most wet flies are the “attractor patterns” of the subsurface variety.


Wide Loop 
            A loop in which the lines (legs) are wide apart, produced by a convex rod tip path. Note : This is less
            efficient, but is sometimes chosen for specialty casts; such as, those sometimes used for casting
            weighted flies or streamers with sinking tips

Wind Knot

A knot in the leader or line caused by a fault in casting.