Big Ed’s Fishing Ventures Glossary of Fly Fisherman’s Lingo

There are a lot of terms and slang associated with fly fishing, and these can often be confusing to the newcomer. While we can’t cover every term, we can offer up a quick rundown on some of the more popular language that an angler can encounter. So when you join us for your next fly fishing adventure in Summit County, you’ll be armed with all the fishy lingo you can handle!

Break Off

This is when the fisherman’s line snaps unexpectedly, which can be caused by an undersized tippet, worn leader, or a knot that was tied poorly. The result is the sad realization that the fish has escaped.


Casting is the motion a fisherman makes when they collectively “throw” a fly rod, reel, and line. There are different types of casting that a fly fisherman can use, such as the Back Cast, Overhead Cast, River Load Cast, Roll Cast, and Water Tension Cast.

Catch and Release

This is a practice used by fly fishermen for conservation purposes. The goal is to release the fish after being caught, which is done by first fighting the fish quickly so as to not tire them out. After the fish has been gently landed and the hook removed, they are then returned to the water.

Covering (or Delivery)

These terms are used to describe the fisherman’s action of casting the fly to a fish or into a promising area of water.

False Cast

A false cast is a standard fly fishing cast that is used to lengthen and shorten line, change direction, and to dry off the fly. This is done by moving the line backward and forward without letting it hit the ground or water.

Fish Ladder

This is a series of interconnected pools that are created up the side of a river obstruction, such as a dam, to allow fish to pass upstream.

Foam is Home

This term applies to foam bubbles or lines that show where currents are moving and where food collects. Many anglers believe that such places mark where fish are located.


A hatch is the stage in an insect’s life when it reaches maturity and leaves the water in order to mate. Many insects can reach this stage at the same time, causing a frenzy of activity, which then attracts the attention of trout, who will then feed upon the insects.


The headwater is the upper section of a river before the main tributaries join it. This location is often narrower, which makes fishing more difficult.

Indicator (also Strike Indicator)

The strike indicator is a floating device that is attached to the leader or end of the fly line that notifies the fisherman when the fish takes the bait by bobbing or moving. This device is most commonly used with nymph lures as they are used underwater.


A lie is an area in a river or lake where fish tend to congregate. The best lies are found away from the main current, offer some protection from predators, and/or provide an abundant source of food for the fish.

Match the Hatch

This term refers to the angler’s attempt to match an artificial fly to the natural food that the local fish are feeding upon. Fish often become picky in what they want to eat during a hatch as they often prefer to eat what is currently hatching.


Mending the line is a method used to achieve a drag-free float after the line is on the water. The fisherman uses a flip, or a number of flips. to create a horseshoe-shaped bow in the line. This can be used to slow the travel speed of a line going upstream or speed up the line if mended downstream. This allows the line to keep pace with the fly and allow the fly to ride the current in a natural way.


A pool is a pocket of a river or stream that has a slower current and deeper depth that helps protect the fish from predators. They can also give fish a respite from swimming against heavier currents, which is very important during spawning migrations.


This is a shallow, quickly moving section of water usually found at the head or tail of a pool. Riffles are a prime location for fishing as fish often congregate there to feed.


This is the act of a trout ascending to the water’s surface looking for something to eat. As trout normally feed underwater, this can be a fortuitous event.

Roll Cast

A roll cast is a main cast that is used to cast a line a short or medium range, usually 15 to 30 feet of line. This is done by a quick, powerful flick of the wrist and is often used when the fisherman does not have the room for a full overhead cast.


This is a place where water flows between two rocks or a rock and a bank, and this flow can range in speed from slow to fast. Trout can hold against the side of such rocks if there are several large rocks along one side of the run.


A seam is an area of a river where a slower and a faster current come together. This is an ideal location for trout as they will often stay in the slower current waiting for some food to come by in the faster current, at which time they will dart out and nab it. Seams are often found where an island splits the main current or where a couple of large rocks are diverting some of the main flow.


This is the action of a fisherman creeping up on a fish so as to not disturb it.

Stripping Line

An action wherein the angler retrieves their line by manually pulling it with their fingers instead of using the reel.


The tailwater is the downstream section of water found below a man-made dam. These are often prime fishing spots as that the water’s temperature stays consistently cool.