A brief overview of the differences between Dry Flies and Nymphs

As a fly fisherman, one of the most important decisions you'll make on the water is which type of fly to use. Two of the most popular types of flies are dry flies and nymphs. While both can be effective in the right circumstances, knowing when to use each one can make all the difference in your success on the water.

Dry Flies

A dry fly is a fly that sits on the surface of the water, imitating an insect that has landed there. Dry flies are typically made to resemble mayflies, caddisflies, or stoneflies, which are commonly found on the surface of the water. They are usually made from materials that float well, such as deer hair or foam.

When to use a dry fly:

  1. When fish are rising: If you see fish rising to the surface to feed, a dry fly is a great choice. Fish will often take a fly that is floating on the surface, thinking it is a real insect.
  1. In calm water: Dry flies are great for fishing in calm water, as they are more visible to the fish and the angler.
  1. In clear water: In clear water, fish can see a dry fly from a long distance. This can be advantageous when fishing for wary fish.


A nymph is a fly that imitates the immature stage of an insect, typically a mayfly, stonefly, or caddisfly. Nymphs are typically fished below the surface of the water, as that is where the insects are found. They are typically made from materials that sink well, such as feathers and fur.

When to use a nymph:

  1. In fast water: In fast-moving water, nymphs are a great choice. The current will carry the fly down to where the fish are feeding.
  1. In murky water: In murky water, fish may have a hard time seeing a dry fly. Nymphs are a great choice, as they are fished below the surface where the water is clearer.
  1. When fish are not rising: If you don't see fish rising to the surface, it's a good indication that they are not feeding on insects on the surface. In this case, a nymph is a great choice, as it imitates the insects that are found below the surface.
In conclusion, both dry flies and nymphs have their place in fly fishing. Knowing when to use each one can make all the difference in your success on the water. If fish are rising, a dry fly is a great choice. If they are not rising, or if the water is murky or fast-moving, a nymph may be the better choice. Pay attention to the conditions of the water, and adjust your fly selection accordingly. Happy fishing!

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