The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing in Colorado: Part 1, The Lingo

Colorado is a beautiful state and one full of fantastic fishing opportunities. It includes thousands of miles of rivers and streams, and seemingly endless lakes. The Centennial State is also home to one of the largest and most important waterways in the United States, the mighty Colorado River, which cuts through the Grand Canyon. Since Colorado is a favorite for outdoor recreation and features so many water sources, it’s not surprising to note that fly fishing is very popular. Interested in learning about this special pastime? Keep reading to learn about common fly fishing terms!

The Lingo

Before we get to the best spots for fly fishing and other necessary information, let’s discuss fly fishing lingo. Familiarizing yourself with the following terms now will be incredibly helpful when you’re out on the water:

  • Angler: A person who catches fish on an angle by using a hook on the end of a line is an angler.
  • Break Off: This term refers to a situation when your line snaps and your prize (AKA the fish) gets away.
  • Foam Is Home: Foam lines or bubbles in the river indicate where currents are moving and food is collecting. Fish are thought to congregate around foamy areas.
  • False Cast: False cast utilizes numerous backwards and forward casts without allowing the line to hit the water or the ground. It is used to change the line’s direction, elongate the line or dry your fly.
  • Headwater: The upper sections of a river where waters begin before melding with tributaries, headwaters usually feature faster flow and are quite narrow. Headwaters can afford more intermediate to advanced anglers very good fishing opportunities due to the more technical nature of the river.
  • Pool: A pool is a “pocket” of slow-moving, deep water. Fish frequently hide in pools to rest or hide from predators. A pool will have three distinct sections: 1) the Head, where water moves faster into the pool is often where fish go when there is warmer water for more oxygen or during a feverous feeding like during a Caddis hatch, 2) the Body of the pools refers to the slower deeper area of water that fish will congregate in during non feeding/resting or winter time, 3) the Tail of a pool is usually a  shallower area where water begins to pick up speed again, fish are usually in a feeding mode on Mayflies or midges at the tail of the pool.
  • Seam: An area featuring two merging currents, one of which is slow. The seam is where fish often move from the slow water to the fast water to find food.
  • Tailwater: A cool section of water right below a dam is called tailwater. Tailwaters are often bottom releases, water temperature and food supply are usually very constant thus allowing trout to grow at much faster rates the in a Freestone river.  Most all state record trout are caught in Tailwaters.
  • Riffle: A shallow, fast-moving area of water where fish gather to feed is a riffle. Riffles are also usually colder water that has a higher oxygen content.  During the warmer part of midsummer days trout will hold in Riffles.
  • Back Cast: The back cast refers to a situation in which the rod and line are behind you. The back-and-forth motion used in fly fishing makes it possible to place the line where you want.
  • Beadhead: A style of fly, beadheads feature beads immediately behind the hook eye to help the fly sink.  The beadhead adds weight to the fly.
  • Fly: The fly is the actual imitation of an aquatic or terrestrial (Ant, Beetle or Grasshopper) insect that the flyfisher uses to catch fish.  The fly is often a realistic looking  pattern that is representative of the actual bugs that the trout eat.  A fly is usually some feathers, foam, thread and other man-made or natural materials tied on a hook.
  • Nymph: A Nymph refers to the type of fly that represents the immature stage of the insect life cycle.  The Nymph almost always lives below the surface of the water.  Nymphs are extremely important in that they make up a majority of a trout’s diet.
  • Emerger:  Is the life cycle stage of an aquatic insect as it transforms from a Nymph to an adult. Emerging insects are often very vulnerable to Trout since they are waiting for their wings to develop so they can fly.
  • Adult: Adult insects are just that.  they have completed the metamorphosis and will fly off the water to mate in the air or in streamside vegetation.  Adults are mostly fished with a dry fly that the trout will eat on the surface. This is a very visually stimulating aspect of fly fishing that anglers strive to experience, but remember that the dry fly eat of a trout is a very small  part of the fish’s feeding pattern.
  • Dead Drift: An optimal float, or when the fly is traveling at the same speed as the current, dead drifts are used in both dry fly nymph fishing.  A perfect dead drift is often the difference in fooling a trout to eat your fly and is a constant work in progress when fly fishing.
  • Fly Casting: The standard procedure for presenting a fly to a target, casting uses a fly line and a fly rod, and involves numerous different casts such as forward and back cast.
  • Lie: A section of a river or lake where fish congregate to feed, protect themselves from predators, and stay out of the main current is a lie. A lie is also something that anglers do a lot.

Your Fly Fishing Outfitters guide is happy to explain these and many other common fly fishing terms during your first outing. Enjoy learning more about this fascinating sport, and be sure to look for Part Two of The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Fly Fishing!

Have more fly fishing lingo to add to the list? Comment below!

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