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Fly fishing is a distinct and ancient angling method, most renowned as a method for catching trout and salmon, but employed today for a wide variety of species including pike, bass, panfish, grayling and carp, as well as marine species, such as redfish, snook, tarpon, bonefish and striped bass. There are many reports of fly anglers taking unintended species such as chub, bream and rudd while fishing for 'main target' species such as trout. There is a growing population of anglers whose aim is to catch as many different species as possible with the fly.
Fly fishing can be done in fresh or salt water. Freshwater fishing is often divided into coldwater (trout, salmon), coolwater (pike, perch) and warmwater (bass, chub, catfish) fishing. The techniques for freshwater fly fishing also differ in lakes, streams and rivers.
In fly fishing, fish are caught by using artificial flies that are cast with a fly rod and a fly line. The fly line (today, almost always coated with plastic) is heavy enough in order to send the fly to the target. This is one of the main differences between spinner and bait rods, which use heavy weight on the line to cast lures, bait, etc. Artificial flies can vary dramatically in all morphological characteristics (size, weight, colour, etc.).
Artificial flies are created by tying hair, fur, feathers, or other materials, both natural and synthetic, onto a hook with thread. The first flies were tied with natural materials, but synthetic materials are now very popular and prevalent. The flies are tied in sizes, colours and patterns to match local terrestrial and aquatic insects, baitfish, or other prey attractive to the target fish species.
Dry fly fishing on small, clear-water streams can be especially productive if the angler stays as low to the ground and as far from the bank as possible, moving upstream with stealth. Trout tend to face upstream and most of their food is carried to them on the current. For this reason, the fish's attention is normally focused into the current; most anglers move and fish "into the current", fishing from a position downstream of the fish's suspected lie. Trout tend to strike their food at current "edges", where faster- and slower-moving waters mix. Obstructions to the stream flow, such as large rocks or nearby pools, provide a "low energy" environment where fish sit and wait for food without expending much energy. Casting upstream to the "edge" of the slower water, the angler can see the fly land and drift slowly back downstream. The challenge in stream fishing is placing the fly with deadly accuracy, within inches of a protective rock for instance, not long range casting. Done properly, the fly seems to be just floating along in the current with a "perfect drift" as if not connected to the fly line. The angler must remain vigilant for the "take" in order to be ready to raise the rod tip and set the hook.
Trout tend mostly to feed underwater. Especially when fishing deeper waters such as rivers or lakes, putting a fly down to the trout may be more successful than fishing on the surface, especially in the absence of any surface insect activity or hatch. The nymph itself can be weighted, as is the popular bead headed hare's ear nymph or bead headed pheasant tail nymph. Alternatively, the angler can use an attractor pattern such as a Prince Nymph. Weights can be added to the leader. Probably the best weight to use is twist on lead or other metal strips because it has a much less detrimental effect on the casting ability. A sinking tip fly line can also serve to sink the fly. The most common nymphing and general overall fly fishing technique that even beginners can master is a "dead drift" or tight line fishing technique, casting directly across the river, letting the fly line drift downriver while keeping any slack out of the line. If the Nymph is drifting too fast then you should perform an upstream mend. If the nymph is drifting too slowly you should mend downstream.