Are you having trouble catching the fish you want? If everyone around you is catching their limit and you’re still coming back empty-handed, you might be having trouble with your bait. Knowing what to use and when to use them is an acquired skill. Perhaps you are new to the fly-fishing world, or maybe you are looking to master your skills. Check out the most common freshwater flies and how to use them.

Getting to Know the Terms

Fly fishing was so named because the hooks and bait fishermen use resemble flying insects. Today, this isn’t always the case. Some flies mimic the appearance and movement of baitfish, leeches, or worms.

There are different types of flies used for fishing freshwater and saltwater. When fishing the Mississippi, there are four basic categories of flies that work best: dry flies, wet flies, streamers, and poppers. Let’s get to know them.

Dry Flies

As the name implies, dry flies mimic an adult insect moving across the water. Casting with these flies requires delicate precision and competent control over the movement of the fly. Using dry flies is a popular choice in fishing for trout. In fact, for many fishermen, the ultimate goal is to catch a trout on a dry fly.

Wet Flies

Wet flies are meant to imitate emerging nymph or larva bugs or wet flying insects suspended in moving water. Weights are used to sink the fly to the fish’s feeding depth. Because of this added weight, casting usually isn’t as graceful as with dry flies, but attracts a larger range of fish.


A bit bigger than wet or dry flies, streamers are designed to imitate baitfish, leeches, crayfish, or worms. They are typically fished like lures and attract larger, predatory fish. A great plus when fishing with streamers is that you don’t need to wait for the perfect conditions and they attract a wide range of fish.


While other fly varieties are designed to sink to the eye level of a fish or float along the top of the water, poppers are designed to resemble the movements of a wounded baitfish or small animal. They attract large, predatory fish like largemouth bass.

Traditionally, flies were created using found materials such as animal fur, feathers, and thread. These are the four basic types of freshwater flies, but there are dozens of tying patterns and variations to each one. They will depend on the type of fish you are looking to catch, the area you are fishing in, and the season. Fly fishing is a skill that many fishermen continue to hone has the seasons go by. You can’t hope to learn everything there is to know quickly. And there is hardly a better place to master your skills than on the banks of the Mississippi