Merwin: Putting the “Fly” in Flyfishing?

When is a fly not a fly? Or, by extension, when is flyfishing not flyfishing? These are always interesting questions, albeit ones with few real answers.

Shown here are a size 10 dry fly and a midget Yo-Zuri crankbait that’s about the same size. Both could be easily cast with the same fly rod. Does that mean they’re both flies? And would fly-casting that little Yo-Zuri mean that you were flyfishing?


I happen not to think so. Lee Wulff once told me he thought a fly, by definition, had nothing added to it that would impart action in the water. No spinner blade, propeller, wobbling plate or lip, wiggly plastic tail, and so on. I agree, although there are plenty of things sold as “flies” these days that have some of the foregoing built in

Flyfishing–to me, at least–has always been a triumph of art over expediency. Part of that art comes in working (or just drifting) a fly in the current with some skill to attract a fish. The fly otherwise should be immobile.

But that’s just my personal definition. What’s yours?