Trout Terminology

Learning fishing lingo.

The first time someone asked if I had a woolly bugger, I immediately blew my nose to check. To avoid embarrassing equivocations, read up on the fly-fishing jargon below, and put the Kleenex down—for now.

Break-Off: When a hooked fish breaks your tippet or leader. Also, what your girlfriend says she’s doing when she leaves you for spending too much time on the river.

Buck: A male fish, or a male deer. They’re called the same thing. But only one grows antlers. Crazy, huh?

Catch and Release: The ethical practice of unhooking and returning a caught fish to the water in which it was caught in order to conserve fish populations, or the arguably unethical practice of seducing a new mate every night.

Dropper: Refers to the tail fly when fishing two at the same time, often with one on the surface and the dropper underwater. Also what single guys tell their attached friends to do with their girlfriends, so they can fish with them more.

Flashback: A nymph pattern that has a shiny material substituted for the wing case, or a life-long side effect of that time you took acid inside some dude’s teepee in Missoula.

Float Tube: A one-person, inner tube-based watercraft that is much preferable to the closely related but far less desirable “sink tube.” Also an unsinkable bong popular on drift boats.

Impressionistic Flies: Artificial flies that loosely suggest a variety of insects or insect families. Also applies to sophisticated bugs who appreciate the primacy color has over line in the 19th-century paintings of Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro.

Lie: Where trout hang out in a river, often outside of the main current with a good source of insects and other food. It’s also the basis of every fishing story ever told.

Loading the Rod: Phrase used to describe the bend put in the rod by the weight of the line as it travels through the air during the cast. Also a euphemism for taking Viagra.

Nymph: The immature form of insects, or the slang term for skanky people who claim to be “addicted” to sex.

Pick-Up & Lay Down: A fly fishing cast using only a single backcast, and what every guy would like to do with every girl at the bar on a Friday night.

Pocket Water: A stretch of river broken up by rocks, boulders, and other debris that forms small holding areas for fish. It’s also what you call the accidental pee in your waders after too many beers.

Shank: The long straight part of the hook between the eye and the bend, and a common term for getting stabbed by an improvised knife in prison.

Whip Finish: A knot used to tie off the thread when finishing a fly, and a highly exciting sexual technique utilizing handcuffs, nipple clamps, and a cat-o-nine-tails.

Woolly Bugger: The most popular style of artificial fly, or an exceptionally robust ball of dried snot lodged visibly in one or both nostrils.

X: Measurement used to designate the diameter of leader material used in conjunction with a numeral, such as "4X." In addition, it also almost always marks the spot.

Zinger: Slang for a retractable device useful for hanging items such as nippers off your vest. Can also describe a very witty or clever joke, unlike anything found in the pages of O/B.