Friday, August 29, 2014

Fly Fishing Slang: Things You Need To Know

"There's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot."
Steven Wright

...see that 28" gulper on river right?

I love fly fishing slang. You know... those funny, weird, descriptive phrases we use to describe things. Many of these slang phrases begin with guides so I call it guidespeak. But whatever you call it, we all know it when we hear it and I'm sure we all agree it's descriptive, colorful and lots of fun. 

Slang is important too. It helps us communicate and convey crucial concepts, but more importantly, slang lets us know where we stand in the tribe... don't know the lingo and you are relegated to a newbie or worse yet, a bait fisherman.

Each generation of fly fishermen makes contributions to this vernacular. Slang therefore reflects the health of our sport. If no new slang words are entering the lexicon, that's not a good sign. If new slang abounds, then many new faces can usually be seen in the fly shops and on the water. You'll be happy to know that our sport is indeed healthy! 

What follows are some on my favorites. If you know all these colorful terms, you're on the cutting edge. If not please read carefully, there will be a quiz afterwards.

Also, PLEASE send me your favorite slang terms…
I'll post addenda as need be!

Here we go:

Let it marinate or Let it rust: Often clients have the tendency to become impatient with a dead-drift and want to pick up their fly and cast again. Guides may want their clients to keep it in the water as they drift along so they tell them to "Let it marinate" or "Let it rust."

Dope-on-a-rope: A guy that hogs a good spot by dropping anchor on it. 

Buzzing the tower: A cast that whizzes by the guide's head and elicits a duck or flinch.

Over the shoulder boulder holder: The cast that propels a heavily weighted nymph or streamer in a circular fashion. Low on the backcast then over the top on the delivery cast.

Hung: To get hooked-up

Garbaged: When a fish eats a fly with no hesitation he "garbaged" it up. 

Water Whippers which is the same as Flea Flickers: Term for fly fishermen. As there were two "water whippers" in that pool. 

Darrells: Spinheads or bait fishermen who are killing fish. They come with mullets, tall boy Coors lights in cozies, NASCAR hats and a lower lip swollen with chew. 

Convict: similar to a Darrell, but worse because they snag fish.

Farmer: One who constantly loses fish. 

Barney: A term used to describe an angler who claims to know everything, but can't get hung.

Bead off: Alaska guide's term for fishing with a bead. Enough said.

Drive By: In the west, it's a fast, high gradient river that only gives you one chance at a spot as you float by. Alternate definition is when a fish hits a fly, but doesn't stay on. Often a drive by happens more often to farmers and Barneys. A guide might say "we had a couple of drive bys, but no hook-ups".

Tatering: Screwing up. Best if done so sensationally that it's clear to everyone you screwed up. If you're smart, you then anticipate the derogatory comments by making them first yourself. As in "Man, I tatered that cast! I suck!" Used to be called cheesing. As in, "I cheesed that cast! I suck!"

Reduced:  Hooking a good fish and losing it in some creative and dramatic way rather than just coming unbuttoned (unhooked)Getting spooled, falling, your fly line catching on your fighting butt, snapping off on a rock or tree... all these qualify.

Cross their eyes: A proper hook set. A guide might say "He's on, cross his eyes". If the client doesn't see the strike or responds with a mamby-pamby hook set, a guide might escalate his order by demanding "Set the hook before he shits it out!"

Wood shampoo: When killing a salmon for dinner, guides often pick up a short log and whack the fish over the head… this is a wood shampoo. This term has been around for awhile but I still like it! If you kill more than one fish to serve more people you "whack 'em and stack 'em".

In its pajamas: A salmon that is spawned out.

Bank maggot: The same as beach lice. Bank fishermen that don't give way to a floater in a drift boat or raft.

Swamp donkey: A moose. Typically one that stands in the spot you want to fish.

Locked Down: Drag tightened as far as possible. Same as pegged. Not to confused with button-down which is to tighten down your drag.

Captainitis: When a guy first gets his captains license and starts acting like a jerk, barking orders etc.

Grump: a large old fish of any species that is usually pretty beat up.

Chewed: Getting bit. This often leads to being hung unless you are a farmer or a Barney.


  1. Here's a couple I've heard recently:
    "Houdinifish": applies to a bonefish you've been carefully watching that suddenly disappears; you have good vision 360 degrees around the spot you last saw the fish yet it simply vanishes.

    "Gone Komanici on me": applies to a tarpon (or other fish) that goes completely wild jumping and tailwalking; often in the mangrove rios where it becomes tangled in the mangroves.

    "Red lined": applied when a strong fish rapidly takes line into your backing and you watch the spool diameter get smaller and smaller with the distinct possibility of running out of line

  2. Now we're talking!! I love these. I knew I could count on you Doug!

  3. So when Buddy came back from his latest fishing trip, he told Puddy... Joseph Fabiano

  4. Stumbled on it! A few more:

    Chuck and Duck -- when you know that big streamer is coming right at your ear on the forward cast because it went by at eye level on the back cast...

    Avian Lift-off -- especially at the San Juan, when the swallows grab your size 22 dry on the back cast as they storm the canyon and head toward the stratosphere because they are hooked to your 5-wt...

    Weed Eater -- the wind knot in your 7X tippet when you have a dry dropper combo and you catch the thistle on the bank...normally results in a very long re-tie...

    Premature Stream Dip -- when you slip on the boulders in the Blue trying to wade it before the waters subside for the season...

    Yard Sale -- stolen from skiing, but when you drop your fly gear in an unceremonious fashion on the bank, or worse, the parking lot...

    Mass Hatch Release -- dropping several flies out of your box, cup, or whatever you have those little micro flies from Cheeseman Canyon in and the wind kicks up and grabs a half dozen before you can close up...

    Jankey -- when a guy with no form, no knowledge of fishing, somehow manages to catch a fish 10 feet in front of in, man that guy is jankey, but somehow landed one...

    Rodeo -- when you keep the fish on for 8 seconds, and then release it somehow before netting it...

    Wormer -- when you see someone fishing with worms, or worse yet, corn (Korner) in your favorite hole...

    I'll add more sometime...