7 types of Fly Anglers you will meet on the water

The faint light of dawn was just beginning to shine from the surface of the river when we slid down the bank toward the water. It was one of those mornings that felt so good. My friend Nate and I were eager to head out into the water to start casting our spy rods for a solid head. We got to the head of a long, suspicious-looking path and were just starting to put our rods together when another fisherman suddenly came out of the trees. “Damn it,” Nate said. “He will run away in front of us.” I looked at the other hunter. He’s been busy making a penis and doesn’t care about us and I saw he was wearing an old dark blue shirt and pulling what looked like neoprene waders over a pair of leggings.

I said, “No need to worry.” “It’s a marine animal. He’ll go fishing in the dumps and won’t stand in our way.” Nate looked at me questioningly. “How can you say that?” Asked. I said, “Only I can.”

There are a lot of different flycatchers in the big fishing world and although they are not all the same, they can be categorized into different categories. Although the ability to identify these categories may seem difficult – and perhaps unnatural – it is an important skill to possess because as I just explained, when you bump into a fisherman on the water, it’s good to know who you’re dealing with. Like knowing your entomology, whether that snake is venomous, or whether that sound in the woods behind you is a squirrel or a grizzly, being able to recognize the anglers around you can be vital to fly fishing success.


Often spotted in pajama bottoms and mud boots rather than waders, the nymphs secure in comfort. This is because they tend to spend the entire day standing in one place, and being thrown into the same puddle over and over again. The Mermaids are often intimidating when viewed as staring at strike pointers all day which eventually causes their eyes to bulge out of their heads, making them look a lot like Gollum from Lord Of The Rings in search of a precious one. They also have a great reaction time from constantly putting hooks on at the slightest signal. So the easy way to test to see if a Hunter is a Nympher is to sneak up on them and then scream and throw a stone at their heads. If they turned around and grabbed her, they were definitely a Nympher.


Actual hunting is rarely seen, and purists are usually found roaming the river banks, sweating profusely in their tweed and Stetson coats. While it is rumored that they can indeed catch fish, they seem to spend most of their time stoically staring at the water, watching the sun reflect off the end of their bamboo rods, and gazing at their boxes of dry flies, while sighing deeply with fishy. satiate. You can always tell your talk to a fundamentalist because 90% of what they say are recycled quotes from Norman MacLean and Isaac Walton – me: “How’s the fishing today?” Purist: “God has never made leisure more calm, serene, and innocuous than fishing, I am haunted by water, good world.”

Colored Addict

Twitching and tripping on their feet, since they are not accustomed to walking on land, Streamer Junkies are given a wide berth by the rest of the hunting community. With their overly molded arms and the inevitable back issues that come with bars of 7-10 weights for hours at a time, Streamer Junkies have a Quasimodo-like look. It’s usually hard to see exactly what they’re wearing because their clothes are so covered in ancient marabou and baktel fibers that their giant flies’ patterns are tied together so that they look like multicolored winding rugs. It’s never important to make sudden movements around Streamer Junkies because they are on a constant knife edge from spending weeks on the water and not catching anything so they have a bad habit of hitting. Many flycatchers die from the bites of an infected Streamer Junkie each year. Never engage a Streamer Junkie in a conversation, for although they rarely catch a fish, they still keep a photographic memory of almost every fish they have ever seen behind their fly, and if given the opportunity, they will hook you up to a bar stool and tell you about each one of them.


You’ll usually hear Gearhead before you see it. They will come sitting along the river bank like a dog with a brand new collar. This is because of the huge amount of small metal tools they attached to their people. Just like a dog, when they see you on the river bank, they will come rushing to greet you with a happy panting smile so they can show you their toys! Gearheads are great fishing partners because no matter what problem you have—from a bad knot to a broken rod tip, to a bleeding head wound—they’ll have a Douhkie to fix. Another trick you can use to positively identify the Gearhead, is that it wears like a moving bulletin board. Orvis shirts, Waders Simms, Patagonia jackets, etc. No Gearhead goes hunting without making sure it’s decorated and represented at least six different brands.

the teacher

Embodying out of the early morning mist or suddenly appearing beside you on the river bank, teachers only appear when they are not needed. They usually wear worn flannels and spiked hats with worn flies. Most will also have long white or gray beards except in the case of females of course, where the beard will be a bit shorter. The color and length of the beard is vital to identify the Guru because all the Guru are over 40 years old. Any smaller than that and are simply known as Lucky Bastards (eg, “Did you see how many fish this kid caught?” “Yes, Lucky Bastard.”)

Teachers usually appear right after you’ve been fishing along a river. Once you give up completely and throw your penis in frustration, a teacher will appear next to you to say “Do you mind if I fish behind you?” The master will then go back upstream to the section of water you just fished and catch every fish for the run in what you thought was a completely fishless stretch of water. The Master will look at you from time to time when they are catching their fish, blinking with a smirk or two, while you are standing there stupidly with your mouth open. After that, they will hand you the fly habit they were using, stroke their beard and nod, and then disappear back into the ether. You can’t chase them either because you’ll be too busy trying to figure out what the hell the fly looked like before so many fish chewed it up.

hamilton record

Like Gurus, beginners seem to materialize out of nowhere. Unlike the Gurus, they always seem to appear right after a fish has just been caught. It’s easy to tell that a beginner approaches the sounds of constant spraying and swearing at a distance that begins with just plugging in. Once you’ve got the fish in the net, a rookie will appear, usually tangled up in its fly line and with one or two hooks stuck to its hat, coat, or ear. Oftentimes, they will pull sticks, grass, or twigs in their wake as in their rush to come and see your fish, and their dangling leader is dragged across the riverbank and becomes entangled with all sorts of things. A friend of mine once told me about a starter who came to him with a whole aspen tree that had been accidentally uprooted.

As soon as you hear the sound of a beginner approaching, it is best to quickly get the fish out of the net or even drop some slack on it so that it separates. Because if a beginner sees you with a fish in your hands, they will enter attack mode – “What kind of fish is this?” “What did you get?” “Can I take a picture of her?” “How to cast?” This barrage of questions can quickly drive you crazy and make you give up fly fishing altogether.

fish owl

“Hey man, do you have any spare flies?” Fish Bums emerge from under bridges or from under the tarps in the back of the beds of worn and filthy drifting trucks and boats, in almost all the great waters of the world. Although few of them remember how they actually got there. They are easy to spot, in their sun-bleached and tattered shirts, cracked sunglasses, and their coarse hair tucked away under worn trucker hats. Tramp fish are often seen as the misfortunes of the fishing world. However, if you can stand the smell of cheap beer, wood smoke, and BO constantly wafting from it, talking to a Fish Bum can teach you more about the river than any dozen books. They give information freely, as long as you provide the right incentive. This can vary from a handful of extra stone fly patterns to a can of beer to a cup of ramen noodles. It all depends on the Fish Bum you come across and how hungry they are when you find them.

know your role

These are all general guidelines to follow, but things can get confusing at times when trying to select a random fly catcher. Sometimes you may come across a hybrid, such as a Nympher/Guru or Gearhead/Streamer Junkie. Sometimes, you can make the wrong definition, like when you think you’ve got a Purist in your hands but are really just a beginner who’s good at poker. The truth is, you never know who or what you’re going to bump into on the water, so it’s best to be prepared. Recognizing a fisherman is an essential skill to have because it not only shows you who you share the water with but also once you have put on all your gear and are ready to go out on the water it will show you who is staring back at you in the mirror too.

Feature image via ‘Touch Brown’.

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