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Muddler Books                      © 2009  Muddler Books & the authors

 What does it all mean?

A non fisher’s guide to some of the fly fishing terms used in the book.  

What do anglers mean when they talk of stripping line or dibbling their bob fly? What is a Bushy Kate or a Floating Daddy?  Should you eat brownies?  How do you handle a fankle?  

This glossary may provide illumination. (It does not seek to be comprehensive or authoritative, so pedantic experts might like to leave this page now.)


Sometimes a torpedo-like bow wave chases your flies through the water. This indicates a follow. Dibbling the bob fly might convert this follow into a take.


Traditionally, a ghillie is someone who attends an angler to provide knowledge of the water, row the boat or help wade down a river. These days three anglers in a boat will often share the ghillying, taking turns to steer the boat while the other two fish at either end. Poor ghillying can cause remarkable levels of frustration.


A young Atlantic salmon on its first return to fresh water.




Most fly patterns use feathers, usually from domestic fowl, to tie a hackle which has many forms and purposes; it might help buoyancy in dry flies or suggest insect legs or provide movement in a wet fly.




 /Sinking Line

An intermediate line sinks slowly, a sinking line sinks faster, so enabling you to fish your flies at various depths.


The arrangement of flies and light fishing nylon tied to the end of the heavy fly line.


A place where fish like to lie, whether to feed, rest or take refuge.


Should primarily refer to the long, heavy fly line, often brightly coloured, whose weight enables the angler to swing the flies back and forth. Can be confused with the light, translucent leader material, also known as the nylon, tippet or cast (or just plain fishing line) which connects the flies to the fly line.


Scottish lake.

Long shank

A hook with a longer than average body.


Gaelic for a low-lying plain, machair is made of fertile wind-blown sand, covered in grass. It covers much of the west coast of South  Uist. Lochs upon the machair are the jewels of the island - shallow, easy to wade and populated with huge trout – but they can also be fickle, frustrating places to fish.


Salmon and sea trout are migratory fish – their life cycle involves both sea and fresh water. Brownies are territorial, rather than migratory, though they may travel between lochs to spawn.


You move a fish by inducing it to snap at your fly.


A fly designed to create disturbance as it is dragged through the water, so attracting attention and impersonating a small fish or other creature so beloved of Uist trout.


The end of the leader.  The point fly is the final fly in your cast.


Look out across a calm loch and you may see rises, or disturbances on the surface, as fish feed on or below the surface. You also rise a fish by inducing it to snap at your fly; if lucky you hook it, if luckier you land it.


During and after a storm, many burns and rivers go into spate, swollen by run-off into raging and often dangerous torrents.

Stripping line

Retrieving line fast to make the flies dart swiftly through the water.


To pull on the line when a fish bites, to set the hook in its mouth and increase the chance of landing it. This is a subtle business with trout and salmon fishing which, more often not, require no strike at all.


A take is more than a rise and may or may not lead to a hooking.

Wet fly

A fly fished below the surface or pulled along the surface to cause a wake. If you soak it in floatant and leave it sitting on the surface, then technically it becomes a dry fly.

© Muddler Books 2009

Bass bag

A  fabric bag, full of holes, for keeping dead fish moist and reasonably fresh. However hard you clean it, the bass bag will always stink out your car between fishing sessions.

Bob fly

When fishing with more than one fly, the bob fly is the one nearest to your rod tip and the first out of the water when retrieving; hence it’s the fly you dibble.


A brown trout - the glorious, fighting beastie to be found in any Highland water larger than a puddle.


A Scottish stream, often seen in spate.

Bushy Kate

Not a word-reversed 80s pop legend, but a Kate Maclaren fly tied in a deliberately bushy way.  

Cover water

Wild trout anglers never stand still or drop anchor. They constantly seek out new fish lies by steadily moving about, aka covering water.


Iconic images of fly fishermen tend to feature a small wicker basket, or creel, slung over the shoulder or attached to the waist. Like a bass bag, an empty creel will make your car stink like a fishmonger's van.


A multi-legged triumph of fly-tying that resembles a Daddy Long Legs. A floating Daddy can be lethal when left static with the occasional twitch.


A delightful method of fishing whereby you let a fly dance on and above the surface – very realistically – by using a long rod and a fixed length of flossy line which wafts in the wind. Also useful for boat companions who do not know how to cast.   


When you’ve retrieved your flies to just a couple of rod lengths away, lift the rod tip and let the top bob fly dance a bit on the surface. This dibbling can drive fish wild, especially any who have followed the fly and now fear it might escape. You may refer to someone doing this as Officer Dibble.

Double-handed rod

Big, serious salmon fishing on big, serious Scottish rivers requires the angler to wield a big, serious double-handed rod with both hands, like an ensign twirling the battalion colours. On South Uist, where there are no big rivers, salmon anglers tend to use smaller, single-handed rods.


You set up a drift by positioning the boat to be carried by the wind – and steered by the ghillie – to cover a promising stretch of water. It is not considered good practice for an angler to waste a drift with an almighty fankle.


Any flies above the final point fly are attached to the leader by several inches of line called a dropper.  Attached to the top dropper is the bob fly.

Dry fly

A fly fished on the surface, often statically.


A fortified house from ancient times which, in the Western Isles, usually sits on a small artificial island within a loch. The rocky water around a dun, and the causeway leading to it, is always worth a cast or two.


Repeatedly flinging several sharp flies, not to mention a complex arrangement of knots and light nylon, through the vigorous vagaries of Hebridean wind can easily – in the hands of the inexpert or the distracted expert – lead to fankles, whereby the leader wilfully ties itself into unwanted knots which stop the angler fishing until those knots are untangled or, sadly often, a whole fresh leader has had to be built.  

Floating line

This type of line floats on the surface, keeping the leader and flies high in the water.