Sunday Classic / At What Point Does a Fly Become A Lure

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Here’s our Sunday Classic for the week in case you missed it a couple months ago.

This fly/lure is a complete joke. Seriously though, at what point does a fly become a lure?

Are you carrying a streamer box full of lures?

Every year new fly patterns burst onto the scene far from the norm, pushing the boundaries and raising the question, are these true fly patterns or just camouflaged lures? First off, let me get something straight right out of the gates, I”m not one of those traditionalist haters, trying to point the finger. As Rodney Dangerfield quoted in the comedy classic movie, Back to School, “I’m not a fighter, I’m a lover”. I thoroughly enjoy experimenting with materials traditionally only used in conventional tackle to come up with new innovative fly patterns. There’s no doubt conventional lures are amazing fish catchers, and the way I look at this topic is very simple. If I can figure out a way to mimic the action or appeal that conventional lures have in my fly pattern designs, I’m going to gain a significant edge over fooling big educated fish. However, I do understand whether I like it or not, we’re going to have to draw the line at some point and define what classifies and distinguishes a fly from a lure. Thankfully for me, constantly evolving technology continues to open previously locked doors, and in turn, categorizes most of my creations as legitimate flies.

Take spinner and propeller blades for instance. Henry Cowen’s Coyote striper fly uses a conventional blade in it’s design. It’s been accepted in the industry as a fly, and has also become one of the most popular searching patterns for striped bass and other warm water species. Montana Fly Company sells a streamer pattern called the Kingfisher’s Heavy Metal Sculpin, that has a colorado blade trailing off the back of the fly. Recently fly tyers have utilized entire synthetic bass skirts previously only found on bass jigs to create musky, bass, and trout fly patterns. Are these legitimate? That’s the question. Feel free to tell us your thoughts on this subject. Don’t be shy either, we’d love to see some of your secret fly patterns in question.

Below are fly patterns that some fishermen may feel are pushing the boundaries.


Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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19 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / At What Point Does a Fly Become A Lure

  1. I say if it’s not mass produced by a machine, tied by hand and is as fish friendly as possible; then it’s a fly. No matter what type of parts are used to create the pattern or method is used to fish it.

  2. That last fly looks exactly like a jig, but so what. Murphy summed it up pretty well.

    A lot boils down to regulations. Look at tenkara, one of the simplest way to use a fly but because of the lack of typical flyline would it qualify in FF only water?

  3. Here we go again. Someone needs to define what a “fly” is and then you can debate. Hand tied? What if I buy blades and some treble hooks, put them together, and add some hobby paint and thread for good measure. There, it’s a fly, right? I hand tied it. Is casting a fly and a bubble with a spinning rod, fly fishing? Is Tenkara fly fishing, since the line doesn’t propel the fly? This will never end until someone defines “fly”.

    Hey Louis, are HDR images considered photography, since they are all stitched together using software? I’m curious on your take.

    • I’m about as far from a purist as you will find. When Man Ray made Photograms in the early 1900s were they photographs? Close enough for me, and a whole bunch of museums. What about the work of Jerry Uelsmann? You’d have to be pretty good with Photoshop to accomplish what he did in the darkroom. Photo (or fly) manipulation is nothing new and it’s the seat of innovation. I believe in no limits to personal expression either behind the camera or at the vice.

    • Umm…. There is a good challenge: Define what is a “fly”. My take on what is fly-anything stream legal Initially attached to a hook using a line like material that cannot be reproduced exactly like the original. Like a dog I sniff all opinions equally until I find the one the suits my persuits best.
      I completely agree with u Richard this topic is like that of religion and politics. A never ending, no right no wrong answers. In the end all the fish cares about is staying alive.

  4. If you can cast the ‘fly’ with conventional gear (spinning, bait casting, spin casting) appropriate for the species you’re targeting, without using a bobber and/or substantial added weight. So no saltwater flies on ultralight gear that a typical fish would trash within seconds of hooking up.

  5. All hand-tied flies are “lures” in that they lure fish…..sad but true! The distinction, if one is needed is: Flies are hand-tied and can be cast on a fly rod/line. “Lures” for our fly-only waters rule clarification are generally not hand-tied and are heavy enough to be cast with spinning or bait-cast tackle. Somewhere between 1/32 oz. and 1/16 oz. seems to be the general cut-off point for something too heavy for a fly rod and too light to cast with spin/bait cast gear. Yes, I know that a good caster can lob a banana on a fly-rod and spin tackle can be used to fish flies with a casting bubble or split-shot as weight but the distinction is generally easy to define. Regional regulation committees should be allowed to vary definitions based upon biological studies or social criterion. Now I repeat….”all flies are lures” so the above argument is fairly pointless. just regulate bag limits and legal tackle types and forget about a strict definition of what a “fly” is. If it is mostly hand-tied, and can be cast on a fly rod, then it is “fly fishing”!

  6. @ Larry. Using your argument, then I can tie on just about anything to the end of my fly line and cast it with a fly rod, and call it fly fishing? You need to define what a “fly” is, otherwise, a silver fox becomes a fly and can be used in “fly fishing only” waters. What if I put a spinning reel on my fly rod and throw a panther martin out into the lake (something I do when all else fails while backpacking the Winds). I never said a “fly” wasn’t a lure. But why do fishing regs state “fly or artificial lures only”? Kent was asking if my streamer box was a box full of lures. Is it a box full of artificial lures?

    NYC, thanks for the clarification

    Louis, agreed. If it came out of my camera as a negative, positive, or electronic image, then it’s photography; no matter how much PP was done to it.

  7. I recently got invited to join some group espousing the use of biodegradable materials only, which would rule out a lot of materials. I’m fond of saying that we’re all just bothering fish- there’s no ‘purism’ to be had. That said, I’m uncomfortable using plastic beads as eggs, and yet I tie a lot of yarn eggs which I’ve heard other anglers denigrate as ‘bait’. I think in the end we all find an aesthetic we’re comfortable with and go with it. For me personally, finished materials, like plastic heads, take the artistry and point away from tying, and if you use those plastic lips to imitate a rapala, you should just use a rapala. But that’s just me.

  8. Perhaps a decisive factor would be wether or not the fly/lure is easier to cast and to fish on a fly rod than on a spinning rod? The heavier the material the harder it gets to cast and to retrieve properly using FF gear. A while ago i stumbled across this article:

    I wouldnt use these things, as i think that using feathers and furs is one of the big advantages of using gear where the line is what you actually cast. And if you are going to use woblers made of solid material, then why not use spinning gear, thereby alowing for bigger lures = bigger fish? i guess thats the pike fishing enthusiast in me talking, but still.

  9. For me I just know when something in fly fishing just doesn’t feel right to me. And I’m not what you’d call a purist. I’m a 17 year old who fly fishes for bass and panfish, not an old man who fears innovation. Anyway, these are things that do not feel like fly fishing to me: small soft plastics on a fly rod (I used to do this), scents and tipping flies with bait (I wouldn’t evrn think of such a heresy), flies made mostly of foam, spinner blades and props, flies imitating bread and hatchery pellets, and fishing gear meant for spinning rods with a fly rod. I try to stear clear of synthetic tying materials whenever possible but I do use rubber legs at times.

  10. Pingback: 11 Incredible Proven Brown Trout Streamers That Will Make Your Day - Gray Wolf Life - Emergency Preparedness Survival Skills, Gear Reviews

  11. Pingback: 11 Incredible Proven Brown Trout Streamers That Will Make Your Day – Gray Wolf Life – Emergency Preparedness Survival Skills, Gear Reviews

  12. I see a fly as something created , feathers and fur that come alive, just add water. Size and weight irrevelent. I use tenkara, spinning, cane pole, float n fly, fly n bubble, Czech nymphing and when I’m in the mood to false cast, I get out my flyrod

  13. In my own opinion and whether lure or fly fisher, why care as long as it is legal and environmentally sensitive to the sport/art/pastime. Is a registered Democrat who votes Republican really Republican? Why differentiate so as to “identify” ourselves as different from somebody else. Innovation geared towards the wonderful sport of fishing should bond artificial casters together (nothing against my little bait-fishing grandson and talented bait fishers everywhere). There was a time in England when the only proper fly fishing method was casting dry flies. Nymphs and streamers were considered “lures”. Fishing regulators are now coding rules as “fly and lure only” as opposed to “fly fishing only”. If we truly want to “define”, I say combine the two since that’s probably where most of us fishers are doing, “flure fishing”.

    morphed application in a new “box”, call it something different to combine the
    two. Flure Fishing?

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