Home » Fifty Ways to Lose Your Lure

Fifty Ways to Lose Your Lure

Authors note: I am well aware that flies are not lures. But Paul Simon, for all his contributions to our  American music heritage, didn’t write a popular song that allowed for such wordplay.

As a young angler, everything had a dollar sign attached to it. Each foot of tippet. Every strike indicator or reusable split shot. And, of course, flies. As a young angler, dollars were hard to come by. Seven bucks for a leader was big money. A new bottle of flotant required a little bit of saving. The necessary flies needed to fish a unique hatch did not come cheap.

So when I would get hung up in the bushes across the creek, I’d wade over and spend twenty minutes untangling and salvaging everything. As a young angler, time did not seem to be more valuable than money. I’ve matured a little bit, but the penny-pinching propensity persists to the present. Like someone who survived the depression, keeping bent nails with the frugal hope of straightening them one day for use, I  chase flies.

But I must come to terms with reality. All successful anglers know this simple truth: If you’re not losing some flies, you’re not doing it right.

  • When nymphing, you are going to get hung up on the bottom.
  • Casting to the bank sometimes leads to casting on the bank.
  • Some fish won’t bite unless the tippet is light; light tippet breaks.
  •  Multi-fly rigs are going to get tangled.
  • Mature fish live in protected, hard to access holding water.
  • Working streamers around woody cover leads to sticking sharp hooks into things.
  • Terrestrials perform best when dropped under overhanging branches, and overhanging branches hang over the water.
  • Bigger and toothier fish than the species you are targeting will take (and take) your fly.
  • If you are fishing as much as you want to fish, the law of averages will catch up to you and there will be some freak circumstances where you are separated from your flies.
  • You’re going to get sloppy with a knot or a backcast.

I am sure that you can think of at least twenty other legitimate circumstances that lead to losing flies. To be honest, there are probably more than twenty that fall into the “stupid reasons” column. By and large, a conscientious and careful fly fisher is still going to snap a few flies off every day.

It will happen. It can be frustrating. It might even be infuriating.

Taking the time to assess your surroundings before a cast can really go a long way. Routinely feeling your leader for knots and nicks is huge. Treating every cast like it is that one special cast is really all you can do to make the best presentation you can… and avoid getting tangled.

But know (and I’m speaking to myself here as much as anyone) you will lose flies if you are fishing right. Whether they are purchased with your hard earned dollars or tied by your own hand, reeling an empty leader in is no fun. Fly fishers  who know how to get their flies in front of fish are understand that snapping some off is part of the deal. And the deal, after all, is catching more fish.


  1. My blog is called Windknots & Tangled Lines for a reason! My favorite place to fish is covered with trees, shrubs, weeds, rocks, and any etc. you can add. I’ve decorated more trees than 50 families at Christmas. I love going back to admire my handiwork!

  2. Brian says:

    “As a young angler, time did not seem to be more valuable than money. “ That is a GREAT line…Reminds me of the Eagles lyric, “Did you do it for love? Did you do it for money?” Anyway, losing flies is a positive part of the game in that it forces one to stop and think about what they are doing and how to do it better.

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