Articulated flies: design, benefits and tips

24th of May 2023

Articulated flies represent a unique branch in the world of fly fishing. They are distinct due to their construction, which involves multiple sections or segments that move independently. This design feature gives them the ability to mimic the natural movement of prey in water.

The term "articulated" refers to the jointed or segmented structure of these flies. Typically, they consist of two or more hook sections connected by flexible material, such as braided fishing line, wire, or even a specific type of shank designed for this purpose. The result is a fly that moves in a lifelike manner, imitating the fluttering, wriggling, or swimming movements of aquatic insects, baitfish, and other prey species.

An articulated minnow
An articulated minnow

The benefits of using articulated flies

Articulated flies offer numerous advantages to fly fishers. First and foremost, their realistic motion can be irresistible to fish. This inherent motion can prove more enticing to fish, particularly predatory species such as trout, bass, and pike, which are drawn to movement and activity in their prey. 

Another advantage of articulated flies is their larger size. Because they are typically built with two or more hooks, these flies tend to be bigger and more visible than their single-hook counterparts. This makes them an excellent choice when fishing in murky waters or when targeting larger species.

An articulated dry fly + nymph combination
An articulated dry fly + nymph combination

Types of articulated flies

Articulated flies come in a wide range of styles, shapes, and sizes, reflecting the diversity of the aquatic and terrestrial prey they mimic. Some of the most popular types include:


Articulated streamers are a favorite among many fly fishers. These larger flies are designed to mimic baitfish, leeches, or other large aquatic prey. They often feature long, flowing materials that create a dynamic, swimming motion in the water.


Articulated nymphs offer an exciting twist on traditional nymph patterns. By adding an extra segment, these flies can more accurately mimic the wriggling motion of a real nymph. 

Dry Flies

While less common, articulated dry flies do exist. These flies use the extra joint to mimic the fluttering movement of insects on the water's surface. This can prove particularly attractive to species that feed predominantly on surface insects, such as trout and grayling.

Tips for fishing with articulated flies

Fishing with articulated flies can require some adjustments to your usual techniques. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Rigging and casting

Given their larger size, articulated flies can be a bit more challenging to cast than traditional flies. It may be worth using a heavier rod and line to manage the additional weight. Also, consider using a loop knot when tying your fly, as this can provide more freedom of movement and enhance the fly's action in the water.

Retrieve techniques

The way you retrieve your fly can significantly impact the action of an articulated fly. Experiment with different speeds and patterns, such as steady retrieves, jerks, or pauses. The goal is to mimic the natural movement of the creature your fly is designed to imitate.

Hook set

When a fish strikes an articulated fly, it's crucial to set the hook properly. Because these flies have multiple hooks, the fish may strike at either end of the fly, making it possible to miss the hook set if you're not careful. To ensure a successful hook set with an articulated fly, don't lift your rod as you might with a smaller, single-hook fly. Instead, use a technique called a "strip set." To do this, keep your rod pointed at the fly and continue stripping the line until it tightens. The tension of the line will set the hook straight into the fish's mouth​.

An articulated streamer
An articulated streamer

Selecting the right leader or tippet for articulated flies

Choosing the right leader or tippet for your articulated fly is crucial. Larger flies require thicker tippet because it helps with casting. Articulated flies, especially streamers, tend to catch the wind when cast, causing them to spin and potentially twist the line. A thicker diameter tippet can help reduce this spinning and twisting. You might also consider using a swivel in your leader or shortening your leader to further mitigate these issues​.

Construction and fly tying techniques for articulated Flies

Articulated flies offer a variety of presentation techniques that can be adjusted to suit the conditions and the species you're targeting. Here are a few key techniques and considerations:

Game changer style

The Game Changer style of fly uses a series of short connected shanks, each covered with material and trimmed to hide the underlying backbone or spine structure. This method creates a highly mobile, lifelike presentation that can be very effective in enticing fish to strike.

Articulated shanks

The use of articulated shanks offers a great deal of flexibility and control over the movement of your fly. These shanks link together to form a flexible spine, allowing full movement and mimicking the behavior of prey species in the water. There are several types of shanks available in different wire thicknesses, lengths, and even colors, so you can tailor your fly to your specific needs​.

Shank construction and configuration

Shanks can be single or double-eyed, straight, or twisted/offset. The configuration of the shank can impact the movement and orientation of the fly. Depending on your preference, you can opt for a rear or front hook, or even both. The usual way of tying articulated flies on shanks is from the rear, starting with the tail section tied on the rear shank or hook. You then connect that to the next shank in line, tie on that and so forth, until you reach the hook or front shank.

Wiggle tails

Incorporating a wiggle tail into your articulated fly can add significant length and mobility. Before dressing the hook, you tie on a wire loop in the rear. This loop is left empty, and at waterside, you mount the desired wiggle tail. This technique can be particularly effective when fishing with large streamer flies, as the added movement of the wiggle tail can provoke strikes from predatory species.

Modular flies

Modular flies offer a high degree of adaptability, allowing you to modify the fly at waterside based on the conditions and the behavior of the fish. Modules can include heads, bodies, tails, and hooks that are connected using different locks and wire. By threading the desired parts onto a leader, you can create a custom fly designed to suit your specific needs.

In conclusion, when presenting articulated flies, it's crucial to consider the behavior and habitat of the species you're targeting. Experiment with different configurations and techniques to find what works best in your fishing scenario.

Flies in this article:

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