Fly-fishing is the most modern of them, but it is the most highly esteemed, principally because it is the method par excellence of taking members of the most valuable sporting family of fish, the Salmonidae. It may roughly be considered under three heads, the use of the "wet" or sunk fly, of the "dry" or floating fly, and of the natural insect. Of these the first is the most important, for it covers the widest field and is the most universally practised. There are few varieties of fish which may not either consistently or occasionally be taken with the sunk fly in one of its two forms. The large and gaudy bunch of feathers, silk and tinsel with which salmon, very large trout, black bass and occasionally other predaceous fish are taken is not, strictly speaking, a fly at all. It rather represents, if anything, some small fish or subaqueous creature on which the big fish is accustomed to feed and it may conveniently receive the generic name of salmon-fly. The smaller lures, however, which are used to catch smaller trout and other fish that habitually feed on insect food are in most cases intended to represent that food in one of its forms and are entitled to the name of "artificial flies." The dry or floating fly is simply a development of the imitation theory, and has been evolved from the wet fly in course of closer observation of the habits of flies and fish in certain waters.
Both wet and dry fly methods are really a substitute for the third and oldest kind of surface-fishing, the use of a natural insect as a bait. Each method is referred to incidentally below.
Spinning, &c. - Mid-water fishing, as has been said, broadly consists in the use of a small fish, or something that simulates it, and its devices are aimed almost entirely at those fish which prey on their fellows. Spinning, live-baiting and trolling are these devices. In the first a small dead fish or an imitation of it made in metal, india-rubber, or other substance, is caused to revolve rapidly as it is pulled through the water, so that it gives the idea of something in difficulties and trying to escape. In the second a small fish is put on the angler's hook alive and conveys the same idea by its own efforts. In the third a small dead fish is caused to dart up and down in the water without revolving; it conveys the same idea as the spinning fish, though the manipulation is different.
Bottom-fishing is the branch of angling which is the most general. There is practically no fresh-water fish that will not take some one or more of the baits on the angler's list if they are properly presented to it when it is hungry. Usually the baited hook is on or near the bottom of the water, but the rule suggested by the name "bottom-fishing" is not invariable and often the bait is best used in mid-water; similarly, in "mid-water fishing" the bait must sometimes be used as close to the bottom as possible. Bottom-fishing is roughly divisible into two kinds, float-fishing, in which a bite is detected by the aid of a float fastened to the line above the hook and so balanced that its tip is visible above the water, and hand-fishing, in which no float is used and the angler trusts to his hand to feel the bite of a fish. In most cases either method can be adopted and it is a matter of taste, but broadly speaking the float-tackle is more suited to water which is not very deep and is either still or not rapid.
In great depths or strong streams a float is difficult to manage.