Archive for June 15th, 2008


Damsels & Dragons (Stillwater Flies)


 Damselflies are more numerous then Dragons, and both nymphs and adults are eaten by fish on stillwaters. Nymphs are usually found near the edges of weeds in stillwaters (and sometimes very slow portions of rivers). Damsels swim by worm-like wiggling, but usually they hold onto the weed and reed stems and catch their prey. At this stage of their life, the trout will take a damsel fly nymph, in the weeks leading up to the hatch. When mature, damselfly nymphs migrate in large numbers to above-water objects (weeds, exposed woody material, reeds). The Damsels travel in the top inch or two of water. The Damsels hatch out of the water so a nymph pattern has been for me more effective than a dry imitation. The migration time is to be soon upon us (July). This can be the most productive time to fish a damselfly nymph. Along the edges of lakes, you will see the cruising trout feeding amongst the reeds and weeds. This is the time for a floating line and a unweighted (keep it up in the top strata)  damsel nymph. Retrieve the nymph parallel or into the shoreline. Remember to work the nymph toward objects that a damsel nymph would be moving toward. They would not be moving out to the depths unless there are exposed objects protruding for the damsel to emerge upon. Again, presentation is so important.

Adult damselflies live a month or more after hatching. They can be an effective fly pattern in a few situations. To be honest, I have maybe half a dozen dry patterns with me. A few years ago, my son Tony had an effective dry fly experience on a quiet back cove fishing a dry damsel to the edges of a wood pile. So, the wisdom of carrying a few dries now seems wise. Overall, though, the nymphs are the most likely to produce.

After the July hatch the numbers of damsel nymphs fall off. Some remain but the attention of trout toward the damsel returns to the staples. However, by September a new batch of damselflies has turned from the eggs into nymphs. They are smaller at this time and their color is lighter, so a lighter color damsel (ginger or pale green). Trout will have renewed interest in September and early October. Everything seems smaller in the Fall so have faith in a diminished nymph pattern, whether Damsels or Callibaetis.


Dragonfly nymphs live in lakes and sometimes very slow sections of rivers. The nymphs live for upto three years stalking about the bottom either aggressively or cautiously for larvae and all manner of underwater minutiae. 

Like damsels, dragonfly emerge out of the water to become adults. Adult dragons just seem to appear and are such strong emergers/fliers that I have never been certain I have seen a trout able to catch one fully emerged…so I don’t tie adults. I believe the nymphs are far more important than the adults.

There are three types of dragonfly nymphs that flyfishers should know about. Each are quite different in appearance and behavior. The family Aeshnidae have a longer, more tapered body. This fly is more agile and searches for prey in a more dynamic manner, jetting about, searching for their prey.  This causes them to move in spurts, so a good tactic is to cast a Kaufmann’s dragon nymph and use a presentation moving the fly with 6-12 inch strips with a pause between each strip. This is type of dragonfly nymph most commonly used by flyfisher’s.

Another type of dragonfly is the family Libellulidae. These nymphs are shorter and boxier in appearance, being wider and shorter than the darner Aeshnidae. They’re not very aggressive and sneak about to lie in wait to ambush right on the bottom. Camouflaged to hide and attack, you should choose an imitation that is the same color as the lake bottom. Let the chunky fly sink to the bottom and sit there. Then give a quick spurt and pause retrieve, like a nymph stalking to ambush unlucky larvae. Retrieve the fly very slowly, with a hand-twist retrieve. Patience is required here, akin to midge pupa presentation.

The third type is a burrower called a Gomphidae. Like the Libellulidae, these nymphs are broad and flat. They live in sediment and ambush their prey. Tactics are similar to those for their chunky cousin, the Libellulidae.

I have always envisioned a presentation for dragons that suggests a stalking killer and for damsels an exposed, vulnerable, wiggling nymph. I can recall many savage strikes on dragons and damsels.    









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