Friday, May 30, 2014

Soft-Hackle Damselfly Nymph

     Damselfly nymphs are an abundant, staple forage of trout in the NE Washington lakes I fish. With several hundred species found in North America, damselfly nymphs are one of the most important still water insects to imitate; & I can think of no other that has been given more attention by fly designers. The damselfly nymph is a darling of the Realists, with some creations approaching dead-ringer realism.

I fish damselfly nymphs a lot through the season &, over the years, have tried quite a few approaches to the imitation including several time-consuming articulated models. But, all said & done, my favorite is a fairly conventional soft-hackle style that has been popular with lake anglers in my region since long before my time. I tie several color variants of this pattern, including all-black (the old Black Leech) & an all-vermilion (Stepchild) which has its day, stepping in during the the lake turn-over period when nothing else seems to work.

Damselflies have a one to two-year life cycle & a long emergence season, April through September, with heaviest emergences May through July, so nymphs of all sizes are available to fish throughout the season. Nymph coloration varies according to water, & with quite a bit of variety within the same body of water – ranging from shades of tan, brown & every shade of olive – so I haven’t found color to be a critical factor in imitation. Immature nymphs are lighter in color, darkening as they mature. As there are always the larger mature models around, I generally fish a #8, representing the fully mature nymph, but also carry them in #10-#12, as the smaller sizes (in lighter colors) sometimes work better during mid-season when trout may be cued on an abundance of immature nymphs.

Though most often thought of as a lake insect, damselfly nymphs are plentiful in spring creeks as well, & a damsel imitation is a good pattern for prospecting & fishing the slow water, capable of serving as a 'big fish fly' on spring creeks.  

Soft-Hackle Damselfly Nymph

Hook: #8 TMC 2312 (or TMC 200R)

Thread: Olive

Tail: Clump of ‘marabou’ (chick-a-bou) (a 3/8 to ½ inch section) taken from the base of an olive-dyed grizzly hen hackle

Rib: Chartreuse wire

Abdomen: Mixed olive-dyed hare’s mask & Wapsi superfine sulfur-yellow dubbing – about 50/50

Back/Tail: 3 strands of olive/pearl midge flash tied in ahead of the abdomen, then pulled back & over-wound with the wire ribbing – leave the three ends just slightly longer than the marabou tailing

Thorax: Same dubbing as the abdomen

Hackle: Olive-dyed grizzly hen -- one turn (olive-dyed partridge is a good substitute)

Head: A couple of turns of dubbing ahead of the hackle – & finish.

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:          

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