The Damselfly nymph is one of the main food sources for feeding trout, and they are often the only fly that will work on the day.
There are many different varieties of the Damselfly nymph, but one only requires a single, generic nymph imitation fly in either green or brown to cover all different types.
- Hook: Hanak, Streamer H900BL size 10-#14 (a hook with a longer hook shank)
- Thread: Griffith Sheer 14/0, Black (any flat thread of your choice)
- Eyes: Brown Chenille ( red and chartreuse are popular choices)
- Tail: Olive marabou
- Ribbing: Gold rib wire
- Thorax: Olive marabou
- Legs/Gills: Olive Hares ear dubbing, teased out under eyes.
- Body: Olive marabou
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How To Tie A Damselfly Nymph Step-by-Step
Secure your streamer hook in your vise, making sure it is secure and not too close to the tip of the jaws, as the hook may slip when you apply tension to it. I advocate using barbless hooks where possible to ease the removal and minimize the damage done to the fish.
With your thread, start behind the hook eye and wrap backwards along the hook shank towards the back end of the hook end, just where the hook starts to bend. Focus on creating an even and level thread base to work from. Work your thread back up toward the hook eye, stopping 3 mm behind the eye.
The Damsel fly nymph has characteristic large eyes, and in this SBS, I use chenille as the eyes. At this point, you can use different eyes if you choose. The mono version eyes work well, and the bead chain for heavier options. Tie in your chenille eyes on top of the hook. Secure the eyes well and work your thread towards the fly hook bend.
Tie in your marabou tail, securing it with two tight wraps. The length and density of the tail can vary according to personal preference. Ensure that the tying thread is lying flat on the shank. At this point, I like to tie in two strands of crystal flash on the tail.
Tie in your gold wire just in front of the wrapping you made for the tail. Wrap your tying thread forward, stopping 3mm behind the eyes.
It is important to note that it is at this stage that you can build a small thread body to get that ever-important taper and body shape.
We will create the body using the excess marabou and wrap it forward, making sure to palmer the fibres backwards.
Grip your gold wire with your hackle pliers and wind the wire forward in the opposite direction to the marabou body; this secures the body better and creates a definite ribbing. Tie off the wire and give it a few tight wraps to fasten.
Create a dubbing rope by pinching your thread and rubbing your dubbing with a wet thumb and forefinger along with it.
Pull down on the dubbing thread and make one wrap forward, locking the ‘dubbing rope’ stem in place. Proceed to wrap forward around the eyes, making sure you form a distinct head shape. Tie off the head with a few tight wraps to secure it behind the hook eye.
Before we make the thorax cover, tease the hairs ears dubbing out with an old toothbrush. There are a few videos on teasing dubbing, if this is unclear. This will create what will look like a small leg/wing or even gill flap. It is these small tips that make the imitation that much more effective. The slightest movement in the water will give these flies a life-like appearance.
Pull the thorax cover over and tie it off behind the eye. Whip finish the fly creating a small thread head, and apply head cement. The fly can also be whip finished in a red or chartreuse colour thread for a better trigger. Again fly tying is so personal, and you should do what you feel confident in fly fishing.
As a final step, I trim off the fibres on the top head for a flatter pattern.
- Secure the hook in vise and start with a solid thread base.
- Tie in the eyes.
- Tie in the tail and crystal flash.
- Tie in the gold rib wire and wrap marabou forward.
- Secure the marabou behind the eyes.
- Wrap wire forward and tie off.
- Dub the head and whip finish.
What Is a Damselfly Nymph
The pattern is a versatile guide fly that performs well in all sorts of water conditions. Damselfly nymphs are ideal for both warm water and cold water systems and are found in large numbers in lakes, rivers, streams, and reservoirs all over the country.
The damselfly nymph is especially productive during the summer when they are a primary source of food for trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and panfish. Damselfly nymphs can also be used successfully all year round for fishing for bluegill, trout, largemouth bass, hickory shad, and more. See also our post on What Do Trout Eat here.
The fly pattern imitates the aquatic insect of the same name. Damselfly nymphs are small, thin, dull insects which tend to live in underwater vegetation. They often have a very similar coloring to the plants they live in, so damselfly coloring varies greatly from location to location.
Damselfly nymphs are fragile swimmers who cannot move quickly in the water, making them easy prey for any nearby predatory fish. That’s why this works so well – if you can imitate the damselfly nymph’s behavior, you’ll be sure to catch lots of fish.
Damselflies also spend up to 5 years underwater in their nymph stage before emerging and becoming adult damselflies. It’s in the nymph stage that the fish can catch the damselflies most readily, making them a reliable source of food. This is good news for you, as it means that the fish will definitely go for your damselfly nymph pattern.
How To Fish the Damselfly Nymph
Damselfly nymphs are formidable flies to use at any time of year, but you’ll have the best results using these flies from early to mid-summer. In May, June, July, and August, damselfly nymphs are a significant part of the trout’s diet, so you’ll be guaranteed success if you fish with a damselfly pattern at this time of year.
The best way to use the damselfly nymph is with a slow retrieve, interrupted by long pauses. We recommend using a slow sinking line or a floating line to fish your damselfly nymph pattern.
The key is knowing how the damselfly nymphs behave in the water. For most of their lives, they live deep down and hide away amongst vegetation. If you prefer fishing at the bottom of the water column, you can trail your fly through areas with dense vegetation to see if any fish are lurking around on the lookout.
Another effective way to use your damselfly nymphs is by imitating how they rise up through the water. When these aquatic insects are ready to mature and become adult damselflies, they swim up to about 3 feet below the water surface and then travel horizontally until they reach some underwater vegetation such as bull rushes.
You can replicate this behavior by casting out to spots near the riverbank with plenty of weed beds and aquatic plants, allowing your fly to sink about a meter deep, and then start a slow retrieve. Try to break the movement up with pauses every 2 – 3 feet, as damselfly nymphs need to rest every so often when they swim.
Be confident and experiment with different retrieves to see what the trout respond to best in your specific location. I’ve found that some techniques are deadly in one area and will snag you an impressive catch, yet don’t work so well elsewhere.
The Wrap Up
So there you have our complete guide to the damselfly nymph. An essential fly for any fly angler, make sure you stock up on these before any summer fishing trips. You’ll be amazed by how many trout, among other species, you’ll catch with your damselflies.
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