Damsel Fly Nymph
by Mikael Båth, 1998
The Damsel Fly Nymph can
be an important pattern for spring fishing. A couple of times
during our traditional trout fishing trip around Whitsun the
fish have been very selective and have keyed in on these nymphs.
Any larger nymph would do OK, but an exact imitation can't hurt
(and in any case; it's good for your self-confidence).
As with the dragon
flies, the colours of damsel fly nymphs vary a lot. Dark olive
or brown shades are the most common, though, which is what my
recipe shows If you study a damsel fly nymph swimming near the
surface, you see that it's a fairly long and slim creature that
you're going to imitate. I have chosen a Scorpion hook called
Living Larva (31270), which unfortunately is no longer in stock
here in Sweden. I have not yet found an equal substitute, but
I'm sure there are other hooks that would work fine.
The technique of weaving
marabou for the tail is not new, but the tying descriptions I've
seen involve securing lead shot, glueing knots etc, which make
the fly unnecessarily cumbersome to tie. Because of this, I have
developed a different method that is much simpler and I have
also substituted the various dubbing materials for marabou,
which - in my opinion - makes the fly look better when wet. By
adding CdC to the thorax, the fly can easily be converted into
an emerger. It's no idea weighting the fly since it's supposed
to be fished near the surface when the damsels are hatching.
Tools & Materials
Heat source for melting the Amnesia line for the eyes
Tweezer (not shown)
Toothbrush (see image further down)
Hook: Living Larva #12 (Scorpion)
Thread: Dark olive 6/0
Tail: Woven olive marabou
Abdomen: Olive marabou
Wing sack: Brown pheasant’s tail, dyed
Thorax: Olive marabou; mixed with CdC for better floating
Eyes: Amnesia line or two balls from a ball chain
Head: Tying thread in front of the eyes
The above image shows some olive CdC feathers, Scorpion Living Larva hook,
one olive and olive-brown marabou feather with long fibres,
Amnesia for the eyes, ball chain eyes and an Orvis pheasant tail
feather dyed brown.
The smaller image shows
how I have secured my hackle pliers to the vice with a rubber
band. This way, the pliers are always at hand. In tying this
pattern, the clump of marabou fibres will be held by the pliers
while we weave the tail. The pliers should then be pointing
towards the tier and not to the side as shown in the picture.
1. Start by
cutting off 30-40 fibres from an olive marabou feather with long
fibres. You could also add some olive-brown fibres. Place the
clump of marabou, with ends aligned, over the edge of the tying
bench. Cut off some tying thread and tie it around the marabou
clump, about 15 mm in, with a double half hitch, but be careful
not to make the knot too large since this will mar the final
result. Align the ends of the tying thread with the marabou
fibres and cut them to the same length.
Now attach the marabou
clump in the hackle pliers on the vice. By clamping the pliers
over the knot, we avoid the risk of fibers or thread ends that
slip as we weave the tail. Fasten the hook to the vice and wind
the thread from the eye to a point directly in front of the hook
point. Lock the thread temporarily by making two turns forward
and then one turn backwards. Divide the fibres into three clumps
with one thread end in each. Now start weaving. In the
beginning, you'll lose the grip and will have to start all over
again, but you'll soon get the hang of it. The longer the fibres
are, the easier it is to weave them.
Hold the end of the tail
securely and remove it from the hackle pliers. Place it on the
hook, with the tail extending the same length as the section of
the hook that you've covered with thread and tie it in with a
few good turns of tying thread.
The fibres are often a little
uneven in length, but you can nip them off with your fingers so
that you get an even end of the tail.
Now take the tying
thread forward towards the eye and tie in the rest of the tail.
Leave a couple of millimeters for the eyes behind the hook eye
and cut off the surplus.
Now melt the Amnesia so
that a nice, rather small eye is formed. Cut off the section and
hold it with tweezers as you melt the other end to make a second
eye. Tie in the eyes half a millimeter behind the hook eye by
making three figure-of-eight turns on each side. Secure the eyes
with two turns of thread behind and another two turns in front
of the Amnesia and take the thread to the tying-in point for the
3. Tie in 8-10
marabou fibres for the abdomen, about 2 cm from the tips. Twist
the fibres 5-10 turns and then clamp them in the hackle pliers.
Wind the body about half the length of the hook shank, secure
with a few tight turns of thread and trim off the surplus. By
stroking the abdomen forwards with your fingers, you get the
fibres to rise. Trim on top and bottom, leaving the fibres on
the sides to imitate gills. If the fibres are too long, you may
need to trim them.
4. Now it's time to tie in the wing sack. If you look at a
damsel fly nymph, you can see that it has two separate wing
cases that join in a wing shield. This is perfectly possible to
imitate, but is time-consuming and takes a lot of effort. If you
want to make a couple of nymphs for your private collection you
could spend the extra time and make a wing sack that is divided
in a left and a right section.
Cut off 15 long fibres
from a pheasant's tail and tie them in by the wider end so that
the tips point backwards. Fold the fibres forward to make a wing
case that is approximately two millimeters in length and then
tie down the fibres. Fold backwards again and tie down securely
at the tying-in point. Take your thread forward over the thorax
and bind down the fibres. The fly should now look like the one
in the picture on the right.
5. The thorax
area is made by cutting off 5-6 marabou fibres and dubbing them
onto a waxed thread that is then wound in even turns forward.
Leave the thread hanging in front of the eyes, fold the wing
sack forward and secure with 3-4 turns of thread (see image).
Hold the fibres up and make a small head. Four or five turns of
thread plus two whip finish knots are usually enough. Cut off
the fibres even to the eyes.
To finish off, brush the thorax
area with an old tooth brush to make the fibres rise.
I tied this variant of
the damsel fly nymph on a standard hook. The tail is a little
longer and the wing segments are tied in at the rear end of the
hook shank. The eyes are from a ball chain and painted with a
permanent marker which makes the fly swim deeper than the
unweighted pattern above.
This is a booby variant
of the pattern. The thorax is made like the tail in the
description above and the eyes are made from black foam placed
in a ladies' stocking. This fly is also olive-brown to serve
double duty as a dragonfly nymph. Booby flies fished on an
intermediate line can be extremely efficient in lakes where
action is slow, especially in spring.
Text and photos
by Mikael Båth, 1998 ©