Don's Fly Tying - The Dragonfly Nymph

[The Dragonfly Nymph]

Chironomids may be the best way to catch early season trout in Western Canadian lakes but it requires a specialized technique to productively fish a chironomid, especially when the trout are being selective. This month we will look at a fly that will work almost anytime of the year, whether on a slow troll or cast and retrieved just above the bottom weed beds. The large dragonfly nymph is an offering that trout will often hit even when feeding or other aquatic insects. There are many ways to tie a dragonfly nymph but the two principle ones are the clipped deer or elk hair gomphus and the longer dubbed Darner which we will examine this month. The Darner dragonfly nymph can grow to a surprisingly large size, with three legs protruding from either side of the thorax, a long segmented body, and very small tail section appendages which are unlike the much longer tails of the stone or damsel fly nymphs. There is a theory that big flies catch big fish so the dragonfly nymph should definitely be one of your fly box selections!


[Sheridan, a Big Fish Lake]


Attach your tying thread to the hook shank and secure a fine gold wire with some half hitches so that the wire projects past the hook bend three or four inches. Now you are ready to make a dubbing loop for the seal hair. I first roll the seal hair between my fingers into a very thin cigar shape about three inches long. I then place this hair into a similar length loop of tying thread which is allowed to hang directly below the hook bend. The next step is key; attach a dubbing tool (I make my own out of Q tips with the cotton swabs cut off and a tiny opened eye hook screwed into one end which then looks like a minature shepherd's staff) to the bottom of the loop and twist the hair tightly without breaking your dubbing loop. It takes a lot of twisting to get the seal hair into a thin line with hair ends sticking straight out. You are then ready to wrap the seal hair dubbing loop about three quarters of the way to the hook eye. Temporarily secure it here with a half hitch and place a clothes peg on what remains of your dubbing loop so that it doesn't unravel. At this point attach a pheasant hackle feather and spiral it around the hook shank not more than two turns. Lay a second pheasant hackle feather directly on top of the hook projecting back to the hook bend and secure both with your tying thread. Before continuing past the pheasant feathers with the seal hair dubbing loop, I like to wind the fine gold wire through to this point to form the body segments and tie off. Carefully wrap the remainder of the dubbing loop past the pheasant feathers to the hook eye and tie off there. The final step is to trim the first pheasant hackle top and bottom so that it projects out as legs. The second pheasant feather along the back is cut directly through perpendicular to the hook to form a short shell back representing the thorax. There is a bit of a trick to wind the seal hair through the pheasant feathers, shaping them as you go, so that the legs and shell back will look realistic after trimming. A final wrap of peacock herl at the hook eye is an option but I have found that the fly will work equally as well without this head.

Will this fly work? I can recall one summer evening casting a small brown dry sedge during a prolific caddis hatch on Sheridan Lake. When the hatch came on I had switched to a dry line and left the seal hair dragonfly nymph that I was using on a wet line carelessly dangling over the edge of the boat in about ten feet of water. My success wasn't too great with the dry fly sedges but suddenly the wet line went beserk and the rod, reel, line and all was almost yanked into the lake before I could grab it. A six pound rainbow had decided that the dragonfly nymph in the water directly below the boat was a better meal than the hundreds of small brown caddis flies hatching everywhere!

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