From the desk of Bob Boese


Bob Boese - Dec 31, 2012

Adult damsel fly patterns are often complicated and frequently produce beautiful flies, but may be better intended for the art of tying than the art of catching.

Three University of Louisiana Rajun Cajun fans and three LSU Tiger fans were going to a conference and traveled by train to get there. At the station, the three Tigers each bought a ticket and watched as the three Cajuns bought only a single ticket.

"How are you three going to travel on only one ticket?" asked a Tiger fan.

"Just watch and you'll see," answered a Cajun.

They all boarded the train and the Tigers took their seats and watched as all three Cajuns crammed into a restroom and closed the door behind them. The train departed and shortly afterward, the conductor came around collecting tickets. He knocked on the restroom door and said: "Ticket, please."

The door opened just a crack and a single arm emerged with a ticket in hand. The conductor took it and moved on. Shortly thereafter, the Cajuns came out one at a time and took their seats The Tigers saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea. After the conference, they decided to copy the Cajuns on the return trip and save some money. When they got to the station, they bought a single ticket for the return trip. But to their surprise, the Cajuns didn't buy a ticket.

"How are you going to travel without a ticket?" asked the Tiger fan.

"Just watch and you'll see," answered the Cajun.

They boarded the train. The three Tigers crammed into a restroom compartment and the three Cajuns crammed into another one nearby. The train departed and, shortly afterward, one of the Cajuns left his restroom, walked over to the Tigers stall, knocked on the door and said: "Ticket, please".

As the weather warms, May/June in the south and June/July farther north, mature damselfly nymphs climb onto a structure to molt into the adult stage. Curiously, the newly hatched adults are not homebodies and usually leave their pond as soon as they are capable of flying and may not return for weeks.  Because of some instinct science has yet to fully identify, most damsels do return to feed and breed. Adult damselflies live for a couple of weeks to a few months after molting.  For this limited period, dry flies for damsels might be somewhat effective. Unfortunately, that somewhat is not as common an occurrence as we would like to believe.

Desormeaux patted his daughter's hand and told her, "T-Dub Mayeaux told me today he wanted you for his bride, and I gave him my consent.

"Oh, Dad," daughter complained, "that's wonderful, but it's going to be so hard leaving mother."

"That's okay," answered Desormeaux."Take her with you."

Let's talk science. Damsel flies are part of the order Odonata and are the suborder Zygoptera, of which there are over 2500 species, and of which slightly fewer than 100 are in America. If you are a fly tyer, you should know that many characteristics distinguish Odonata from other groups of insects. They have small antennae but extremely large eyes that comprise most of their head. (Damselfly eyes are much smaller than dragonfly eyes and are separated; while a dragonfly's larger eyes touch.) They have two pairs of similarly shaped transparent net-veined wings which are powered by thoracic muscles (dragonflies have dissimilar forewings and hind wings) and a long slender abdomen with ten segments. They are excellent fliers because each wing can move independently, which allows them to hover or change direction instantaneously and reach speeds up to 45 mph. Consequently, unless a pond is blessed with acrobatic bluegill, adult damsels will be eaten on or in the water. 

However, consider what really happens when a damsel is on the water. If it is careful, it will not get caught in the surface film. Adult damsels consume a wide variety of insects, mostly midges, fleas, spiders and flies (mayflies, etc.). They capture most of their prey while flying. A damsel fly's wings are usually held over the abdomen away from the water. (In contrast, a dragonfly's wings, when held open, are held horizontally or slightly down. There is a variety of damsel, the "split wing", that holds its wings horizontally, but it is the exception.) Under normal circumstances, a damsel can stand on the surface film for rest and egg laying. The female will often actually submerge to lay eggs and can stay underwater for an extended period of time, then resurface and fly. The damsel will not make a lot of violent movements and is likely to make little or no disturbance when it lands on the water. More importantly, on the water, the damsel is not helpless and can leave as quickly as if on dry land.

If you are going to fish a dry damselfly pattern, you would actually do better to fish the nymph. Hatches are irregular and are mostly indicative of nymphs moving towards shallows to molt. At this time there will be a lot of nymphs in the water and bluegill will occasionally concentrate on this big meal insect. On the other hand, adult damsel dry fly patterns may not be very effective, or, at least, not nearly as effective as the nymph. When the damsel is making its final molt, it is called a "teneral" and the teneral is most vulnerable during that last molting period. To the extent there is a "preferred" location to fish an adult damsel dry pattern; it would be as close as possible to vegetation adjacent to the water's surface. This is where the last molt will occur. Additionally, in the early mornings, damsels will stay on sunlit vegetation to "warm up" prior to the day's activities and occasionally fall off.

Adult damsel dry patterns can be tied with foam, buck tail, monofilament, hackle shafts and other materials an inventive fly tyer can imagine. Presented at the right time to the right fish at the right location it may stir up bluegill action. If not, appreciate the beauty of the damsels flying around you eating mosquitos and fish a nymph.

Comment on this article

Archive of Bob Boese

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice