Stillwater fly tiers can imitate many aspects
of dragon nymphs with their prominent eyes,
stout legs and their distinct shapes. I have
tried many patterns from exact woven body
replicas to simple dubbed Carey Special designs.
The best dragon designs are a blend of suggestive
features and materials placed in an imitative format.
The obvious feature for any pattern is size.
Dragon nymphs are a healthy mouthful. Hook sizes
range from 10 2XL through 4 6XL. If I had to
choose one size it would be a number 6. Keep
in mind the time of the year as the mature nymphs
that hatch in the early summer will be the largest.
Once the big boys hatch, the smaller immature
nymphs dominate the scene. For fall fishing size
8 or 10 3XL meets my needs.
I am not a fan of weighted dragonfly nymphs.
Weighted patterns dredge up too much weed and
debris to be consistently effective. I prefer
the other end of the spectrum, floating or
buoyant patterns. I let my fly line carry the
fly into the depths. The fly line lies on the
bottom or amongst the weeds while I trundle the
pattern along imitating a dragon nymph on the
prowl or slinking from one ambush spot to another.
The two types of dragonfly nymphs have very
distinct looks. The sprawler nymphs are squat
and spider like, while the climbing nymphs have
an hourglass shape. Despite their size, it is
easy to overdo these shape guidelines. For
instance, a mature darner nymph is typically
2 1/2 inches in length but is only about 3/8
of an inch wide. Fly tiers should remember
to keep their proportions honest. Along with
their unique bodies, dragon nymphs have large
heads, menacing compound eyes and long, stout
legs. My favorite body material is dubbing.
Dragon nymphs have translucent bodies and
nothing beats dubbing for imitating translucence.
Seal's fur is an original favorite but it is
not always available. Fortunately there are
many fine synthetics that make excellent
substitutes. For added highlights, spin a
length of Crystal Chenille within the dubbing
loop. To imitate sprawler nymphs I combine a
body of spun deer hair with an overbody of Furry
Foam. I use buoyant materials to imitate the
plodding sprawlers to help float the pattern
above the weeds and debris. This merger of foam
and deer lets me creep my offering along the bottom.
Aftershaft feathers are another popular material
for sprawler nymphs. Their soft flowing fibers
mimic the fuzzy look of the sprawlers.
Let local vegetation guide color selection. Both
families are masters of camouflage, especially
sprawlers. Popular color combinations include
shades of brown, green and olive. Mottled and
variegated color schemes are common. As a rule
the clearer the lake, the lighter the nymphs.
This is true of most aquatic invertebrates. In
darker algae or tannin-stained waters, darker
browns and olives will be prevalent. One color
to keep in mind is bright green. Dragon nymphs
progress through a series or molts or instars
as they mature. Immediately after a molt, the
nymph is a vivid lime green. They stick out like
a sore thumb. Until their coloration I returns to
a more natural hue, these nymphs are in constant
peril from foraging trout. Trout relish these fresh
nymphs like smallmouth and bonefish cherish soft
crayfish and crabs.
There are many interesting materials that can be
used to imitate the eyes. Trimmed peacock herl
pheasant tail is an excellent starting point.
Commercially or homemade monoeyes are popular
too. My current favorite is foam as trimmed foam
eyes assist in providing floatation and at the
same time offer a realistic look. It is a concept
borrowed from an English pattern called the Booby.
The Booby uses large foam eyes not so much for
imitation but rather to suspend the pattern above
the weed tops. This buoyant pattern crept along the
bottom is quite deadly. Actually the Booby has become
so effective that it has spawned controversy, with
a number of stillwaters throughout the British Isles
enforcing Booby bans.
Leg materials need to be supple but stiff. This
seems to be an oxymoron of sorts. But when creeping
and crawling the pattern along the bottom, the legs
have to move independently, suggesting the stalking
motion of the nymph. When stripped, the legs should
fold along the body, imitating a nymph fleeing for
cover or darting after prey. For years, tiers used
pheasant tail and hen pheasant tail fibers. In British
Columbia, knotted legs are popular. After studying many
of the bass patterns out there I have added both
rubber and silicone legs to my designs. These legs
jiggle and dance with the slightest motion, yet will
tuck naturally along the sides during brisk retrieves. ~ PR
Publisher's Note: For more information on
the 'booby fly' see:
Mini Hammnerhead Booby Nymph.
More on food opportunities for trout in lakes from Phil Rowley's excellent book,
Fly Patterns for Stillwaters next time.
Credits: Excerpt from Fly Patterns
for Stillwaters By Philip Rowley, published
by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use