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Furry Foam Dragon
By Philip Rowley

I have seen few patterns designed to imitate the sprawler dragon nymphs from the family Libellulidae. Most anglers only consider the climbing nymphs when it comes to dragons. That's too bad because trout seem to hold a soft spot for the spider-like sprawlers. When I researched for patterns aimed specifically at the sprawling nymphs, only two patterns came to light. Jim Crawford's Gomphus and Jack Shaw's Gomphus Dragon Fly Nymph. Both of these designs have become increasingly popular over the years. These designs incorporate bodies of spun and clipped deer hair. The spun deer hair provides a buoyant body, enabling the fly-fisher to creep these patterns slowly over the weeds and bottom debris. Although Libellulidae nymphs have the same afterburner system as their Aeshnidae cousins, they are hesitant to use it. These shy nymphs prefer to crawl from one ambush point to another in search of food.

Sprawling nymphs from the family Libellulidae use their short body hairs to cover themselves in silt and debris and then lie motionless until dinner stumbles by.

In my search for a decent sprawler pattern I tried both deer-hair versions. I was not confident in the realistic feel of the spun deer hair bodies although I did well enough. Trout feeding upon these nymphs do so delicately at times. Takes feel like weed hangups or a unique plucking sensation. Some theorize that the trout root the nymphs up out of the vegetation mouthing them somewhat prior to taking them down.

After tying a number of other body materials such as clipped lamb's wool, I returned to deer hair. I could not find another body material that was as readily available or as easily shaped as deer hair. One day I was leafing through a saltwater pattern book. Looking for nothing in particular, I broke into a wry smile when I ran across Craig Mathew's Turneffe Foam Crab. Craig Mathew's crab pattern uses an overbody of Furry Foam to simulate many of the small crabs that inhabit the saltwater flats. Blended with a spun deer-hair body, this pattern would transform into a great-looking sprawler dragon nymph. The Furry Foam overbody, while not as buoyant as deer hair, complemented the overall look of the pattern. The short fuzzy fibers of the foam were a dead-ringer for those of the natural nymph. Adding mottling to the body with a permanent marker added to this realism. The Furry Foam overbody simulates the top coloration of the dragon nymph. Change the natural deer hair to a dirty yellow or watery olive to match the underbodies of these sedentary nymphs. Using silicone legs to imitate the stout crawling legs completed the fly. I had a pattern that would float above the weed tops with legs that would shake and crawl under the slowest of retrieves.

Materials: Furry Foam Dragon

    Hook: Mustad Signature R74 or Mustad classic 9672.

    Thread: Olive Monocord or 6/0 UNI-Thread.

    Overbody: Furry Foam strip.

    Body: Dirty yellow deer hair, spun and clipped.

    Legs: Silicone rubber legs.

    Head: Same comgination of materials as the body.

Tying Instructions: Furry Foam Dragon

    1. Trim a strip of Furry Foam about 3/8 of an inch wide. Cut one end of the Furry Foam strip to a point like a picket.

    2. Attach the tying thread at the rear of the hook. Leaving the majority of the hook shank bare aids the spinning of the deer-hair underbody. Tie the foam strip in at the rear of the hook by the point.

    3. Spin a deer-hair body 3/4 of the hook shank. Pack the hair tightly to create a dense body.

    4. Trim the body flat on both top and bottom. Give a gentle rounded appearance to the sides of the body. The body dimensions come from the tension on the Furry Foam strip rather than the spun and clipped deer hair.

    5. Pull the Furry Foam strip over the deer-hair body. Adjust the tension so the width of the strip is consistent with the spider-like look of the natural nymph.

    6. Take 3 lengths of silicone rubber leg material and figure-eight them in place in front of the body.

    7. Spin and clip two stacks of deer hair to form the head. Trim the head to a rough triangular shape so the fly has a gathered appearance at the junction of the body and head.

    8. Pull the remaining foam strip across the spun and clipped head. Again use tension to aid the overall appearance of the dressing. Tie off the foam strip at the eye of the hook. Lift up the remaining Furry Foam strip and build a head like that of an Elk Hair Caddis. Whip-finish and trim the tying thread. Apply head cement as necessary. Trim the Furry Foam strip over the hook eye.

    9. Gather the legs and cut them to body length. Be careful not to stretch the legs while cutting. Take a permanent marker of contrasting color and give the fly a mottled striped look on both the head and the body. ~ Phil

Credits: From Fly Patterns for Stillwaters published by Frank Amato Publications.

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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