How To Fish Stillwaters

July 21st, 2003

Stillwaters, lakes, ponds and reservoirs are the most underutilized fisheries in the North America. Why? Because the average fly fisher doesn't know how to fish them, or where to start. Stay tuned, you too can master stillwaters! ~ LadyFisher

Pheasant-Rump Damsel
With Bead Eyes

By Marv Taylor, Garden City, ID

    Hook: Mustad 9672 (or 3XL equivalent), 8 - 12.

    Thread: Dark-olive 6/0, prewaxed Flymaster.

    Tail: Olive dyed pheasant-rump philo, abdomen length.

    Abdomen: Olive dyed pheasant-rump philo, wound on with dubbing loop.

    Thorax: Olive dyed pheasant-rump philo, thicker than abdomen.

    Wing case: Medium olive swisstraw, with stub.

    Eyes: Black or olive dyed (prepared by burning the ends of a short piece of extra-heavy monofilaent. Install color with felt tip marker as you burn it).

    Head: Dark-olive 6/0 prewaxed Flymaster.

Early in my career, I spent two weeks learning to dress damsel nymph patterns at Henry's Lake. I had a number of tutors. Some believed we should dress simple patterns, others opted for more complicated designs. While simple "stick flies" will often outperform more realistic patterns, even the most dyed-in-the-wool proponent of simplistic design will sometimes relent and "improve" his patterns with subtle changes.

The original Pheasant-rump Damsel was developed by Boisean Ken Magee. It is one of the most productive damsel pattern sold in the Idaho market. I won't guarantee the bead-eye version will catch more fish on a given day than the original...but then maybe it will.

My basic theory on tying trout patterns, is to emphasize the dominant characteristic of the bug I'm trying to imitate. I tie my dragonfly nymph patterns with a chunky abdomen. If I decide to "improve" my dragonfly patterns, I will add bead-eyes, the naturals second most dominant feature.

The natural damsel pattern has a thin body and prominent eyes. Adding eyeballs to any of our damsel patterns, will often improve their some degree.

How far should we go in attempting to improve already successful fly patterns? Only as far as our imagination, tying skills, and patience will allow. ~ Marv

About Marv

Marv Taylor's books, Float-Tubing The West, The Successful Angler's Journal, More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume I) and More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume II) are all available from Marv. You can reach Marv by email at or by phone: 208-322-5760.

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