How To Fish Stillwaters

August 2nd, 2004

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

Damselflies, Part 3
Thoughts of Pattern Design

By Philip Rowley

Both the adult damsel and the nymph are slender and good fly patterns should reflect this characteristic. Kaufmann's Marabou Damsel is a perfect example of what a damsel pattern should be. Its spartan design has duped many trout. Thinly dubbed or wound marabou bodies work best. Andy Burk's unique combination of Vernille and marabou is another consideration. The other challenge facing the fly tier is imitating the sinusoidal swimming motion of the nymph. I have tried various wiggle nymph patterns but have had my best success with patterns using soft materials such as marabou and aftershaft feathers. Marabou tails on damsel nymph patterns should be long and sparse. Short, bushy marabou tails pulse when retrieved while a long sparse tail will sway back and forth imitating the sculling nymph. Aftershaft feathers make wonderful thoraxes. Both marabou and aftershaft feathers come to life in the water, moving and breathing on their own. Flies incorporating these materials often result in takes on the drop. Patterns taken in this fashion have always impressed me. For the wingcase on damselfly nymphs, any of the traditional materials work. Personal favorites include mottled turkey quills and raffia. Use of a flexible adhesive such as Dave's Flexament adds durability to the quills while the mottled effect of the turkey quill adds realism. Soft-hackle feathers such as partridge, grouse or hen saddle makes wonderful legs on damselfly nymphs. The variegated look of these feathers provides a convincing look to any pattern. Arguably the most imitated feature of the damsel nymph is its prominent eyes. While not always necessary for success, eyes on a pattern can be a source of confidence for the fly fisher. On those tough days, confidence in a pattern spells the difference between casting practice and catching fish. There is a host of materials suitable for eyes on nymphs. Some favorites include melted monofilament, knotted Vernille, glass beads and round foam. Any of these materials are interchangeable depending upon the mood and preference of the fly tier.

To imitate the adults, the considerations are similar to those of the nymph. I prefer svelte, delicate patterns. Tiers previously used dyed deer hair or bucktail for their adult patterns. Then Gary Borger got us thinking in new directions with his creative use of braided butt material. Now foam is one of the most popular materials in use today. Rainy's Flies and Supplies and others offer a full range of round foam developed specifically for damsel patterns. Use the smallest diameter foam available. A black permanent marker provides the familiar banding. To imitate the wings, try a large parachute hackle. I fashion wings using pearlescent sheet material to create my own shimmering wings. Remember, tie them in a swept back position to imitate the drowned adults. Like the nymphs many tiers imitate the eyes. One of my favorite eye materials is black round foam. It provides added realism while aiding the overall floatation of the pattern. ~ PR

More on insects for 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 permission.

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