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Fly Tying Terms

Thomas C. Duncan, Sr.
Photos by James Birkholm

Dragonfly nymphs are a major source of nutrition for Trout in stillwaters. Their size and availability make them desirable to the finned creatures, but their complicated configuration causes no small amount of distress to the fly tier who seeks to imitate them. A massive, horizontally swelled abdomen, long legs, flat body, and mottled colour scheme make their appearance intimidating to replicate. On top of it all, they are bottom-dwelling creatures which requires some amount of weight in the fly for it to be a believable representation.

Over the span of time, many Dragonfly patterns have come and gone. Most are extremely bulky and difficult to cast. Others that have been simpler to cast are not very good imitations. Then again, some of the good imitations require a vast amount of materials and techniques that are beyond the skills of the beginner, frustrating for the intermediate tier, and annoying to the expert. Some new ideas are needed to make this easier, to be sure!

Here are a few ideas combined in a fly called "Fafner" after another entity of similar type and the same name to make the concept more simplified while still retaining accuracy. Essentially a Bugger with minor modifications, it is designed to sink quickly and give the impression of the large-headed nymph with its segmented body and long legs all the while keeping the tying process simple. If you can tie a Woolly Bugger, you can tie Fafner. Here are the details:

Materials: Fafner

    Hook:  Saltwater or Bass hook, #4-#10.

    Tail:  Grizzly dyed Olive Marabou.

    Body:  Olive dubbing.

    Hackle:   Grizzly dyed Olive schlappen.

    Legs:  Olive rubber strands.

Tying Steps:

1. Lash bead chain eyes to hook and superglue them for stability.

2. Wind thread to hook bend and tie in grizzly/olive marabou. I have added a couple strands of root beer Krystal Flash for effect: this is optional, of course. The grizzly marabou is available from Ewing Feather Birds in many dyed shades.

3. Tie in a schlappen or other long, webby hackle by its tip. Wind a body of dubb or chennille. I dislike chennille, and am therefore making the body with Ronn Lucas, Sr's. Iridescent Dubbing. Any loose, shaggy dubbing will do. If you should decide to use chennille, add a wire rib to protect the hackle rachis. Dubbing will cushion it from the terrors of Trout teeth if not.

4. Wind the hackle forward and make a full collar behind the eyes. Tie in a pair of long rubber legs between the collar and the eyes.

6. Dub over the eyes and whip finish. This last part might seem academic, but don't forget that Dragonfly nymphs have big heads! (So did the original Fafner, by the by.)

More Tips

Adjust the materials to adapt to the hues of your local dragons, but make sure the tail and legs are dyed-over-grizzly or in some other way variegated. This is what makes that abdomen look segemented without having to wrap Larva Lace or other items around a hook or extension.

If these will be used in pursual of Bass, a stinger hook is a good choice, but it requires larger eyes in order to cause it to ride hook-up. The fly looks the same top and bottom, so if it does not turn over, all you lose its the weedless quality, but it is something of which one will want to be aware when selecting a hook. Streamer hooks, for instance, look nice, but certain downeye types don't "roll" like short shank hooks do. Curved shank hooks like the 200R are good, as are most Saltwater hooks. Coincidentally, I also like to tie these with lead eyes if they will be fished in deeper stretches of water. ~ TD

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

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