Friday Fly Day - Damsels and Dragons

Throughout Australia and New Zealand most rivers are now closed for winter. However, there are many stillwater opportunities that remain accessible. Many anglers seem daunted by the prospect of large, open stillwaters but here’s a tip: simply find the best weed beds, and give the fish what they’re looking for... Dragonfly and Damselfly larvae.


Dragonflies are most active during spring and early summer, however Dragonflies can remain in the nymph stage for three to five years which makes them an important year round food source for trout in lakes, ponds, backwaters and slow moving river reaches.

Rather than swim, they walk along the lake bed and can squirt a jet of water from their rear when disturbed, darting forward in short, 4 or 5 inch bursts. This is handy to remember when you’re on the water imitating the natural.

Dragonfly nymphs rely largely on camouflage to conceal their short, squat profiles so it's important to carry colours to match the bottom where you’re fishing, with olives, browns and greens being common on most NZ stillwaters.

Fish deep. As mentioned, Dragonfly larvae will crawl along the bottom so approach it with a floating line, a well weighted nymph, a 10’ polyleader, or a full sink line according to the water. The addition of Loon Deep Soft Weight will allow you to fish lightly weighted flies down in the zone where needed. Retrieve your fly slowly along the bottom with a smooth figure 8 style retrieve imparting short bursts with a pause in between.

Mutant Mudeye

The squat deer hair body gives out a solid profile and combined with foam eyes keeps this pattern hovering above the rough stuff.

Grizzly Dragon Olive

The puffy marabou body oozes movement and again with the foam eyes keeps this pattern from snagging up.

Ibrahims Dragon Olive

A realistic rubber extended body and marabou tuft give this pattern a buggy, realistic appearance.

Hamils Killer

An extremely effective dragonfly imitation crawled along the lakebed, or retrieved in short, fast strips.


Damsel nymphs too have extended nymph cycles, making them a prominent winter food source, are rather similar in habit to Dragonfly larvae yet much more slender in appearance. Whereas dragon nymphs will hang close to the bed, as will damsels, damsels will also dart about throughout the column on their way to shore, often in large numbers. Those swirls and boils you see across the flats are often to damsels just beneath the surface. A faster, more erratic retrieve with a long leader, floating line and unweighted, or lightly weighted imitation would be my first approach to swimming a damsel. Pause often on your retrieve, as this is where many takes will come.

Being lighter and slimmer in profile, damsel nymph create less disturbance than a led eyed dragon nymph when presented, so are perfect for quickly covering sighted disturbances or cruising fish.

Swimming Damsel

Tied on an extended body shank the swimming damsel comes to life when fished in short bursts either blind across the weed, or presented to sighted fish.

Ritz Slimfast Damsel

A full, marabou abdomen oozes buggy movement and extended marabou tail really brings this pattern to life. My personal go - to in most situations.

Diving Damsel

The long marabou tail and tungsten head give this fly a sexy, jig like action when retrieved on a longer pull. Try a loop knot such as the surgeons or Lefty’s loop to really bring this pattern to life.

Robs Redhead Damsel

A Rob Vaz hothead pattern designed to catch the eye.