Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dancing Damsel

Damselfly nymphs are one of the staples of the stillwater fish diet in the spring and summer. The Dancing Damsel is a deceptively simple looking fly compared to how effective it is. This fly has accounted for everything from bluegills to trophy trout. Tie one on and see how you like it, or better yet how the fish like it!

Slowly paddling my float tube across a high prairie lake a wriggling form caught my eye several feet away. I changed course and paddled toward it. Swimming practically in the surface film was a damselfly nymph. Though this was my initial firsthand encounter it was obvious what it was from all the literature I had read on them.
The first thing that struck me is how hard it appeared to be working compared to the trifling distance it was covering.
Light Olive

The second thing I noticed was the slender profile this creature had with its legs tucked while swimming. It wasn’t until it stopped briefly that the legs appeared at all. This encounter is one of many that led to the design of the Twisted Damsel and Bright Eyed Damsel. It was quite some time later however before I tied up my first Dancing Damsel. Like the Twisted Damsel I have added and subsequently taken away features because the first and most simple version elicits more takes than the more elaborate versions.
Olive Brown

During the spring and early summer damselfly nymphs migrate from deep to shallow water. Once in the shallows they seek out vegetation that protrudes above the water’s surface. Cattails, lily pads, bank willows and a multitude of others are perfect locations for them to exit the water, climb aboard and emerge into adults. Once out of the water the damselfly nymph sheds its outer husk and transforms into an adult. The final stage after transformation, the adult, is of interest to feeding fish and anglers however the nymph migration stage is of greatest interest.
Damselfly nymphs live for up to two years in lakes and some very slow-flowing streams as aquatic carnivores. They go virtually unnoticed by fish throughout this stage of their lives. They stay within the aquatic vegetation feeding on other insect larvae and nymphs. Their natural camouflage is to take on a shade of olive, green, yellow, brown or tan that helps them to blend completely with the vegetation. It’s not until nature urges them to transform into adults that they become vulnerable to feeding fish.
Yellow Olive

Damselfly nymphs are extremely slow swimmers making them easy pickings for feeding fish as they swim in open water. The fish will pick them off at any stage in their migration. Leaving deep water they make their way toward the water’s surface. Once they near the surface they are big, tasty, slow swimming morsels silhouetted against the sky. This makes them easy to see and easy to consume.

Originally the Dancing Damsel was designed to fish in the surface film which has proven very effective but using different techniques it can be fished at any level successfully.
Surface fishing is the simplest technique to use with the Dancing Damsel. A cloudy day with a light breeze is the perfect time to surface fish a Dancing Damsel. Using a floating line the fly is simply cast out and retrieved with an excruciatingly slow retrieve interspersed with long pauses. The “Booby” eyes allow it to hang in the surface just like a natural at rest. Days when a light breeze is creating the slightest ripple are prime time to fish it at the surface. During pauses the ripple action imparts a movement that can’t be mimicked by any line action or retrieve.
Dark Olive

Though the inclination is to fish a surface fly with light tippet, that practice is hard to advise when fishing the Dancing Damsel at the surface. The majority of takes will be, if not violent, robust. A large morsel hanging helplessly at the surface can do that!
As a general rule as wind speeds increase so should the retrieve rate but once the wind picks up to more than 10 mph the fly loses its effectiveness.

On bright, sunny days on clear lakes the Dancing Damsel can be fished English “Booby” style. This technique in effect involves swimming the fly just above the vegetation along the bottom of the lake. This can be done using a full sinking line and a leader of a length that is one and one half to two times the suspected depth of the vegetation. Alternately a high density sinking head on a mono running line can be used just as effectively.

Pale Olive

Cast the fly out and allow the line or sinking head to sink fully to the bottom. As the line sinks the fly stays suspended off the bottom above the vegetation. At rest the fly will float up away from the bottom. When the line is retrieved the fly is pulled downward as if diving toward the vegetation. This action can cause some highly aggressive takes because the fish sees perceives the fly to be retreating and grabs it quickly. For this reason 3X to 0X leaders are advised. Because of the heavy leader use an open loop connection to attach the fly. This will allow it to move and “dance” freely during the retrieve.

On days when the fish are suspended and lethargic the Booby style of fishing can save the day like few other techniques. The enticing action right at the level of the fish is all but irresistible. Think of it as having a cheeseburger in front of you even when you’re not that hungry. It’s very tempting!

Available in - Dark Olive, Light Olive, Yellow Olive, Olive Brown, Pale Olive, Ginger, Tan

Size 10, 14

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