Damselflies (suborder Zygoptera) are much more delicate in their appearance than the fierce-looking dragonfly. Their scientific name is derived from their wing base shape, zygo meaning ‘yoked’. The damsel’s wings are more ‘necked’ or yoked than most other aquatic insects. The mature nymphs begin to move to the shoreline as it warms up in the spring, crawling up reed stems and other aquatic plants. The nymphal skin splits and the airbreathing adult emerges. This emergence can take up to six hours to complete and within a day their wings will inflate and life as a flying insect begins.
TROUT LOVE THEM
What makes the damsel nymph so important to the angler is that from early season through till late summer it can provide an important part of the trout’s diet. The damsel has three stages of development – egg, nymph and adult winged insect. Living as nymphs for between one and two years they spend their last spring and summer as adult flying insects. Adult damsels live and mate on stillwaters or very slow-moving rivers or streams. When the eggs hatch the tiny damsel nymphs scatter throughout the aquatic vegetation, when they feed on midge larvae and water fleas. This nymphal part of the damsel’s life is totally aquatic, normally it spends its time well hidden amongst the vegetation and detritus on the bottom. But when the time comes to go ashore and make the change from an aquatic insect to a flying adult, the nymphs swim ashore to the bankside vegetation in large numbers, often covering bankside reeds and vegetation with emergent blue-bodied adult insects spreading their wings to dry in the sun.
HOW TO FISH DAMSELS
It is then that a good nymph imitation fished with a jerky figure-of-eight retrieve from a floating line will result in some arm-jarring takes as the trout actively hunt the shorebound nymphs. An essential facet of a good Damsel imitation is that the fly uses highly-mobile materials such as marabou to imitate the sinuous movement of the natural. Colours are usually various shades of olive through bright green, although they can be shades of brown through to almost black, depending on their natural habitat.