Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Tactics -

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.


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.


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.

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