Damsel Nymph to match Adult?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Entomology' started by Golden Trout, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. Golden Trout Active Member

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    My normal go-to damsel nymph which is tied in shades of olive stuck out. I eventually stared catching fish on much darker colored micro leeches. The leeches were, by no means, precise imitations and were not consistent producers. I believe the dilemma arises from a close inspection of an adult which had the normal slender body that was gray with black barring as opposed to the brilliant blue with black barring that I am used to seeing.

    Question? What might be the proper damsel nymph design, color, proper tie, etc. to match the adult that was described above?
  2. Taxon Moderator

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    Hi Golden Trout,

    With damselfly and dragonfly adults, the males are generally rather strikingly colored, whereas the females tend to be more drab in color. However, this rule does not hold true for their nymphs, which tend to be drab in color, whether male or female. Depending primarily on family, genus, and species, nymphal damselflies may be tan, olive, green, brown, or some combination of those colors.
  3. jwg Active Member

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    looking at damsels on bug guide, I had no idea they came in so many colors and patterns.
    I was only familiar with green and blue.
    Jay
  4. guitarfisher Jeff W.

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    Earlier this spring I tied-up several damsel nymph patterns in shades of olive and tan. So far, the tan has outfished the olive about 3 to1.
  5. zen leecher aka bill w born to work, forced to fish

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    I would think the proper movement and water depth would be more important than nymph color.
  6. Preston Active Member

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    I would go along with Ralph Cutter in his opinion that "it's impossible to imitate the swimming motion of the damsel nymph, so dont even try". Anyone who has watched the violent, side-to-side gyrations of a swimming damselfly nymph would most likely agree. He adds, however, that, fortunately for the angler, the swimming nymph has to frequently stop and rest, hanging motionless in the water, and the fish is as likely to grab him then as when he's swimming.

    Most damsel nymphs I've observed, at least when they're emerging (that is, when crawling out onto some kind of dry surface, be it a cattail stalk or your float tube) are some shade of tan or brown. Even after emerging from its nymphal shuck the adult damselfly hardly ever exhibits its fully-mature adult coloring. I've seen primarily grays, very pale greens and tans. Damselflies exhibit a period of development after ecdysis (emerging from the nymphal shuck) which may last for a considerable period of time (how long, Roger ?) and, during this period are called "tenerals". At this time their wings are longer than their abdomens and the abdomen itself is shorter and stouter than in the adult. They are not yet good fliers and, generally, just hang there, waiting to mature. I've heard that trout will bump against the bases of cattail stalks in an effort to dislodge them, in which case they would most likely flutter down to become a menu item. I've never observed this although I have seen ducks, swimming around and stretching their necks up as far as they can to pick off every teneral they can reach.
  7. Dave Evans Active Member

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    I was out on a lake yesterday and could see the nymphs swimming by my tube about 6" below the surface and the fish were very active. I had four or five patterns from 14 to 8 and was moving through them with no luck, until I use the skinniest one I had in a size 14. It is very simple, a few strands of maribou for a tail, a couple of short strands for a chin, and a thin dubbed body (I used superfine) with a gold tinsel wing case. That worked for about a half dozen fish 10-14". Any pattern I had where I put on eyes or tried to imitate the flat head would not work. I had used a very dull green dubbing and maribou, but the nymphs were more tan and I am doing to tie some of those up so maybe will have better luck. Fish then started to hit on the surface so switched to adult damsel patterns and had a ball! I ran out of flies except for one to use as a model for future ties, and ended up in Westslope in Spokane trying to figure out the body to tie many, many more adults! Thanks Jesse!
  8. Taxon Moderator

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    Hi Preston,

    My belief is that a damselfly matures sufficiently to fly off within several hours, but am not sure how long they retain the teneral coloration.
  9. Preston Active Member

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    Here are a few pictures of damsel tenerals, one with his just-abandoned nymphal shuck, and one of a damsel nymph in what seems to be a rather typical brown coloration.

    Attached Files:

    Dave Evans likes this.
  10. Dave Evans Active Member

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    Preston, great pics! Dave
  11. Drifter Active Member

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    WOW great thread and thanks preston great pics! must tie tan damsels in future! I have always used a pale green!
  12. Kaiserman content

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    I'm pretty sure I had a couple climb up on my boat out of the water, and in less a half hour was flying. It was really fun to watch, as the wings just seemed to "unravel/grow", flatten out and fly off. The color seemed to remain, but I think she was starting to turn that tan color before flying off. The other did the exact same.
  13. Preston Active Member

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    I was curious about the length of time required for a teneral to achieve its fully mature adult form. As you can see from the appended pictures, the teneral is still a long way from complete maturity. The abdomen is thicker than in the adult and shorter than the wings, which are translucent; whereas the abdomen of the adult is long and slender, longer than the wings, which are completely transparent. The teneral may be able to fly but it is a rather poor performance compared to the adult which is an agile predator of smaller insects. I've watched adult damsels swoop down to snatch emerging Callibaetis mayflies off the surface. DSCF1631.JPG damselfly adult.jpg
  14. jwg Active Member

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    Once on Amber lake I paid attention to the drowned damsels on the water surface drifting with the wind. All green. not blue.
    good to have some green adult or teneral patterns

    Probably I was seeing tenerals that blew off the reeds.

    Jay
  15. Chad Lewis NEVER wonder what to do with your free time

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    I believe the drowned green adults you saw were females. I see a lot of the green colored females, and they may die on the water after laying their eggs, although I don't know this for sure.
  16. Chad Lewis NEVER wonder what to do with your free time

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    Dave, take a look at this video. I use the same technique to make a killer adult damselfly body and tie it in the detached style. I'm still trying to sort out a wing that I like though....

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  17. Dave Evans Active Member

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    Chad, thanks, I will have to try that. Slick method. I had never seen a Nor vise in action, now I see why people like them.
  18. Chad Lewis NEVER wonder what to do with your free time

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    The guy in the video is Norm Norlander, the creator of the vise. Watching him tie at a show is worth the price of admission!
  19. Kaiserman content

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    Well, I just learned something... I actually thought that when the thing flew off, it was mature. Didn't realize that it still had a ways to go until it actually got there.

    Thanks for re-educating me.
  20. Preston Active Member

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    Curiosity has led me to purchase a couple of books on odonates (damsel and dragonflies). This is from Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West (Dennis Paulson, 2009): "After leaving the water as a teneral, an odonate slowly continues to harden and color up. The color is often different from the color at maturity, and it changes over a course of days or weeks or even months as the individual becomes sexually mature and returns to the water, completing the cycle. ... After (this) immature phase, most temperate-zone odonates live a surprisingly short time. Small damselflies live no more than a few weeks, larger dragonflies month or two".