Bucktail Damsel

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by ray helaers, Jan 23, 2002.

  1. ray helaers

    ray helaers Active Member

    Dec 31, 1969
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    Buck Tail Damsel Fly

    By late June and early July, adult damsel patterns can account for most of the fish I hook on stillwaters. When trout are keying on adult damselflies, it can create some of the most exciting dry fly fishing you’ll ever see. Adult damsels also make excellent searching patterns when little else is happening. Over shallow weed flats, and on the edges of slow moving spring creeks, fishing an adult damsel pattern can provide thrilling sight fishing for cruising trout.

    Sunny, windy afternoons can create specific rises to damsels. Watch for violent, slashing rises along the edges of reeds or lily pads. I’ve seen trout throwing themselves against reeds, then turning and slashing at damsels they’ve knocked into the water. Cast right at the splash, give the fly a good twitch, and hold on.

    On early summer afternoons, when nothing much is happening, casting adult damsels near and among reeds can draw takes, from leaping smashes to dainty sips. Again, cast to the margins, and either let the fly ride the wind chops, or give it a slight twitch now and then. The majority of the natural flies spend most of their time among the reeds. Put your fly right up against the reeds, within a few inches. On broad, sparse reed flats, try throwing your fly right among the reeds. I’ve caught more fish in these situations than other anglers towing around leeches, and had a hell of a lot more fun doing it.

    Whether you’re fishing a rise or using an adult damsel as a searching pattern, you’ll be fishing tight to or among cover, attracting often violent takes from often big fish. This is not midge fishing. I recommend a six-weight rod and minimum 4X tippet.

    Sight-fishing over weed flats with adult damsels gives you a chance to fish more open water, and it can be extremely productive, and memorable. Lead cruising fish by twelve feet or so. A damsel is a good meal; trout will go well out of their way to take one. Watching a big fish turn and swim ten or twelve feet to take your fly can be unnerving. Keep hold of yourself, and don’t set up too soon. In these situations, fish will often just tip up and sip the fly; wait until the fly disappears before you tighten up.

    Some new adult damsel patterns are extremely realistic, incorporating a lot of pre-prepared, artificial materials and many tying steps. I am not a fast tier. I like my flies simple. The buck tail damsel uses two natural materials, is simple to tie, and makes a pretty, very accurate imitation. It floats like a cork and is durable enough to last through several of the smashing strikes you can often expect when fishing adult damsel patterns.

    Hook: #10 3x-long dry fly hook
    Thread: Dark blue 1/0 waxed mono-cord
    Body: Buck tail, dyed light blue
    Wing: Large grizzly neck hackle

    Step 1.
    Carefully stack and groom a bunch of buck tail, and tie it in at the center of the hook shank, with the butt-ends facing forward. Both ends will eventually be cut, so tie in the hair longer than you will need it, to make handling easier through the tying steps.

    Step 2.
    Lash the buck tail tightly to the hook, ribbing clockwise with the mono-cord toward the hook bend. When you reach the hook bend, grasp the ends of the buck tail and continue to rib the body to the correct length, about 1-½ to 2 inches. Finish the end with a dozen or so tight wraps of the mono-cord.

    Step 3.
    Reverse the ribbing process back to the tie-in point. Wrap tightly to make the body as slim as possible, with distinct segments. Trim of the tail-end of the body about 1/8 inch behind the wraps.

    Step 4.
    Stand up and post the butt-ends of the buck tail like an upright wing. Tie in a large grizzly neck hackle on the far side of the post by the butt, curve-forward. The hackle fibers should be long enough to reach from ½ to 2/3 of the way to the end of the body.

    Step 5.
    Wrap the hackle five to seven turns counter clockwise around the post, parachute style. Tie off the end and trim, then work the hackle back so that it forms a fan a little more than 180° over the back of the body. Trim any fibers that continue to point forward.

    Step 6.
    The tricky part. Wrap the thread all the way to the hook eye to keep the under side of the fly blue, then grasp the post and gently twist it about a third of a turn clockwise while bringing it forward to tie off well behind the hook eye. As you bring the post forward, the hackle “fan” will have a tendency to stand up. Before tying it down, pinch tight and gently push the hair back along the hook shank. This will move the base of the post back toward vertical, flattening the hackle and forming a nice humped thorax.

    Step 7.
    Hold the butt-ends up (out of the way) over the hook eye and wrap back tightly toward the tie down point, forcing the ends to flare up and fan out, similar to but larger than the head of an elk-hair caddis.

    Step 8.
    Trim the ends even with the hook eye. Fan the head out 180 degrees and use the scissors to shape as needed. The head should be significantly wider than the thorax.

    Step 9.
    Whip-finish the thread-head and trim the mono-chord. Cement the thread-head, the tie-down point for the head, and the wraps at the tail to complete the buck tail damsel fly.

    (If you need pictures, this pattern apeared in the June-2000 issue of Northwest Fishing Holes -- maybe at the library?)