Written by: Ted Fauceglia

Dragonfly nymphs reside in the identical locations and eat the identical issues trout do, in some instances.

Dragonfly nymphs are the Komodo dragons of the aquatic-insect world. They’ve a fierce disposition and a prehensile decrease jaw (known as the masks), which they use to seize nearly any aquatic creature they’ll catch, together with midge and mosquito larvae, mayfly nymphs, caddisfly larvae, tadpoles, and small fish. The masks incorporates a collection of hooks on its edge, which permits dragonflies to succeed in out and seize their prey.


Dragonflies belong to the order of bugs often called Odonata. Two households on this order, Aeshnidae (darners) and Gomphidae (clubtails), are essential to the fly fisher. At first look, the nymphs of the 2 households look alike, however there are variations in each their look and of their strategies of locomotion. Darners have slender our bodies and are quick swimmers. They transfer by forcefully expelling water from the top of the stomach. Clubtails, however, are wider, shorter, and extra strong. They transfer by slowly crawling alongside the stream backside. The 2 households additionally differ of their strategies of predation: darners transfer about in open water and aggressively stalk their prey, whereas the extra reclusive clubtails lie in wait and ambush their unsuspecting victims. 

The identify darner originates from an previous wives’ story, which warned loudmouthed, rowdy kids that grownup dragonflies had been the “satan’s darning needles” that may sew dangerous children’ lips collectively in the event that they didn’t behave. The identify clubtails has a much less romantic origin; it merely applies to the insect’s club-like form.

All dragonfly species have a three-stage life cycle that consists of egg, nymph, and grownup. Shortly after the grownup females drop their eggs, the immature nymphs emerge. Like stonefly nymphs, dragonfly nymphs have an prolonged life span that ranges from one to 3 years. Simply distinguishable from the nymphs of daintier bugs, dragonfly nymphs have flattened our bodies and 6 lengthy, tightly bunched, spider-like legs that protrude from the higher area of the thorax. Giant compound, bulbous eyes dominate the comparatively small head, from which two small antennae protrude. The wingcase covers a shortened thorax, which is adopted by an oversize stomach. Not like mayfly and stonefly nymphs, dragonfly nymphs don’t have tails. Mature nymphs can attain as much as an inch and a half lengthy. Their colours fluctuate, however many of the specimens that I’ve collected from each Jap and Western waters have ranged from medium ginger to a really darkish brown. The darkness of the wing case factors to the diploma of the nymph’s maturity; a darkened wing case signifies that the nymph will quickly be prepared to remodel right into a winged grownup. 

Most well-liked habitat varies with the species. Darners want suspended vegetation or backside particles, whereas clubtails burrow into secluded niches within the backside. I’ve discovered each households in nearly each sort of water that I’ve fished, together with ponds, rivers, and all varieties of trout water. Through the summer time months, it’s certainly a uncommon day when grownup dragonflies should not circling their territories looking out for flying prey and intruders. On a couple of event, I’ve watches grownup dragonflies feed on rising mayflies. Identical to swallows and cedar waxwings, the dragonflies grabbed the slowly rising mayflies in midair. After catching a mayfly, a dragonfly would fly to a close-by perch, the place it devoured its prey. Mosquitoes are additionally a favourite prey of the dragonflies, which has given rise their moniker “mosquito hawks.” The presence of the adults is a positive indication that the nymphs are within the water and are lively. 

Hatching takes place out of the water. When the nymphs have totally matured, they migrate to the streamside vegetation. After a short interval, the outer shell spits open and the four-winged grownup slowly emerges. As quickly because the crumpled wings fill with fluid, the newly emerged grownup flies away.
Since dragonfly nymphs are carnivores, they dangle round essentially the most plentiful sources of obtainable prey. And since they prey on the identical bugs that trout eat, it places them proper in the midst of the trout’s atmosphere and in flip makes them a key ingredient on the trout’s menu. Even if dragonfly nymphs strike worry in most of their fellow aquatic inhabitants, they’re defenseless in opposition to trout. The masks is of no use in opposition to massive predators. Whether or not the nymphs are crawling alongside the underside foraging or are within the means of rising, the trout choose them off like low-hanging fruit. Dragonfly nymphs should not so quite a few as most different aquatic nymphs, however they’re nonetheless an interesting meals supply for trout and most different insect-eating recreation fish. It’s straightforward to grasp why: they’re ubiquitous; they’ve prolonged life cycles which make them accessible year-round, albeit in numerous sizes and levels of maturity; they’re accessible; they usually’re weak.

TF’s Dragonfly Nymph
Thread: Extremely Denier 70 olive brown
Eyes: 30 lb. mono (burnt to form, coloured with darkish brown Copic sketch
Hook: TMC 5272 sizes 12 & 10
Stomach:  combination of brown SLF spikey dubbing & golden olive Waspi
squirrel dubbing utilized with a dubbing loop and trimmed to form
Legs: mottled brown hen hackle fibers
Wing case: brown Swiss Straw
Thorax:  similar because the stomach, however utilized with a dubbing noodle
Head: Extremely Denier 70 olive brown

Patterns and Ways

Though the physique shapes of the 2 households differ, I tie a single sample to symbolize each. I think that there are rivers the place precise patterns are essential to match a selected species–the number of subtle dragonfly patterns accessible suggests this–however I’ve by no means encountered that downside. The sample described right here has proved to be an efficient all-purpose dragonfly imitation. I tie it in a number of sizes, in each gentle and darkish shades-I exploit fox-belly fur for each shades. The sample has labored for trout on each Western and Jap waters, and in bigger sizes it has been equally been efficient on river smallmouth bass. 

To mimic the motion of darner nymphs, the sample needs to be fished deep and with some motion. Darners transfer briefly spurts, and to duplicate this hoppinglike movement and to get the fly on the underside, a weighted sample works greatest. Forged the sample throughout stream and retrieve it by lifting and reducing the rod tip, stripping a small quantity of line every time you decrease the rod. Once you increase the rod tip, it lifts the nymph off the underside and brings it towards you. Once you decrease the rod tip, the nymph drops again to the underside. To successfully management the motion of the nymph, you’ll need to preserve a decent line. This lets you management the motion of the nymph with the rod tip. To make use of this method, fish a single nymph and not using a strike indicator.

Imitating clubtails requires much less method. Since clubtails lie in wait and depend on stealth to seize their prey, you don’t must impart any motion to the fly. A easy lifeless drift works greatest. Whether or not I’m fishing swimming pools or riffles, I exploit unweighted patterns, and I fish two flies with a strike indicator. With this method, the quantity of weight and the size of the chief are important elements: they each rely upon the depth and velocity of the water. As a rule, deeper water requires an extended leaders and extra weight. Shallow, slow-moving water requires shorter leaders and fewer weight. 

To mimic the habits of migrating nymphs crawling towards the shoreline to emerge, I forged on to the middle of the water and produce the nymph again towards me with a really gradual line twist.

Ted Fauceglia is the nation’s foremost photographer of aquatic bugs, and he writes the “Pure Reflections” column in every problem of American Angler. Ted can also be an FFI Licensed Casting Teacher, the creator of Mayflies (2004), and he has supplied the bug and fly-pattern pictures for dozens of books.


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