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What’s that buzz? It’s the Damselfly!

We often turn our attention to terrestrials in the summer months (and for good reason!), but this August, we are focusing on another bug with aquatic beginnings.  The flashy damselfly is our August Bug of the Month.

The Low-Down on the Damsel

Damselflies have a three-stage lifecycle: egg, larva/nymph, and adult. They can spend anywhere from a couple of months in their nymph stage (depending on conditions and habitat). During that time, they may molt a dozen times. In their nymph stage, they are tan, brown, or olive. Even in this stage, they are predatory, feeding on other insects.

While adult damselflies are often seen earlier in the summer in pretty large numbers, they are visible in varying numbers from late May through early October.  (Side note: this has been such a strange spring and summer in Colorado – who knows what August and September will look like!). 

Adult damselflies are very slender insects with an elongated abdomen and two pairs of wings. Males are brightly colored – iridescent blue or green. Females are brown or tan in color. We’re all familiar with their flashy flight patterns. They dart across and skim the surface of the water – then stop and hover for a few seconds. It’s during this pause in their flight that they become very vulnerable to aggressive brown trout.  In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a trout rise with enough energy to snatch one out of the air rather than on the surface of the water.

Damselfly Habitat

Damselflies will populate the weedy shorelines around ponds, lakes, and reservoirs. Adult patterns are definitely worth having in your fly box when you are stillwater fishing.  In their nymph stage, they will be making their way to shore, swimming through vegetation, and are almost always in an olive color at this stage. Deeper, they may take on a tan color. 

In addition, do not overlook the slow, slack water on the edges of rivers and creeks. In this way, they are very similar to terrestrials. Don’t be surprised to see a brown trout flash from an overhanging bank to take the offering. 

Fishing the Damsel

Let’s first talk about fishing the damselfly in stillwater.  When you fish the damselfly nymphs, depth is the key. They are working their way up from the bottom. Work the shallower water around the shore. The challenge is retrieving the nymph without snagging the bottom or getting stuck in the vegetation. That’s always a challenge, right? Getting the fly deep enough while also not snagging it. 

You want to mimic their motion with a slow retrieve in short bursts with a pause between strips. A beautiful thing about fishing damselfly nymphs:  you can do it from the shores of our lakes and reservoirs. 

Fishing the adult damsel can result in dramatic, aggressive takes.  In stillwater, if there is some chop on the water, the better. On rivers and creeks, imagine the slack, dead water against the bank. Hit that back eddy or the slower water. It can be productive to drop that damsel adult right on the seam, or in that slow water itself, to get a rise. Dead drifts of a drowned damsel can be productive.

Finally, anglers can set up a dry-dropper rig with a damsel nymph suspended beneath a larger dry. In both stillwater or rivers, dropping a damsel nymph can be an effective way to get a take when fish are looking for meals higher in the water column but not rising to adults.  With the craziness of the summer of 2023, why not drop a damsel nymph from an Amy’s Ant and fish the banks?

Tying the Damselfly

Hans Mylant, Guide and Angler’s Covey Floor Manager, walks us through tying a damselfly nymph.

Check out this video on tying a Damsel adult pattern!

Final Thoughts

In these dog days of summer, with early starts on hot days, it is always good to mix it up a bit on our local waters. Whether fishing lakes and reservoirs or hitting the tailwaters, offering up some damselfly patterns during your time on the water is not a bad idea. Come into the shop and let our professional staff get you set up with these effective patterns as we approach the end of the summer!

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