Damselflies are present in nearly every pond, lake or reservoir in both warm and cold water environments. Wherever they are present, they are an essential food source for many species of fish. Though fish often take the adult flying insects, the nymphal form is a more readily available to them. In warm water environments, all species of panfish and larger fish like largemouth and smallmouth bass feed heavily on damselfly nymphs. Even though a size eight Green Eyed Damsel is a relatively small fly, drop one on the nose of a largemouth bass patrolling a shoreline and he is likely to pounce on it. I am amazed at the number of sizable bass I have caught while fishing damselfly and dragonfly nymph patterns.
Most damselfly nymphs are pretty good swimmers and are often seen darting about. Their erratic swimming can be easily mimicked by making short 6” strips with frequent pauses while retrieving the fly. I have also found that a steady, slow hand twist retrieve can be deadly at times. A deadly technique is to experiment with different retrieves and let the fish tell you what they want.
The Green Eyed Damsel is a general damselfly nymph pattern, with the green bead chain eyes the only thing that sets it apart from other fly patterns. The tail and body of the fly are created from the same material, ostrich herl. I like using herl as a body material as the fibers of the feather do a better job than dubbing imitating the gills that are present on the live insect. If you add a counter wrapped wire rib, the fly will hold up to many fish. The shellback/wing-buds are probably an unnecessary step, there more for the fisherman than the fish, but I like the way it looks, and the fish certainly give their approval as well. The emu feather used for the legs, could also probably be eliminated if you merely picked out the dubbed thorax to create the appearance of legs. I don’t even think legs are a necessary feature on these flies since the insect holds them close to its body when swimming. Again, it is another feature added more for the fisherman than the fish, but I have noticed that this pattern takes far more fish on the drop than flies without legs. It is probably the movement of the leg fibers on the on the fly's descent that is triggering the strikes from the fish. The bottom line is, I am as much a fly tier as I am a fly fisherman and I like the looks of this pattern which in turn increases my confidence in the fly. I tie and fish a large variety of damselfly nymphs, but this fly is one of my favorites.
Damselflies are present spring through fall, and different species will emerge at different times of the year. Some appear sporadically, and others emerge en mass with vast numbers of insects migrating towards shore at the same time. If you are on the water during one of these emergences the fishing can be incredible if you have a passable nymph imitation. Grebe Lake in Yellowstone National Park is one such place that has astonishing damselfly hatches. Though I am talking about rainbow trout and grayling in this particular lake, the fish key in on these insects and will eat nothing else. I have not found bluegill and other panfish to be that particular, but fishing a damselfly nymph during a strong emergence will produce some stellar fishing all the same. This fall I have had some great days on the water fishing nothing but a damselfly nymph, catching multiple species on the same fly.
The Green Eyed Damselfly Nymph
Hook: TMC 2302 size 8
Eyes: Metal bead chain painted green
Underbody: 15-20 wraps of .010 lead wire
Tail: Olive ostrich herl
Rib: Copper wire
Body: Olive ostrich herl
Shellback/wing buds: Mottled brown medallion sheeting
Legs: Olive Emu feather
Thorax: Olive dubbing