Commonly found in our lakes, ponds, backwaters and slow-moving streams, the dragonfly; like its more delicate cousin the damselfly, are both members of the Odonata Order. Similarly, they both form extremely important trout food sources particularly in the nymphal stages of their life cycle.
In Australia the dragonfly nymphs are referred to as “mud eyes” and bait fishing with live nymphs is widespread and highly successful.
Although having a typical life cycle of two to four years the nymphs seem to be at their most active during the spring and early summer, October, December being the pick of the months. Indeed, in Lake Wanaka during this time they form a primary food source and are largely responsible for the “reconditioning” of post-spawning browns.
To most still-water flyfishers the dragonfly nymph and its representation is no stranger. Like so many natural insects there are literally dozens of imitations – all having varying degrees of success. The Hamill’s Killer, I’ve heard, is an effective pattern when the naturals are active despite the fact the tying incorporates a black squirrel’s tail – the natural nymph has no tail.
In Deceiving Trout, by John Parsons, an extremely lifelike imitation tied by John Morton is given – Morton’s Annie Dragonfly Nymph – where green and brown Swannundaze is intricately woven to give a very realistic segmented abdomen.
Unfortunately, the “chipolatas” on the ends of my hands lend themselves to a simpler tying. The fly illustrated is one my fishing companion, Rich Chilman, was given by a frequent American visitor to Wanaka, Rod Jocelyn. It is quite ingenious as it does not necessarily need lead in its tying and consequently is easier to cast – the furry toad readily absorbs water and so sinks quite quickly if weight is required then the bead chain eyes are generally sufficient.
When sight fishing to cruising fish around lake margins using the dragonfly nymph it is often advisable to cast a long way ahead thus enabling the fly to be on or near the bottom and to allow for time for the dissipation of any surface disturbance caused by the fly’s entry. A short sharp jerk as the fish approaches generally gives the required result – the take is often quite savage. To assist the method of line retrieval it is probably worth noting the natural’s means of propulsion is by expelling a water jet through its rear!
Ian Cole – New Zealand Fly Fishing Guides: Wanaka Fly Fishing, premier professional fishing guide, guided fly-fishing safaris for brown, rainbow trout and salmon in southern New Zealand.