McDonald Mudeye Nymph – An Easy Fly to Tie Yet Deadly on Trout

McDonald Mudeye Nymph by Dick Marquand

McDonald Mudeye Nymph, brown version. Ideally, the body should be flattened.

McDonald Mudeye. I can remember a few years ago, cleaning a large trout that I had caught in Lake Dispute near Queenstown. It had been feeding on dragonfly nymphs, in fact, its stomach revealed 92 of these large green aquatic insects. What astonished me, even more, was that some of the nymphs were
still alive. I selected two of the most lively and put these into my specimen jar.

That evening, I visited my good friend Geoff McDonald, an angling guide, a talented trout angler and an excellent tier of trout flies.

McDonald Mudeye Nymph, viewed from above the abdomen should be wider than the head and thorax.

How would you like to tie me up an imitation of these?” I asked Geoff as I handed him the jar containing the live dragonfly nymphs.

“They call these mudeyes in Aussie,” he said.

“Well okay then,” I replied, “how about tying me up some McDonald Mudeyes.”

“No worries,” said Geoff, “I’ve got the fly vice set up on the kitchen table.”

So was born the McDonald Mudeye, the name stuck and over the next couple of weeks, Geoff developed a simple yet very effective dragonfly nymph imitation. We tried the prototypes out at Lake Johnson and caught some cracker rainbows, weighing up to 2.3kg. The nymphs proved to be equally deadly on brownies in all of the Southern Lakes where we tested them.

This plump brownie fell to a McDonald Mudeye fished from the northern shoreline of Lake Hayes, Otago.

In my fly box, I have several varieties of dragonfly nymph imitations, ranging from the complicated Morton’s Annie to the simple McDonald Mudeye. The truth of it is that my friend’s pattern works as well as any of the others. Being simple to tie, it is easy for even a novice fly tier to chum out.

How to tie the McDonald Mudeye Nymph:

1. Take a long shank No. 8 fly hook and place it securely in the fly vice.
2. Tie in an amount of lead wire by winding it along the shank. I vary the amount of wire with each nymph so that I have fast sinkers and slow sinkers.
3. Tie on a short tail of brown squirrel fur, or a similar material.
4. Close to the tail, tie in a large brown hackle
and some light green or light brown chenille.
5. Wind the chenille forward to form a fat body and tie it off at the eye end of the hook.
6. Wind the hackle from the tail forward, tie off and clip, so as to give the nymph a slightly flattened appearance.
7. Wind another hackle on at the end of the nymph and tie off.

This mudeye or dragonfly nymph was found under a rock in shallow water at the edge of Lake Hayes.

Now let’s take a close look at what we are trying to represent. The dragonfly nymph lives in still, freshwater amongst aquatic vegetation, and under rocks and logs where it wreaks havoc on other aquatic inhabitants. It is ferociously carnivorous, capturing its prey by extending what is known as a “mask”, a hinged lip that is armed with a pair of pincers.

The internal gills of this nymph are contained within a rear abdominal cavity, and the walls of this chamber draw in and expel water so that it is passed over the gills. When the nymph is disturbed, it can squirt the water from this chamber under some pressure and this acts like jet propulsion, giving it a forward motion. It is this jerky motion that the fly angler must imitate to get the best results when fishing with a dragonfly nymph imitation.

I have found that the best months to fish these imitations is from November to January, which makes sense as it is during these months that some of the nymphs leave the security of the weed beds to cross “no man’s land” and climb out of the water onto raupo stalks, half-submerged vegetation or rocks where the adults emerge from the nymph cases.

Blind Fishing the McDonald Mudeye Nymph

When blind fishing with the McDonald Mudeye, I use a floating fly line. The nymph is cast out onto the water and allowed to sink. It is then retrieved with a series of about six short jerks, then allowed to sink for about five seconds before the retrieving process is repeated. It is important to watch the end of the fly line and as soon as this pulls under strike. I have found that more often than not, the trout will take when you pause to let the nymph of jerky retrieves.

It is, however, the “ambush method” which is the most exciting method of fishing this nymph. After spotting the cruising trout and determining its beat, carefully cast the mudeye to a position that you know the trout will pass. Keep low and still, and patiently wait until the trout is within visual range of your nymph. Three or four short sharp jerks on the fly line will usually induce an explosive strike.

Big stillwater brownies can be cagey, however by using the method I have described in this article, you will open a new dimension to your angling experiences.

Philip Bailey ties his Aussie Mudeye.

Tying a Dragon Fly Nymph with Ian Cole.

A small dark-coloured Muddler could also pass for a Mudeye, provided you use lead to make it sink and not too much deer hair.

McDonald Mudeye Nymph, green version. This is an easy fly for the beginner. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect to catch fish.


This post was last modified on 17/08/2021 2:17 pm

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