Illawarra Flyfishers Club

Damselfly Nymph

Text and Photos by Andrew Susani

Hook #8 - #16 medium to long shank
Thread 6/0 black, brown or olive
Body and Tail Brown or Olive marabou
Ribbing Copper wire
Eyes Burnt mono eyes
Wing Case Black crow, turkey or black raffia

Damselfly nymphs are commonly found in most waters, but seem to be especially prolific in creeks and dams with plenty of weed growth. When they hatch, their colouration varies between an olive green, brown or electric blue and red colours, and their body shape makes them appear to be miniature dragonflies buzzing around the water's surface. The nymph has a distinct wriggling motion, which fly tiers try to imitate by using a variety of techniques, including articulated bodies which look nice but are an effort to tie. The much simpler version shown here uses the seductive swagger of the supple marabou feather, which many fly tiers believe is the only reason turkeys were put on this earth. Some saltwater fly fishermen even use this type of fly as a weed imitation to good effect on bully mullet and luderick in West Australian estuaries. I don't know who originally tied this fly, so my apologies there, but it is a good fly that is well worth a spot in the fly fisherman's box.

Tying Procedure

1. Start thread just before bend of hook. Tie in a small bunch marabou feather fibres so they extend generously past the bend. These will be trimmed later, so don't worry about getting the tail the right length first time. 

2. Tie in a 6 cm length of fine copper wire at the bend – leave it hanging out the back. Take the thread up towards the eye of the hook. 

3. Tie in a pair of burnt mono eyes using figure 8 wraps - these can be painted black to stand out more, but the natural olive colour is probably more realistic for this nymph. This can be a fiddly process, so take your time and be careful with your thread wraps. Once the eyes are tied in, take the thread back down to the tail.


4. Dub a few marabou feathers on the thread and wind them evenly over the shank to form a neat abdomen. Wind the copper wire evenly through the dubbed marabou to suggest segmentation in the nymph’s abdomen. Tie off the wire and trim the waste.


5. Tie in a 5 or 6mm wide strip of your chosen wing case material so it points towards the tail of the fly. It helps if this wing case is dark as many believe the nymph's wing case darkens as they swim to the surface to hatch, and acts as some sort of trigger for the fish.
6. Dub some more marabou to form a plump thorax and pull the wing case over the back, tying it down just behind the eyes. Dub a little bit more marabou behind the eyes to cover the thread wraps, then build up a small head of thread in front of the eyes, whip finish and varnish.

Now you will need to trim the tail - this tip is also pretty handy for trimming the tail of woolly buggers and was shown to the club by Tiewell representative Allan Barber.

7. Decide where you want the tail trimmed and hold it there between your thumb and forefinger.
8. Pinch down tightly on the excess fibres with your other thumb and forefinger.
9. Break the fibres using a squeeze and pull motion. You can be surprisingly neat using this method, and it looks much better than fly tails that have been trimmed with scissors.
10. Tease some of the dubbed marabou out using a fine, sharp bodkin or needle to give the nymph a bit more life in the water, and the fly is complete.


Another way to form the body is to tie in the marabou and wind it around the hook shank, much as you would do for peacock herl or chenille. If you do it this way, make sure your fingers aren't greasy when handling the marabou as it is quite delicate and you want the barbules on each fibre to be fluffed out when forming the body. These all contribute to the overall movement and appearance of life in the fly. Gently twist the fibres together and wind them over the hook shank evenly to form the abdomen of the fly. The dubbed method shown above will give a much stronger fly as the thread is wound throughout the marabou fibres which were dubbed to form the body.