I was fascinated by dragonflies as a youth. They buzzed by on flashing wings, sometimes just missing my head in their erratic, darting flight. An older neighbor told us that if we were not careful they (he called them darning needle flies) would land on our heads and sew our eyelids shut. You can imagine we 10-12 year-olds were frightened by this prospect and we sure avoided them. This ridiculous myth is of course not true. Had we known their life cycle we would have enjoyed calling them mosquito hawks as they consume hundreds of these blood thirsty pests daily. So when buzzing around our heads feeding on those annoying pests they were helping us.
In the dragonfly life cycle, the adults mate and lay their eggs in ponds, lakes and even slow moving rivers. In fact, in University in 1963, I did a study on some weed beds in the Mississippi River. I found many dragonfly nymphs. They lead fascinating underwater lives as predators on other insects and even small fish; sometimes also preying on each other. Next time you find one, take a look at the mouthparts it has! They have very impressive jaws. While small fish fear them large trout love to eat them. A big Gomphus dragonfly nymph is a real meal, probably equivalent to 25 to 30 freshwater shrimp (known to many local fishermen/women as Scuds). So trout can get a lot of energy from a single nymph.
When I moved to Princeton in 1969, it was legal to use dragonfly nymphs for bait in our lakes. No longer are they legal. Just as other aquatic insects in our lakes are no longer legal bait. Because people tore up the shoreline weed beds searching for nymphs, and because these young dragonflies take from one to three years to mature to adulthood, and simply because I enjoy watching these mosquito hawks pick off those pests, I’m all for this ban. I have been fascinated seeing them land on the tip of my fly rod and scrub their jaws with their forelegs to clean off remnants of a recent meal.
BUT I am all for using artificial dragonfly nymph flies. In fact One pattern I make seems quite popular among local anglers (they sure buy lots of them) and I find it catches trout for me. Other tyers have their favorite patterns. You tyers can find their patterns on the Internet. Just enter dragonfly in the search engine Google.
Here is my pattern:
Hook – Size 8…3xl Mustad Viking.
Tail – A few short fibres from pheasant tail feather.
Body – Spun deer hair trimmed to look like the fat body of the Gomphus dragonfly nymph.
Wing Pad – A bunch of pheasant tail feather fibres. LONG ones as you need them for legs also.
Legs – After making the wing pod, pull half of remaining fibres back on one side and do same on the other side. These will stream back and move like the insect swimming as you retrieve the fly in the water.
Head – A small bunch of trimmed, spun deer hair. Whip finish and apply head cement.
*FISHING TIP Dragonfly nymphs live right on the bottom so fish right on the BOTTOM near those weed beds. HAVE FUN!