Dragonflies are most often an important food source for trout that are found in lakes. Their nymphs inhabit nearly all lakes and ponds, and they can also be found in backwaters of some rivers and streams. The life cycle of the dragonfly is two- to three-years in length and is incomplete – egg, nymph and adult.
Dragonfly nymphs do not hatch in open water. They migrate to shore, partially exposed weed beds, rocks, logs/sticks or almost any object that is exposed out of the water. Trout feed on dragonfly nymphs when they get the chance, but they rarely have the opportunity to feed on dragonfly adults. Therefore, only patterns that represent the nymphal stage of the dragonfly will be provided.
Dragonfly nymphs are easily recognizable as they have wide heads, narrow thoraxes, and bulbous abdomens, which give them their hourglass shape. Their eyes are very large and they have short antennae. Dragonflies range in size from about one quarter inch to up to a full two inches as they progress through several instars. It is usually best to tie patterns on long shank hooks in sizes 6 to 10. Since dragonflies rely on camouflage, they will vary in color and will approximate the color of what they have been eating or their habitat. If unsure of the correct color green or olive-green imitations will usually be effective if trout are eating. An Olive Woolly Bugger with its tail halved is a great searching pattern and looks a lot like a dragonfly.
Damselfly nymphs are in water shallow enough to allow sunlight to penetrate to the bottom and promote the growth of vegetation. Damselflies found in lakes are more important to the trout fisherman than those found in streams and rivers. River and stream damselflies can be important to the smallmouth fisherman. However, damselflies are not as prolific in lakes with clean sandy bottoms.
Damselflies also have an incomplete life cycle – egg, nymph and adult. The life cycle is from one to two years. Damselflies emerge by swimming towards protruding vegetation, floating logs, or the shoreline. They swim with a side-to-side movement that is like a snake. They crawl out of the water to emerge.
Damselfly nymphs are easy to identify. They measure about one inch to an inch and a quarter when their tails are added. Nymphs can be imitated on 3X long size 8 and 10 hooks. Flies when tied for migration periods are usually tied smaller – Size 12, 14, or 16 long shank hooks. They have three caudal gills in place of tails. The gills are leaflike, some slender like willow leaves, other oval like alder leaves. All have tracheal systems branched through them that look like the veins of the leaves they resemble. Some tails are translucent and beautifully molted. Color range is narrow and reflects the colors of the bottom and the vegetation where they live. Green and dark brownish olive are the two most common colors. Some species are tannish brown or tannish olive.