The video “Damsels in Distress” by Simon Perkins at Sharptail Media is a “must see” for fly fishermen. As a result of it going almost viral last week, Phil Monahan at Orvis suggested we come up with a Damselfly imitation and quick. Fortunately, it’s a fairly standard pattern in author, fly tier and blogger Matt Grobert’s arsenal.
Matt starts with a size 10 Dai-Riki #305 dry fly hook. After mashing the barb and getting the hook firmly secured in his tying vise, he loads a bobbin with a spool of light olive 3/0 Danville monocord. Start the thread at about the halfway point on the hook shank and take wraps rearward to the point, before snipping or breaking off the tag.
Cut about a half a pencil diameter of long straight deer body hair free from the hide. Here, Matt’s using olive but blue, red and brown are also good choices. You only want the very longest hairs so get hold of the clump by the tips and pull out and discard any shorter hairs. There’s no need to stack, simply cut the butt ends off square.
While squeezing the butts, place them directly on top of the hook shank and take two collecting wraps followed by a firm pull straight up. Take another wrap or two to really lock the deer hair in place. Collect all the fibers in the clump, there will invariably be one or two strays that don’t want to cooperate. While holding the clump between the thumb and index finger of your left hand, make open spiral thread wraps out towards the tips. This can be a little tricky, but when you get the hang of kinda throwing the bobbin around the clump, it gets much easier.
Once the body is about 2 hook shanks in length, start making open spiral wraps back down, all the way until you’re forward of the flared clump of deer hair. You can then snip the tips of the deer hair off, leaving a short, flared segment.
Dark green, spooled Antron is used to form both the parachute post and the wing case. Fold it around your tying thread and then place it at a 90 degree angle on top of the hook shank. Take a few nice, tight cross wraps to really anchor it in that position. Next pull both sides up to vertical. Take turns of tying thread around the Antron to form a standard parachute post.
For the hackle, Matt’s going to use a beautifully marked, long-fibered Coq de Leon hackle but grizzly will also work. Pull down the webbier fibers to expose about a 1/4 inch of stem and cut the lower segment of the feather free. Tie in the stem to the near side of the hook and take wraps rearward to the post. When you reach the post, raise the hackle feather to vertical and take thread wraps up the post to secure it in that position. Then take wraps down to the base of the post. Double your tying thread over to form a 2 inch long loop and take thread wraps rearward all the way back to the deer hair. Next, advance your tying thread forward to in front of the post. Snip one leg of the loop in close to the hook to create a nice, long tag of thread. Take a few more thread wraps forward but leave about an eye length of bare hook behind the eye.
From just below the eye, snip 2 peacock herls free from the stem. Tie them in to the near side of the hook shank, thread torque will carry them to the top. Take enough wraps to completely cover the butt ends. Get hold of the peacock herl and begin taking touching wraps rearward to form the thorax of the damselfly. I have no idea how Matt gets peacock to wrap this full and perfectly. I think some type of voodoo might be involved. When you reach the deer hair, keep tension on the peacock herl while you get hold of the thread tag and start making open spiral wraps, effectively counter wraps, through the peacock herl. This extra bit of protection really helps the fly to last longer but with voracious toothy browns like those in Simon’s video, there are no guarantees. Just behind the eye, secure the thread tag with your regular tying thread. You can then reach in with your tying scissors and snip the tag off close. With the scissors still in hand, go after the excess peacock herl as well.
With hackle pliers, get hold of the feather’s tip and begin making touching wraps down the Antron post. After 5 or 6 turns, bring the hackle tip forward and in line with the hook shank and take a single wrap of tying thread to secure it. You can then pull the hackle fibers up and back to expose the eye and take further thread wraps to secure the hackle tip. This really helps to not trap fibers and block the hook eye. Carefully reach in with your tying scissors and snip off the hackle tip. If you do have any errant fibers, this is a good time to trim them out.
Now comes the fun part. Separate the hackle fibers of the parachute to either side of the hook eye and pull the Antron forward and down over top of the eye to form a wing case. While holding the Antron tight, take a thread wrap to secure it to the top of the hook shank and then follow that up with a few more securing wraps. Keep pulling the hackle fibers back so you don’t trap them in the process. To secure your tying thread, do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish while holding the Antron back. Notice how Matt laid his bobbin and the thread coming from it on top of his tying vise while he held the material back and did the majority of the whip finish, a very cool trick. With the whip finish complete, snip or cut your tying thread free. Then reach in with your scissors and cut the Antron off square so it extends to about the front of the eye.
It’s really an awesome pattern and not as difficult to tie as it first may seem. Now if I can only figure out a way to get myself to New Zealand.