Lake Fishing with Damsels and Dragons
Fly Fisher/Fly Tier/Writer
Richard Pilatzke an expert on rocky mountain lake fishing loves fishing with damsel and dragonflies. Learn Rich's techniques for tying and fishing these favorite morsels that fish devour.
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Colorado resident Richard Pilatzke has been fly tying and fly fishing for over 30 years. Although he was born in Montreal and raised in upstate New York, the fresh water lakes, rivers and streams of Colorado proved to be too tempting to turn away from.
“You know, not many people fish an adult damsel or an adult dragonfly,” says Richard. “It’s very rare but the thing is for the last three years specifically, I’ve fished adult damsels and dragons. I have specific windows in the season that I like to fish and probably in the past three years, I’ve landed probably over 300 trout on damsels or dragonfly adults and maybe 60, 70 bass and bluegills.” Those facts alone should have you rethinking everything you thought you knew about dragonflies and damsels.
First up, a little classification discussion of the difference between these two types of insects. With damsels and dragonflies you’re dealing with a distinctive genus and species. Damsels are Zygoptera. The dragonflies are Anisoptera. However, they are they’re both members of Odonata. As Richard was happy to share, these “insects” have actually been around for a long time. Try over 300 million years! While a lot of other creatures have gone extinct, the dragonflies have always been with us. Of course they have evolved over the years. Fossilize adult dragonflies have been found with wing spans of anywhere between 18 inches and 3 feet. Imagine trying to tie one of those big bugs!
Richard is always happy to share his step by step instructions for tying methods. To hear him explain it all, tying a damsel or dragonfly fly sounds like a snap to do. Of course you’ll need to get the right materials in place before you can begin any tying project. For Richard, it all starts with the eyes. “I always consider is that if you can make it look more like the real insect, your chances will be better and that’s what I predicate my patterns on. I put eyes on everything, in damsel and dragon nymphs and damsel and dragon adults, because they are prominent feature on that insect,” he explains. What Richard likes the most about fly tying is the creative aspect. There’s also the reward that comes with perseverance.
Color is also extremely important when tying these special lures. Dragonflies are extremely varied in color. They can be black, green, red, yellow, purple, all different combinations. They can have black wings. On the other hand, North American damsels are mostly turquoise blue along with varieties in tan, light olive and red. When it comes to the patterns that Richard uses, he likes to have strongest piece of iron like a 2X long nymph hook.
However, even the most expertly tied lures won’t matter if you don’t “read the lake.” There are certain spots along a river bed or surrounding a lake shoreline that are more conducive for damsel and dragonfly presentations. Richard’s advice? “You know, the thing that I always tell people to do is when you approach a lake, open your eyes and look. Sit there for ten minutes and observe,” he says. “You know, you may see a flying ant for instance, in that case, you put on an ant. You may see dragonflies flying along the side of a lake, along the reeds because they feed on the small midges and mosquitoes, put on a dragonfly.” The rest is all on you!
Rich's material list for adult Damselflies and Dragonflies.
River Road Creations sells the Foam Body Cutters.
More info on damselflies and dragonflies...
Greg Thomas wrote a great article Matching the Damselfly Hatch that you're sure to find interesting.
Great photos of Damselflies and Dragonflies.