Common Names: Dragonfly, blue darner, green darner, clubtail, skimmer
Scientific Names: families Aeshnidae, Gomphidae, Libellulidae; order Odanata

Dragonfly nymphs are quite large and live in lakes, ponds, and very slow portions of rivers. Nymphs live as long as three years, swimming around and eating other insects.

Like damselflies , dragonfly adults emerge out of the water. Unlike damselflies they are such good flies that they are seldom taken by trout. There can be exceptions, however. I've seen spent dragonflies thick on the water--and eight-pound native rainbows rising to eat them. In general, though, the nymphs are far more important than the adults.

There are three types of dragonfly nymphs that western fly anglers should be aware of. The appearance and behavior of each are radically different. The "climbers" (the family Aeshnidae) have a longer, more tapered body. They search for their prey, moving about by jet propulsion: they take in water through their mouth and expel it through their anus (I know, I know; you had a cousin who did that). This causes them to move in spurts. So a good tactic is to cast an appropriate nymph and use the count-down-and-retrieve presentation, moving the fly with 6-12 inch strips with a pause between each strip. This is type of dragonfly nymph that is most commonly imitated by fly anglers.

The second type of dragonfly is the "sprawler" (the family Libellulidae). Sprawlers are boxy in appearance, being wider and shorter than their Aeshnidae cousins. As you might expect from their couch potato shape, they're not very active. Instead, they lie in ambush on the bottom. When unsuspecting and unlucky prey comes along, they spring up and nail it. Sprawlers are naturally camouflaged, so choose an imitation that is the same color as the lake bottom where you are fishing. Let the fly sink to the bottom and sit there. Then give it a quick spurt, like a nymph leaping from ambush to inhale an unfortunate midge larva. If that doesn't catch the interest of a passing trout, let the fly settle back down and try again. Or retrieve the fly very slowly, with a hand-twist retrieve. And try to stay awake.

The third type is the "burrower" (the family Gomphidae). Like the sprawlers, nymphs are broad and flat. They live in sediment and ambush their prey. Tactics are similar to those for the sprawlers.


How to Match a Dragonfly

Hatches are matched from Westfly's database of "standard" fly patterns.

Size 4-8 Carey Special, Lake Dragon. Browns, dark olive, grays
Lakes; backwaters and slow sections of rivers: count-down-and-retrieve, wind drift


NYMPH COLOR: Browns, olive-browns

ADULT SIZE: 45-85 mm (1-3/4 to 3-1/4 in)

ADULT COLOR: Body--blue, green

OTHER CHARACTERISTICS: Nymph--large and stocky. Adult--holds wings to the side when at rest.