Tag Archives: How to tie a damselfly nymph

drakensberg delights


Recently I received a request for advice on fly selection for the Drakensberg. The question evokes memories of brown trout from pristine waters, day after day walking through stunning surroundings, breathing perhaps the cleanest air that has ever filled my lungs. Rather than attempting further description, I encourage readers to click on Peter Brigg’s masterful blog http://callofthestream.wordpress.com to see his amazing pictures of Drakensberg paradise.

Back then I found success with tiny Coch-y-Bonddu style wet hackle flies: no tail or a short tail of hen hackle fibres, a double strand of peacock herl wrapped to make the body and a soft hen hackle in olive or black. I was not sophisticated in my technique at first however my enthusiasm knew no bounds and I caught a lot of fish. I learned quickly that the trout were wild and hungry: if I could present my fly without being seen myself, they would devour it.

Big brother, little brother... Metiefly damsel nymphs destined for the magical mountains of South Africa.

Big brother, little brother… Metiefly damsel nymphs destined for the magical mountains of South Africa.

Last night at the vice, I created two versions of a fly I just know would have worked perfectly in my endeavours almost 20 years ago. The larger versions are weighted for deeper pools and fast runs, the little ones are designed specifically for crystal waters and smaller tributaries… Tiny feeder streams became my personal favourites – several times I pitched my fly where no other human had been in the lifetime of the fish I was after… My ultimate reward on the final evening, in the last vestiges of sunlight I landed two 1 kg brown trout on consecutive casts. Time stood still in that moment as I thanked the Universe for such a rare and Sacred Gift!

Close up - well defined segments and strong materials ensure guaranteed performance for many fish (photo - metiefly)

Close up – well defined segments and strong materials ensure guaranteed performance for many fish (photo – metiefly)

Tying these gems is easy and the result is pleasing to my eyes – most importantly I know this pattern works wonders and will withstand multiple attacks from feisty predators. I’ll add in a couple of small Walker’s Killers and two Emerald Spiders in case of muddy water…

Only time will tell whether this mix of flies will work in the beautiful waters of Drakensberg streams - I'll let you know the outcome in due course. Tight lines to their recipient!

Only time will tell whether this mix of flies will work in the beautiful waters of Drakensberg streams – I’ll let you know the outcome in due course. Tight lines to their recipient!

Thank you for reading – please return soon!

emerald treasures in the evening


The following pattern is simple and fun for beginners…

* Fine ultra wire – I used chartreuse this time
* Soft feathers – one per fly
* Tying thread – I used 8/0 Uni thread in olive
* Hook – I used a size 14 long shank for damselfly nymph proportions

For the soft feathers:

I picked these up under some trees where the ring necked parakeets spend most of their time...

I picked these up under some trees where the ring necked parakeets spend most of their time…

All you need now is a hook, some chartreuse ultra wire and some olive green tying thread. I complete the process with a dab of superglue on the head. Here’s how it went:

easy does it! take care on the hackles... small feathers call for dexterity and a light touch.

easy does it! take care on the hackles… small feathers call for dexterity and a light touch.

delicate shadows from soft hackles play in the late evening sunlight...

delicate shadows from soft hackles play in the late evening sunlight…

I strive to create symmetry and uniformity even though each one is unique…

Verdant green, yet another nod to the ring necked parakeets... how well will they mimic damsel fly larvae?

Verdant green, yet another nod to the ring necked parakeets… how well will they mimic damsel fly larvae?

The simple, soft hackled wet fly with no tail is often called a spider pattern. Have a go tying your own using feathers collected from the grounds surrounding your favourite lake or stream.

Good luck!

Thank you for reading.

cracking the code…


Greetings to all and apologies for my long silence… I spent many hours at my local lake recently in an attempt to use my season tickets before the end of March. I have thoroughly enjoyed working through myriads of challenges – bright sunshine, howling gales, cold fronts and different crowds of like minded anglers.

I am fortunate to have caught some stunning fish over the last few weekends. Each one is a cherished experience and a wonderful reward for hours spent first at the vice and then at the water’s edge. I take special interest in what the trout are biting, especially on days when conditions have been tougher than normal. I am not surprised to know that the real stalwarts have not changed and after careful consideration I spent tonight preparing myself for further tests tomorrow.

I know what the trout are looking for – will I be able to provide it in the correct place at the right time?

Herewith the fruits of tonight’s labour at my vice:

three of the finest - coarse deer hair tips and a striking colour combination. In the morning I'll find out how well they work

three of the finest – coarse deer hair tips and a striking colour combination. In the morning I’ll find out how well they work

I catered for the following requirements:

1) Size is key – larger than usual flies worked better last weekend, perhaps due to the slightly coloured water. These are size 12.

2) Depth is key – these flies have a bead AND a wire core. I used the very tips of the deer hair fibres which are less buoyant and highly durable.

3) Distance is key – I used sparse, short deer hair tips for the tails and the collars to minimise drag whilst casting. Higher than usual numbers of fishermen standing at the edge of the lake have chased most fish into the middle. All three of my fish last weekend took at the end of a long cast, shortly after I had begun my retrieve.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to your next visit!

tying techniques – 7 steps to a perfect weave!


The joy of learning is that it never ends and there are so many ways to take in new information. With the internet, specialist knowledge is now available via all manner of teaching methods. People’s willingness to document and pass on techniques that were previously communicated by word of mouth or through one on one tuition provides an endless source of new ideas.

bright ideas are never far away for improving your tying techniques...

bright ideas are never far away for improving your tying techniques…


When I looked to learn how to weave flies I chanced upon many different approaches. All of them work… Having written a couple of blog entries about the fantastic characteristics of woven bodies, I will now attempt to distill my preferred method into a few simple written instructions:

1) Start off the fly by creating a thread base or a bead and wire core, adding a tail as appropriate, depending on the desired pattern. Variety is limited only by your imagination – so far I have made flies with or without tails, weighted cores, bead heads and even Klinkhamer style dry flies.

2) Tie in two lengths of embroidery thread on opposite sides of the hookshank so that the long ends hang off the back of the hook. I prefer to double back the short ends and wrap them down to add an extra layer of strength and to add some bulk to the width of the body. Colours are optional however I prefer to create two tone flies using a dark shade and a light shade, normally with the lighter shade on the bottom of the fly to mimic natural camouflage. Start with matching lengths of about 25 cm and as you gain experience, you will learn to gauge required lengths for different scenarios.

3) Wrap your tying thread to the front of the fly, whip finish and cut off. The tying thread will be reintroduced later to tie off the completed weave.

4) Twist your vice through 90 degrees so that the eye of the hook points towards you. Take one long end of the embroidery thread in each hand and BELOW the hook cross them over in an overhand knot. To create a two tone pattern, ensure the dark strand passes behind the light strand every time this overhand knot is created. Partially tighten the loop formed by the overhand knot by pulling the threads in opposite directions. Use the hook to separate the intertwined strands so that the dark strand goes over the top of the hook and the light strand passes underneath. Tighten each strand, pulling evenly and firmly on opposite directions on the same horizontal plane as the hook.

5) Repeat the above process, ensuring that the dark strand passes behind the light strand to form the overhand knot and then passes over the top of the hook shank. Each time the knot is tightened, a new segment is formed. Take care to tighten every knot firmly and evenly – inconsistent tension results in a lumpy weave!

6) When the full length of the body has been formed, finish off the weave with a final overhand knot pulled tight UNDERNEATH the hook and then cross over the long ends of the threads ABOVE the hook, allowing them to hang down either side of the hookshank. Secure both strands by clamping them together with hackle pliers, the weight of the pliers provides tension to prevent unravelling. Twist your vice back through 90 degrees to its original position.

7) Reattach your tying thread close to the eye of the hook and wrap twice behind the long ends of the embroidery thread and twice in front of it to secure the embroidery threads. For the last time, pull them tight, then cut off the embroidery threads and complete the final stages of your fly – adding wings, a dubbing collar or a hackle etc.

The symmetrical, clearly segmented pattern of these flies is achieved using the weaving techniques described above.  Have fun creating your own!

The symmetrical, clearly segmented pattern of these flies is achieved using the weaving techniques described above. Have fun creating your own!

As well as looking good, embroidery thread is durable - flies keep their form and remain irresistible fish after fish

As well as looking good, embroidery thread is durable – flies keep their form and remain irresistible fish after fish


Over time I will tweak the above instructions to make them more readable and easier to follow. I welcome all feedback and would love to hear from you if you find this helpful. Likewise please do not hesitate to contact me if you have a better way to explain it in words!

Thank you for reading, please visit again soon.

Completing the set


Method in the madness

If you’re unsure of the order of the segments of the video, I posted them in reverse order so when readers scroll down they appear in sequence. Apologies if you watched the first couple and wondered what was going on!

I hope you enjoy part one…


http://www.charliesflyboxinc.com/staff/ this is the link for Charlie Craven’s website.

Thanks for watching, please come back soon!

Part two of Fly #1


Herewith the middle section of the video for all you tyers out there. I welcome your feedback so please send me a comment – who will be the first to catch themselves a fish on this pattern tied by their own hand?

Thanks for watching, please come back soon!

First tying video – here goes!



Despite good intentions throughout the week, I chose to remain indoors today to learn how to create my first video rather than brave 7 Celsius with lashings of rain served by strong, gusty winds.

There was no doubting which will be the first pattern I put out there: I caught an 8lb 4oz rainbow trout early in December with a homemade deer hair damsel nymph. If we start with a proven champion and aim to get better every time then I know we’ll conjure up some awesome results as well as all the experiences that come with them.

Winter Beauty

The pattern that caught this fish is now my debut fly tying video – go ahead and make some of your own!

My hope is that in time I become slick enough to complete each fly within the timescales imposed by YouTube so each pattern fits on one video. Please drop me your thoughts on this, as there are two opposing forces at play here: If you are an experienced tier, you may wish to whizz through quick clips to grab ideas for patterns or tips so speed is of the essence. Alternatively, if you are new to the art you might prefer to view every step, with clearly explained theory and method in equal measure. Both scenarios have a place so I’m relying on you to please help me find the best balance… Already I’m warming to the idea of having two libraries – please drop me a comment with your preference.

The first video is my starting line in the sand. It is hopelessly poor in comparison to some of the best I’ve seen, yet at the same time, I’ll gladly stand behind it knowing that if I persist, I will get there. Now I’m counting on all of you for support, encouragement and criticism.

Thanks for reading, please come back soon!