Laid Back Damsel

By Larry Gallegos

It was a clear, sunny morning as I hiked down the steep slope toward the lake. The sun at that angle, combined with polarized sun glasses, made it possible to see well into the water. What I saw came as a shock. Instead of cruising along gracefully in the usual way, a colorful brown trout was zig-zagging in a seemingly random manner. Something wasn’t right. 

Taking a minute to study the scene below, I noticed a damsel fly darting around just above the water’s surface. That brown was stalking it’s prey, following the damsel’s erratic movements and hoping to score a high-protein breakfast. Well, if fish are looking up and targeting damsels, who am I to try something different? I tied on a damsel dry and had a fun, productive morning. 

No doubt, damsel dries catch fish. But I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with damsel dry flies. Almost invariably, the wings are tied on perpendicular to the body, making  the fly into a sort of crude propeller. When it’s cast, the fly twirls as it travels through the air, twisting the leader. After several casts, the leader’s thin tippet end becomes twisted and gnarly. Once that happens the fly rarely lands upright. 

But I found a solution to the propeller problem after a damsel landed on my leg (see photo). As it turns out, most damsel dries are tied all wrong. When at rest, a damsel’s wings aren’t perpendicular to the body. Instead, they lay back, along the sides of its tail. And a damsel tied with laid-back wings is unlikely to propeller and twist up the tippet.  

That’s how the “Laid Back Damsel” was born. Here’s the recipe. 



Hook: Tiemco TMC 100 or TMC 101 in #12 or #14 

Thread: Danville’s 6/0 in “Damsel Blue” 

Eyes: Melted mono eyes colored black or black glass beads attached to mono Tail: Hareline “Adult Damsel Body Braid” 

Wings: Mirage or Pearl Flashabou, size large 

Legs: Either (a) midge-size black Krystal Flash, or (b) grizzly hackle, sized to hook gap Thorax: Blue 2mm razor foam cut a little narrower than the hook gap Dubbin: Superfine in “Damsel Blue” 

Coloration: Black Sharpie 


1. Make the eyes and stripe the tail with the Sharpie. Melt the end of the tail to keep it from unraveling. 

2. Attach the eyes about 4 to 6 wraps behind the eye of the hook.

3. Tie the tail to the top of the shank, from just behind eyes to the bend of the hook. Make sure the tail curves upward. If needed, put thread wraps under the tail to lift it. 

4. Attach Flashabou to each side of the hook/tail junction at the bend of the hook, forming wings on either side of the tail. Trim the wings to be shorter than the tail, as in the photo. 

5. Attach the foam starting at the bend of the hook, tying it on to the hook shank. * 6. Dub the thorax. 

7. Tie in 3 two-inch strands of Krystal Flash behind the eyes to make legs. Then add a little dubbin between the legs to spread them apart. 

8. Pull foam forward and tie off behind eyes. Then pull the foam over and between the eyes and tie off behind the hook eye. 

9. Whip finish and add head cement. Cut the excess foam close to the last tie-down point behind the hook eye. Use a black fine-tipped Sharpie to add a stripe to the foam. 

* If you prefer hackle to Krystal Flash legs, after step 5, tie in the hackle at the rear where the foam is tied in. After dubbing the abdomen in step 6, wrap the hackle forward, 3 or 4 wraps only, and tie it off behind the eyes. Then pull the foam over. The hackled version is more impressionistic and less realistic – but it is also easier to tie and will ride a bit higher.  

In my experience, fish hit this fly when it is twitched a little, as if it’s struggling in the surface film. Give it a go and, as always, let me know how you do.

Back to AvidMax

One thought on “Laid Back Damsel

  1. I was just looking for a new damsel pattern. I’ll try this next fishing outing and upscale it for dragons and bass. Thanks!

Leave a Reply