The Hot Head Damsel has been my go-to subsurface fly for the last few years. I started out using the Orvis produced version (https://www.orvis.com/hot-head-damsel/5E4G.html) and then once I started tying my own flies, it was one of the first flies I tried to master and make my own. I believe the success I’ve had with this fly is due to the fact that damsel flies are everywhere, and are a major food source for panfish and trout. Damsel flies look like smaller dragon flies, and while in their nymph stage they live in water, usually around submerged vegetation near shore. The nymphs are able to swim by wiggling their long bodies, but not very fast, and fish are able to catch them rather easily.
The marabou tail on this fly does a good job of recreating this swimming motion and usually triggers a strike from any fish near by. In still water I like to use a retrieve consisting of several short quick strips, followed by a pause. These short strips really make the tail kick as it moves through the water. I tend to tie the tail a bit shorter than the Orvis version to maximize this motion, and to reduce fouling. I have caught countless bluegill and largemouth bass in Louisiana ponds with this fly, and brook trout in high mountain lakes also find it irresistible. In moving water it can be swung like a wet fly, or with quick strips in pools or slower moving water, and I have caught several rainbow trout in rivers with both methods.
- Hook: Size 8 to 14 nymph hook
- Orange Bead sized to hook
- Leadfree Wire: 0.020 or 0.015
- Blue Ultra Wire size Small
- UTC 70 Denier Thread
- Olive Marabou
- Olive Hare’s Ice Dubbing
Step by step below, see photo captions for detail