Fly Tying: Hot Head Damsel

The Hot Head Damsel has been my go-to subsurface fly for the last few years. I started out using the Orvis produced version ( 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.

  • Materials:
    • 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

Materials used. Thread color is not crucial as it will be covered up, but if you want to use a silver or gold bead, use orange thread to create a hot-spot behind the bead.
Step 1: Start with a few wraps of wire behind the bead
Step 2: Tie in the marabou tail. I like about a one hook shank length tail.
Step 3: Tie in the blue wire
Step 4: Dub a nice slender body with the Hare’s Ice Dub
Step 5: Wrap the blue wire forward and tie off behind the bead. The wire is more for durability than flash in this case.
Step 6: Tie in a partridge feather by the tip. Here I used olive while the original Orvis version uses Chartreuses. I will use either depending on how flashy I want the fly.
Step 7: Make a few turns with the soft hackle feather and tie off
Step 8: Add a little more dubbing to cover up the thread wraps and whip finish. Or, if using a silver or gold bead, build up a a hot-spot of orange thread behind the bead and then whip finish.

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