Fly fishing

Dragonfly, Creedon’s Creeper, Mud-eye, Bragg’s Dragonfly Nymph

The author with a brown trout caught on a dragonfly nymph.

Dragonfly by Martin Langlands

Jhe adult dragonfly is reminiscent of summer days in the high country. The size and agility of the adult dragonfly never fails to fascinate all who see it. The sight of dragonflies is short-lived over several months at the height of summer. However, little attention is paid to the secretive and almost creepy dragonfly nymph that lives for 2-3 years underwater before transforming, transforming into the familiar dragonfly.

Dragonfly nymphs, as they are commonly called, live in most calm waters and slow-flowing fresh waters in the South Island. They inhabit weed beds and stony caverns, which provide protection from predators. They are carnivorous, feeding and feeding on small insect nymphs and small fish. The dragonfly nymph is one of New Zealand’s largest aquatic insects and a giant predator in the insect world.

New Zealand Giant Mountain Dragonfly Uropetala chiltoni.  Photography Allan Burgess.
Adult New Zealand Mountain Giant Dragonfly – Uropetala chiltoni. Photographed by Allan Burgess in the Canterbury High Country.

As in all nature, they too are the prey, mainly hungry trout, eels and other freshwater fish. Trout feed on dragonfly nymphs all year round.

From October to January, the nymphs begin to migrate to shore. On a hot, sunny day, the nymphs walk on dry land, then magically transform into creatures of the air. The husks left after the winged dragonfly nymphs hatch are scattered around the shore of the valley during the summer.

In late spring and summer, rainbow and brown trout often feed selectively on dragonfly nymphs. As dragonfly nymphs move into shallower waters, they are very vulnerable for foraging trout. If they are well camouflaged, their size (1.5 to 3.5 cm long) allows trout to see them. The size of the nymph also means that it is a food bargain for trout.

Sometimes, during strong winds, the action of the waves dislodges the dragonfly nymphs and they swim between the waters, thanks to a special jet propulsion. In this situation, they are easy prey for trout that cruise in the waves.

For many years I and my family have enjoyed the calm waters of the high country of the South Island. Over the years I have experimented with many dragonfly nymph imitations. Below I have listed my favorite models:

Creedon creeper 1200px
Creedon creeper by John Hey

1. Creedon Creeper

Designed by well known and fondly remembered angler, writer and fly tyer Al Creedon. This design can be tied with many colors such as olive brown and gray. It has a really buggy look about it. As with other dragonfly designs, it is best tied with lead wire. The extra weight allows the nymph to sink into the strike zone, just above the weed bed. Creedon’s Creeper with John Hey.

This mudeye or dragonfly nymph was found under a rock in shallow water at the edge of Lake Hayes.  McDonald's Mudeye.
This mud-eyed nymph or dragonfly was found under a rock in shallow water by Lake Hayes. Photograph by Dick Marquand.

2. Mud Eye

Dragonfly nymphs are very common in Australian waters. Australians often refer to dragonfly nymphs as “mud eyes”. The mud-eye pattern incorporates large eyes (like the natural) and is tied to speckled coloring, again often seen in the natural. McDonald Mudeye with Dick Marquand.

Bragg's Dragonfly by Martin Langlands.
Bragg’s Dragonfly by Martin Langlands.

3. Bragg’s Dragonfly Nymph

This pattern doesn’t look like a dragonfly nymph at all, but works great as many impressionist flies do. The colors that I feel are the particularity of this fly, associating a mustard-colored camail with black bars. This model is very popular in Lake Alexandrina and Ashburton Lakes. Bragg’s dragonfly.

Angling techniques

The most favorable period for angling dragonfly nymphs is from October to January.

The dragonfly nymph patterns described above are best fished with a very slow recovery, similar to lure fishing. The most important aspect is getting the nymph to the proper depth. You should occasionally scrape grass on the fly to indicate you are in the strike zone. If the water is shallow, use a float line and leader about 12 feet long. If you are fishing in deeper water, try a sinker or fast sinker line with a 6 to 9 foot leader.

Blind fishing works well and is more suited to windy conditions. When blind fishing, the angler must cover as much water as possible to get results. Remember to cast close to shore, as trout often cruise in the shallows.

Cruising trout sight fishing is the most exciting, ideally suited to shallow margins and sandy flats. The object is to spot a trout, then cast it well ahead of the intended path the trout is swimming in, then when the trout is close to the nymph, give the fly a twitch. With luck, the trout will catch the fly. Otherwise, try a smaller sized nymph, a different dragonfly nymph pattern, or a lighter tippet.

Surprisingly, another interesting time to fish for dragonfly nymphs is when trout are jumping for adult dragonflies. Trout are often frantic with the almost playful rush of adult dragonflies. Because the trout are panicked, they will take dragonfly nymphs which are quickly retrieved just below the surface, using a floating line. Although a presentation below the surface is unnatural, trout will still respond. This method of presentation is most effective during the hottest summer days.

New Zealand Guided Fly Fishing and Fly Fishing Lesson in the South Island of New Zealand with Professional Fly Fishing Guide, Martin Langlands – Troutlands

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