Effective Flies – The Wendouree Damsel

As spring gets into full swing and the damsels are on the move, Craig ties a handy damsel nymph.

The Wendouree Damsel

As regular readers will know, when choosing flies for my boxes, I’m looking for simple, easy-to-tie patterns. The Wendouree Damsel is an excellent example of such a fly, and it has the added advantage of being extremely versatile.

When damsel nymphs are migrating to hatch, this fly can be used on its own as an imitative pattern with a bit of fancy ‘look at me!’ going on. It also works well as an anchoring point fly with a team of traditional wet flies, soft hackles or nymphs. Or, it can be used as a middle fly in a team of larger pulling flies.

The Wendouree Damsel is even a decent baitfish pattern when fish are feeding on pin fry, mosquito fish and other small minnows. And it’s surprisingly effective when swinging wet flies in rivers.

I first developed this fly on returning from the 2002 World Fly Fishing Championships in France, where I captained the Australian team. For the team’s pre-event practice, I’d been able to secure a beautiful French Chateau for our accommodation. As I’ve written about before, I was able to sublet two of the chateau’s three floors to the Scottish and American teams respectively, making the whole exercise surprisingly affordable.

The Scottish team had engaged the services of CDC guru Mark Petitjean to be the team’s fly tier. Mark introduced us to using CDC in wet flies, in order to create movement and the illusion of life. (Prior to this I had only used CDC in dries.) CDC in wet flies required a new tying technique, including the use of a hackle clip and a dubbing spinner.

On returning home, I started thinking of how I could apply this new way of using CDC to locally-proven wets. The Magoo has been a long-time favourite on my local water, Lake Wendouree. Yet despite its origins, in regular sizes, it was too large to effectively represent a real damsel fly nymph and for some reason didn’t work well for me in smaller sizes. Meanwhile, I felt many existing imitative patterns were a little too ‘stiff’ and not versatile enough for my liking. So, I came up with the Wendouree Damsel, which, by utilising the three ingredients of Marabou, flashy dubbing and CDC, gives mobility, a slim profile and that attention-seeking factor I’m looking for in a fly like this.


Hook – Ahrex barbless wet fly hook or similar, size 12

Bead – 3mm straight copper

Tail – Light olive Marabou

Body – Olive Laser dub or Spectra Dubbing No 39

Front hackle – Olive CDC

Tying instructions

  1. Place bead on hook.
  2. Tie in a small bunch of olive Marabou for the tail, breaking of approximately 20mm long.
  3. Then tightly dub in a slim body.
  4. Use a hackle clip to cut the CDC hackles from the feather, which are then made into a dubbing rope using a dubbing spinner.
  5. Wind in the front CDC collar directly behind the copper bead, then and whip finish.

You now have a very simple yet versatile and effective fly!