Belly Flop Balanced Damsel Fly

Expand the stillwater arsenal

As most people can attest by reading our antics on the site here, we mess around a LOT with a LOT of different patterns and materials. So, a while back when I saw the concept of a balanced fly pattern from Jerry McBride, via Phil Rowley's website, I was understandably interested.

As it happened, I was looking for a good way to present some damsel nymphs and emergers on top of and amongst the weed beds on the shallow weedy end of a lake I fish that contains some big cutthroats and rainbows. Indicators seemed to be the ticket, allowing me to vary the depth (as opposed to floating or intermediate lines), but as I watched the naturals in the water, they didn't hang vertically -- they swam horizontally (well fairly squiggly if you're going to draw a representation of the squirrelly damsels as they swim). So the balanced style fly would seem to be a great fit.
Belly Flop Balanced Damsel at work

As I began to formulate the pattern, I kept going back to a concept my friend Jeff Brooks espoused when it
Some Belly Flops in production
came to damsel coloration and imitating them. His observations of the naturals and how they reflected a lot of colors led him to design a popular dubbing mix he calls "Golden Olive Spectrumized" to go along with the damsel pattern he tied using it. His original recipe, which calls for up to 8 different dubbings and materials, worked great for me over the years until I ran out and was too lazy to go snag all the ingredients again. Instead, I looked at the pictures of damsel nymphs I had taken and ones I found online and came up with my own mix that would incorporate the needed colors but require less ingredients (see below for the exact mix) and allow people to more easily duplicate the concoction.

Rainbow trout taken on a Belly Flop Damsel
So design history aside, I began using this pattern last year and have had some incredible days on the water. I usually fish it under an indicator and find that even in choppy windy conditions, it fishes well because the wind and waves will telegraph a jigging motion to the fly as it hangs horizontally in the water.

In one instance, in particular, I was throwing leeches and chironomids with little success. Although I knew it was early, I figured the BFBD would stand a chance. Casting into the same depth of water from the same indicator depth (the only difference being really the horizontal orientation) and it was the day-maker pattern. Fish were coming out of the woodwork to nail it at the slightest movement. works.

A couple of important notes: The proportions on the pattern are über-important. If you leave the bead too far from the eye of the hook, it won't hang right. Likewise, if you push it too close to the eye of the hook, it won't balance well either. Bead size and weight is also a consideration to achieve a proper balanced orientation. Tungsten is best I've found. And, at least in my mind, the dubbing combined with the tinsel underbody are a deadly combination on their own.

--UPDATE (3 months later): As usual, we really like to put some of the patterns to the test. The Balanced Damsel has been crazy effective in the past few months -- at least enough to warrant a couple more shots from a Brook Trout outing the other day.

--UPDATE 2: If you're in a hurry, I spent some time one evening in a huge rush trying to tie up a couple dozen damsels here and ended up simplifying the head a bit. As you can see in this photo below, the head is simply the bead, eyes and dubbing. I don't do the Skinny skin. Not a huge deal, but if you're looking to tie it simplified, this is a good option.

Brook trout taken on the balanced damsel

The balanced damsel, fished from an indicator
Updated Material List
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Hook: Hanak H 400 BL Jig Hook - 10
Bead: UTC Ultrathread 140 Denier - Burnt Orange
Bead: Plummeting Tungsten Beads - Metallic Olive - 1/8" (3.3mm)
Tail: Nature's Spirit Strung Marabou - Golden Olive
Dubbing Mix:
: Ice Dub - Golden Brown
-- 2: Arizona Simi Seal - Canadian Brown
-- 3: Arizona Simi Seal - Canadian Olive
Under-Body: Mirage Tinsel - Opal - Large

Other tools from the tutorial:

Stonfo Comb/Brush Tool
Loon Gator Grip Dubbing Spinner

Original Material List:
Hook: Partridge Jig Hook #10 or #8 
Thread: MFC Olive 6/0  
Bead: Tungsten 2.8mm to 3.2mm (depends on hook size and type)  
Extender Pins: You can make your own from a small pin
Head casing: MFC Skinny Skin (Mottled Gold) 
                    & Holographic Tinsel, Orange, Med 
Tail: Wooly Bugger Marabou, Sculpin Olive
       or Spirit River Strung Marabou, Damsel Olive
Under-Body: Pearl Tinsel, Large 
Dubbing: Equal mix of
  -- Ice Dub Brown Olive  
  -- Arizona Simi Seal: Canadian Brown, Canadian Olive, Olive