About Bluegill
Tying and fishing the Whitlock Damsel Fly and Cricket Nymphs

Article By Mike Hogue


Several years ago I wrote the following article which appeared in the Federation of Fly Fisher's magazine, "The Fly Fisher". It has been several years since this article first appeared and at the request of Elmer G. Meiler, web master for the WarmWater Fly Fihser web site, I have rewritten this story for you. This pattern is not a very easy fly to tie, in most respects I would consider this pattern to be an advanced fly to tie since it involves tying so many steps. Since I first wrote this story some of the materials I used are no longer available. I have updated the materials to include materials which are more readily available.

One of the biggest problems l' have always had with bluegill fishing is that most of the flies sold for their use are some the ugliest things I've ever seen. Often these flies do not represent any particular life form and they lack the qualities of motion, texture, shape, and design which capture the fish's attention and the angler's imagination. Naturally, when I came across a new panfish pattern that incorporate these qualities, I was excited. Several years ago I read Dave Whitlock's series of articles that were published in Fly Fisherman on panfish I noticed intriguing fly. Later when Dave mentioned the same thing in his article In-Fisherman on his 10 favorite panfish flies I knew I had some tying to do. However, nowhere could I find a pattern for listed for the Whitlock Cricket Nymph, so with little research and imagination I constructed my own pattern based on his design.

Dave's Cricket Nymph reminded me of the earlier Whitlock Damsel Fly Nymph so I tied up several of both patterns in a variety of sizes and colors. I fished these flies extensively during a summer and had some outstanding days. On a trip to a lake near my father's home in Arkansas, I caught 40-50 bluegills with several fish tipping the one pound mark. On some of my own local Iowa (where I was living at the time ) lakes and farm ponds the flies produced good catches throughout the season.
Damsel fly nymphs are part of a year-round diet for most panfish and stillwater fish. The damsel fly nymphs take about a year to mature so they are prowling around the weeds during the entire season. These tiny predatory insects haunt the vegetation waiting for a hapless invertebrate to wander by. With a quick snap of their specialized jaws the feast begins. Stillwater predators like bluegills stalk these bugs as a tasty, quick meal. Hovering, waiting for a telltale movement, the sunfish moves in with a flaring of the gill flaps and then sucks in the nymph.

Crickets are a much rarer part of the diet of the bluegill, but are wide sold as an excellent live bait, These terrestrial insects must be a treat to eat because all members of the sunfish clan will gladly accept a live cricket impaled on a light wire hook. Whitlock, no doubt, applies this knowledge to his patterns and designs.

Tying Notes:

Both the cricket and the damsel fly nymphs are constructed using similar methods and materials. To understand how to tie the cricket nymph let's begin by tying the damsel fly which appeared in Dave Whitlock's "Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods". The original damsel fly nymph pattern used melted mono for the eyes. The text also contained an articulated version which used a two piece hook design to mimic the bending motion of the natural insect. By substituting materials I simplified the design and produced the same motion without the hassle of making the articulated version. I use 2.5 mm strung pearl, often found in craft stores. Strung pearls make consistently good looking eyes without the hassle of melting and burning mono. In a pinch some fly tying materials suppliers such as Hareline and Cascade Crest also offer burnt mono eyes or beads attached to monofilament.

Whitlock Damsel Fly Nymph

Hook: Mustad 9672 #8-#10
Thread: Olive or Black 6/0
Eyes: 2.5 mm black strung pearls or burnt mono eyes
Tail: Olive Grizzly Chicken Marabou
Rib: Copper Wire
Back and Wing Casing: Olive Swiss Straw ( You may also use Stalcup's Medillion Sheeting, Olive) or use Clear Wing and color olive with a marker.
Body: Olive Squirrel Dubbing
Legs: Olive Dyed Partridge or Olive Grizzly Hen Saddle

Step 1) : Begin by wrapping a thread base one or two eye lengths behind the eye of the hook. Attach one pair of eyes with figure eight wraps. Apply a drop of super glue and allow to set up.
Step 2): Run the thread back along the hook shank to the bend. Tie in one grizzly marabou feather with length of the tail equal to the shank of the hook.
Step 3): Tie in piece of copper wire and cut a strip of Olive Swiss Straw 1/4 by 1 1/2 long.
Step 4): Dub 2/3 of the body with the squirrel fur. Pull the straw over the back of the fly and make 2-3 wraps to secure. Cut off the excess straw and make a few wraps to cover the butts of the material.
Step 5): To form the wing and wing case, tie in the straw on top of the hook shank such that it extends back about 1/4" over the body. If you wish make a small "V" shaped notch the wing to simulate a developing set of wings.
Step 6): Next take the straw and make a small fold or loop in the material. Wrap the tying thread around the straw to hold it in place. In effect, you are making a small loop and then securing that loop. This will create a wing bud making the fly appear very realistic.
Step 7):Tie in the partridge feather, and dub the thorax up to the eyes. Wrap the hackle forward, two turns, and tie down. Dub around the eyes in a crisscross manner and work the thread to the eye of the hook. Now bring the remaining Swiss straw toward between the eyes and tie off the fly.

Whitlock Cricket Nymph

Hook: Mustad 9672 #8-#10
Thread: Gray or Black 6/0
Eyes: 2.5 mm black strung pearls or burnt mono
Tail: Fine Round Black Rubber Legs
Rib: Fine Copper Wire
Back and Wing Casing: Dark Dun Medillion Sheeting, You may also use Clear Wing colored with a Dark Dun Marker.
Body: Natural Red Fox Squirrel Dubbing
Legs and Antenna: Fine Round Black Rubber Legs

Cricket Nymph Tying Notes:

The Cricket Nymph is constructed in a similar fashion to the damsel fly, but instead of a marabou tail and hackle legs fine rubber is used for imitating appendages. Originally I used dark dun swiss straw which is no longer available. I have since substituted Stalcup's Medillion Sheeting. In a pinch you can color Clear Wing or clear Swiss Straw to use as a wing and backing. I also prefer to make this fly with fine round rubber leg material. The larger sizes of rubber legs are too thick and stiff for this fly. This size of material is hard to find and is made by Living Rubber Company and distributed by Hareline or Spirit River. I have made this fly in brown, olive, chartreuse, yellow, rust and orange. I have found that the fly fishes best in the standard color of a dun back with a fox squirrel body.

Cricket Nymph Tying Steps:

Step 1): Begin as before by securing the eyes. Wrap eyes in figure 8's and coat with super glue. Next move the thread back to the bend. Cut a two inch strand of rubber, fold it in half and form a loop by bending end to end. Tie this loop flat on top of the hook shank. If you tie the loop down too far the tails will droop and become fowled around the hook when you fish it. If the tails is tyed correctly, the tail will have a "V" shaped flare to it.
Step 2): Tie in a strip of Medillion sheeting about 1-2" long. Tie in a strand of copper wire.
Step 3): Dub about 40% of the hook shank with the squirrel fur and stop. Next cut a one inch section of rubber and make an over hand knot in each end. Tie this in on top of the hook using figure eight wraps. Dub around these legs and up to the eyes leaving a small space open behind them.
Step 4): Pull the strip of straw forward and secure with the ribbing wire. Cut off the excess Swiss straw and wire. Form the wing and wing pad as describe in the steps for the damsel fly nymph. Next cut two one inch pieces of rubber and tie them to the top of the shank with the crisscross method.
Step 5): Dub around the legs and eyes. Form another loop of rubber hackle to mimic the antenna and secure in front of the eyes. Pull the straw over and between the bead eyes and finish off. Whew! You're done.

Fishing Notes:

To use the flies I work the banks of lakes or ponds on sunny, late afternoons. By casting to the edges of weed beds or clear water pockets back in the vegetation I allow the fly to slowly sink. Strip the fly back in slow, erratic movements. Another favorite target is underneath sweeper trees and around brush piles. Other effective areas are to hit include along points or islands. I locate a transition zone where the deep water meets the shallow or the point slopes down to the depths. I cast parallel to this zone and slowly strip back the fly. If the fish are nipping at but not taking the imitation it may be too big for their mouths or they aren't feeling particularly aggressive. In which case, you might want to drop down a hook size. I have tried all sorts of colors for these nymphs from chartreuse to black a found that the most consistent producers are those described in the patterns.

References: "Dave Whitlock' Guide to Aquatic trout Foods", "Panfish Part One and Two", Fly-Fisherman Magazine and June 1991. "Whitlock's Panfish Flies for All seasons", In-Fisherman, April 1994.


Mike grew up in a rural town in Northeast Iowa where his family had a small Ag-Chemical-Business. As a kid he spent a lot of time in and around farms and the rural country side where he canoed, camped and swam. In his prior life, he was a banker and stock broker. Mike started tying flies about 20 so years ago (somewhere around 1986). In 1994 while still living in Iowa he decided to start his own business, Badger Creek Fly Tying. Mike tied at various club meeting, sporting shows and other events. He also brings a traveling version of Badger Creek Fly Tying Shop to a variety of fly fishing events and shows on the East Coast. Currently, Mike and his wife Laura live on a small acreage where they repaired and remodeled an old barn and Victorian house at Freville, New York (near Ithaca).He is a member of the Catskill Fly Tyer's Guild, the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum, Trout Unlimited and serves as a director for the Northeast Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers. Many of his stories have been published in national magazines or publications. You can often find him at various fly fishing shows in the Northeast. On the internet you may contact him at: www.eflytyer.com or email him at Mike@eflytyer.com.

You can learn more about Mike and his shop at: