Northwest Fly Tyer

The fly tying pages of Monte Smith

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The Peacock Dragon

**Featured in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Northwest Fly Fishing**

I enjoy fishing trout lakes, and one of the most reliable food forms available is the dragonfly nymph.  Available nearly year-round, it is wise for the fly angler to carry at least a few of these patterns at all times.

There are many dragonfly patterns – some incredibly realistic – that look wonderful in the vise.  However, in the water they often come up short because of a “wooden” or stiff appearance.  In short, they fail to adequately imitate life.  Dull and lifeless are not good features in a fishing fly!

My goal was to develop an effective dragonfly nymph imitation that incorporated the appearance of bulk – like the natural – yet shied away from the use of hard and lifeless materials.

So what to do?  I sought materials that would give shape to the body – particularly the exaggerated body width characteristic of dragonfly nymphs.  I found my answer in using the green-phase body feathers of the peacock.

These feathers have a wonderful sheen to them, and they are mottled in the colors of tan, brown, and olive – a perfect blend for this nymph!  Now for tying the fly and applying these special feathers.

Peacock Dragon

Peacock Dragon

I use a sturdy 2-3 XL nymph hook in sizes ranging from #4-8.  Begin by applying strips of weight (.020-.030 depending on hook size) to either side of the shank.  You may then tie in a short “tail” of pheasant tail fibers extending slightly beyond the hook bend, though I have recently been omitting this step with no ill effect on the fly’s performance.

Apply a brown/olive spiky dubbing (seal, SLF, goat) about 1/3 up the shank.  Select two of the green peacock body feathers to be applied in on the top and bottom of the shank, sandwiching the shank between them.  Make sure they lie flat, parallel to each other, and extend slightly beyond the hook bend.  The bottom feathers have the shiny side facing down, the top feathers have it facing up.

(Side Note:  Technique for setting the peacock feathers)

Two soft wraps hold the feather in place, then pull it forward to position it allowing a few fibers to be pulled underneath the thread wraps.  This aligns the feather on the shank and allows for a slight flaring at the tie-in point.

Continue to apply dubbing for the next 1/3 section of the shank.  Apply another set of peaock feathers in the same fashion as the previous set.  These should be slightly wider than the first ones, as we want the body to increase in width at this point.  The length of the feathers should reach about halfway back of the rear feathers.

Repeat the application of two feathers top and bottom one more time, again using slightly wider feathers than the previous set.

Attach a clump of pheasant tail fibers at the tie-off point for the body feathers and bind it down as you wrap forward to the eye.  Leave this wingcase material extending out over the eye for the time being.

Cut a strip of black Furry Foam approximately ¼” wide and 1″ long.  Bind to the hook in a perpendicular manner 1/8″ or so back from the eye.  Use “Figure 8” wraps to secure the foam, then move your thread back to the tie-in point of your wingcase fibers (rear of the thorax).

Attach a piece of rubber leg material (I like brown Super Floss) or a small clump of pheasant tail fibers on either side and wrap forward to the furry foam, securing the remaining leg material as you go.  Leave it extending out over the eye for the moment

Apply a peacock or similar colored dubbing throughout the thorax area.  Wrap through and around the foam eyes and a take a couple of turns in front of them as well.  Dub your way back to the leg tie-in point.  As you do this, bind the extended rubber leg material back so that they now are roughly parallel to the first set.  Make a few wraps of dubbing in between the front and rear legs for separation.

With the thread now at the rear of the thorax, pull back the pheasant tail wingcase fibers and secure it with a couple of snug wraps.  Tie off at this point.  Trim the Furry Foam just wider that the thorax to complete the eyes.

You now have a soft and lifelike imitation to fish.  The body feathers will compress a bit when worked through the water, and the colors will blend into a very natural dragonfly nymph appearance.

Top View

Top View

The “breathing” action contributes to the effectiveness of this pattern.  The use of soft materials may also give the fish less reason to expel the fly before you feel the hit and set the hook.

I developed this pattern to fish the excellent stillwater trout fisheries of the Pacific Northwest. Try the Peacock Dragon on your favorite lake and see what it can do for you!

Peacock Dragon Recipe

Hook: 2-3 XL nymph, #4-8

Thread: Brown 8/0

Weight: .020-.030 applied in strips on both sides of the shank

Tail (optional): Short stub of natural pheasant tail fibers

Bottom View

Bottom View

Abdomen Dubbing: Olive-Brown seal or substitute

Abdomen: Six green peacock body feathers applied  and bottom of the hook shank in three sets.  Forward sets of feathers larger than rear.

Wingcase: Clump of pheasant tail fibers

Eyes: Section of black Furry Foam, trimmed to size

Legs: Olive or Brown Super Floss or suitable rubber leg material

Thorax: Bronze synthetic peacock dubbing


10 Responses to “The Peacock Dragon”

  1. JEFF SPIVEY said


  2. nwflytyer said

    Hi Jeff,
    Send me an email with your contact info; I’ll take care of you.
    Thanks for checking in.


  3. Great looking fly! The segmentation of the thorax is very effective and the use of the peacock gives an undeniably natural look, well done.

  4. Oops! Must be a fly fisherman’s slip, abdomen, not thorax!

  5. Dave Orahood said

    Great looking pattern for the Spokane Washington lakes.
    I am seeing more patterns with peacock body feathers but have been unable to locate any. Can you recommend a source.


    Dave Orahood

  6. nwflytyer said

    Hi Dave,
    I’ve had luck on eBay and has a lot of peacock or can steer you in the right direction. I found another online source that looks very promising, too:

    They have the “gold peacock plumage” this pattern uses. Good luck with the Peacock Dragon.


  7. nwflytyer said

    Thanks, Alan. I hope the Peacock Dragon works as well for you as it has for me! Take care.

  8. Beautiful fly, Monte, and I have now tied 7 of them in size 6 & 8 hooks. Being a relatively clumsy tyer, I am having difficulty getting the feathers to sit flat, especially the bottom ones. Once completed, my feathers are always off to one side a bit [although I doubt Mr Rainbow will be critical] Anything I might do to simplify this part of the process? [like have smaller thumbs] Suggestion: submit a video of your expertise? I am psyched to throw these beauties to the giants on the Blackfoot Reservation. Bruce in Spokane

  9. nwflytyer said

    Hi Bruce,
    I have done a couple of test videos recently, so I will take your suggestion to heart and see if I can’t get some posted. In the meantime, let me see if I can help…

    1. Strip the excess fibers from the stem while leaving the peacock feather a bit larger than what you want as your final size.

    2. Take forceps and crimp the stem flat over your tie-in point, which will be right over the last few fibers of the feather. These fibers will help keep the stem from turning on you; if you crimp over bare stem, chances are it will tend to roll. You need to crimp it flat, and don’t be afraid to crimp along the stem a bit.

    3. Place your feather on the fly and take a couple of snug but not tight turns over your tie-in point. Now you can pull the feather “forward” (pulling the butt of the stem toward the eye of the hook) seating it into position. This traps those extra fibers underneath creating a slight flare and should sit flat. The bottom feathers are the more challenging, but as long as you don’t block your hook gap, you should be fine.

    4. Secure with two or three tight wraps moving toward the eye.

    You’re right! The fish aren’t going to mind one way or the other. But, I guess I’m picky so I do try to align these feathers as much as I can while forming the body.

    Sizes 6 and 8 should be perfect for you. I hope you have great success chasing those giant trout on the Blackfoot Reservation. You’re in a fishing paradise!

    Thanks for checking in, Bruce. I hope this helps.


  10. Bruce Lanphar said

    Nice design . Are you familiar with the Butler Bug and its knotted pheasant tail fiber legs. They might be a nice variation to this design. cool fly.

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