Calopteryx virgo - Beautiful Demoiselle

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Odonata - Family: Calopterygidae

Calopteryx virgo - Beautiful Demoiselle, Male
Above: Calopteryx virgo, Beautiful Demoiselle, male

The Beautiful Demoiselle is strictly a river insect, and it breeds mainly in moderate to fast-flowing reaches of rivers and streams. Unlike the somewhat similar Banded Demoiselle, Calopteryx splendens, the Beautiful Demoiselle does not breed in small stillwaters such as garden ponds and canals.

In the summer sunshine these delightful insects with their iridescent bodies and elegant wings flit among waterside plants and occasionally foray well away from their natal watercourses.

Calopteryx virgo, Beautiful Demoiselle, female
Calopteryx splendens, Banded Demoiselle, female

Flyfishing tactics

In most fast-flowing rivers there is limited opportunity to use a damselnymph imitation, as the natural nymphs are slow moving creatures.

Nymph of a Calopetryx damselfly

Places where a damselnymph can be effective include gravel-bottomed chalkstreams and spate rivers wherever limited in-stream weed growth allows for nymph fishing close to the riverbed. This is not an easy matter, but an artificial Damselnymph cast upstream and twiched across the river as its drifts on the current can be an effective tactic when trout are not rising to other surface-borne food.

To imitate these sizeable morsels, try a large Green Nymph (tied on a size 6 or 8 long-shank hook) twitched gently as the current carries it downstream near the riverbed and as close as you can to any beds of streamer weed such as starwort (Callitriche species) or water crowfoot (Ranunculus species). Takes can be savage in fast water, so be prepared!

Calopterxy virgo, male, southern England

Trout get to eat many more of the immature nymphs than they ever do of the adult damselflies, and so an imitation of the winged adult is unnecessary

In southern Britain the Beautiful Demoiselle is a fairlty common damselfly, but it is found mainly in southern England and in Wales, and in parts of southern and central Ireland. Further north it becomes increasingly scarce and localised.

There are several subspecies of Calopteryx virgo, and identification requires careful examination of bthe wing venation and colouring.

Calopterxy virgo subsp. meridionalis

In southern Europe, Calopteryx virgo subsp. meridionalis is the dominant subspecies. We believe that a male of this subspecies, photographed in southern France, is pictured above, at rest with wings closed which is typical of these damselflies, and below with wings spread.

Calopterxy virgo subsp. meridionalis, wings spread

There are about forty species of dragonflies and damselflies in the British Isles, although some are now quite rare and are hardly ever seen.


This page includes pictures kindly contributed by Simon Harding and James Wainscoat.

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