is a funny little guy that stops by TLC headquarters once in a while. he doesn’t have much to say and I don’t understand his sign language and he doesn’t understand English or French or my own sign language.
we do however play ‘show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ so I pull up my t-shirt and show him my belly, Ben in turn does the same. I’m not sure what he gets out of our little exchange but I get to observe all his little details and not just groove on how cool looking my little friend is but also get to figure out what can make a great adult chironomid imitation and all that seen from below, the fish’s point of view. it’s a pretty good deal, I like this game.
here’s a seriously interesting emerger offshoot of the infamous G-Gnat.
created by Blue Ribbon Flies and demonstrated by Tim Flagler at MidCurrent, this little bug should do the do and do it well anywhere there’s teeny-tiny midges coming off and dancing about the surface. this one’s in size 20 but the basic idea in various tones and sizes to match your local bugs are sure to raise some trouty interest.
maybe its just me as it took me a little while to figure out the G-Gnat component in this pattern but fly names are fly names and its always good to respectfully attach a variant to its original, and said component happens to be: a very volume-reduced few turns of grizzly hackle over a short peacock herl thorax. those few turns are good enough for me and i’m positive, more than enough for a hungry fish. enjoy !
caught in a puddle of this disgustingly sweet anis-flavoured apéritif, little did our little midge know that it would be the death of her, specially when drank pure instead of the more traditional preparation consisting of four parts cold water and maybe an ice cube or two. live and learn.
freshly hatched from the Canal du Midi right here at TLC-HQ, this little thing’s total body length is about 5mm long.
true, fish will usually see these tidbits from underneath as chironomids/midges finish their final transformation from emerger to completed adult at the water’s surface but a) the canal isn’t very inviting swim-wise, b) it’s cold and rainy outside and c) i have no idea where my swim trunks are and d) i don’t feel like scaring the little girls that just moved in next door…
anyway, i always consider it a treat to see the delicate beauty of these creatures but also on practical terms, as fly tiers this image can help us with details, proportions and to highlight how sunlight shows through them and maybe give us a better idea how to translate all that to our flies.
with a similarly replicating ‘looking up towards the sky’ fish’s perspective, the bug was completely backlit when the image was taken. note that every part except for the darkest are translucent.
of interest as well are the slender micro feather-like breathers, big eye(s), hefty thorax and slender abdomen and the legs are as long as the body. to me it’s not about tying hyper-realistic flies but of gathering the essential trigger points that make great fishing flies, not flies that catch fishers.
sure, depending on which area of the world you’re in, midges can and will be of very different sizes in hook terms, say, from a size 8 to size 28 and while this one’s green they’ll also be found in various tones of red, black, yellow and who knows what else, but these bugs all basically have the same details and proportions.
generally speaking, tie your midge patterns skinny and airy and you’ll most certainly catch more fish !
not a whole lot to learn here (except that trout eat chironomids at all stages of their development, from the bottom of the water to the top and when they come back to deposit eggs: i guess just like any other aquatic bug… ) but ! it’s still an amusing little film that might be of interest for your littles ones. i bet they’ll chuckle when the fish shows up. enjoy !
funny, just the other day i was wondering when Markus Hoffman would treat us to a new video and bingo ! one pops up out of his deep and dark and Guiness fumed, mantuary with a super-sweet realistical yet accessible to the average tier version of an emerging midge larvae.
with a nice soundtrack reminiscent of Davis and a few pauses to take away tying stress… once again we get to see a great fly being made and get to take in a few tricks of the trade at the same time. enjoy !
- fly tying videos (118) (thelimpcobra.com)
continuing with ‘Midge-Madness’ week, today’s special treat comes to us from Down-Under and world renowned fly tier Mick Hall.
i had the wonderful opportunity and honor to meet Mick in 2011 at a fly fair in Stockholm where he was one of the featured tiers. a truly kind and generous man, taking the time to demonstrate and go into the finer details, tips and tricks of three different fly patterns just for me, this was the highlight of the spring and those three flies are carefully hidden away in a special show box. (i’m waiting for them to reproduce… :mrgreen:)
chocked full of just about everything one might want to know on these little bugs, how to imitate them and put to good use, once you’re finished with the article be sure to visit Mick’s site kossiedun – a flytyer’s journey for an amazing wealth of bug, fish and fly goodies. enjoy !
Mick with Emma Lindgren Stockholm 2011
Many years ago I did a double Fly Talk on the life of and fishing the midge; in fact for those who have collected the Fly Talk articles, check out issues 53, Dancing With The Midge & 54, Having a Ball. There was a lot to say about midge then as there is today; nothing has changed but the fact remains that those who are not up with midge fishing techniques, they are seriously missing out. Some will say midge fishing is just for lakes, well how wrong they are.
Male Chironomid (Size: 16 Lt Tan)
Midge are found everywhere from fast flowing mountain streams to lowland rivers and lakes and swamps. They say there are around 200 species of Chironomid in Australia; as usual the work of species identification is far from over and this number will change as time slowly goes by.
As an example, to show the importance of midge fishing opportunities in our river systems, back in the early 1980s E.S.G Schreiber from Monash University in Melbourne conducted a very successful and definitive study of drifting insect life in the Acheron River in Victoria.
Many different aquatic species drift with the current, especially during that period leading up to the “New Moon”. Mayfly are also famous for doing this. This survey taken over two years shows a very interesting pattern. The fact is that the final conclusion was that Chironomid (Midge) represented some 43.6% of the drift matter followed by mayfly and caddis. A previous study by Cadwallader and Eden in 1977 showed that midge only contributed around 1 to 5% of the drift matter. I got the idea that this study was a bit off the ball or as the kids say today, “Fail”, as I believe the mesh used on their test was too big. It should also be noted that most of this drift action during the Schreiber study occurred from dusk and on during the night when midge are most active. It is feasible that Cadwallader may have missed this very important aspect of the midge’s life habits.
To emphasise their importance as a major food source, it is stated that midge can emerge from some waters in huge numbers and up to as many as 100,000 animals has been estimated emanating from a square metre. Naturally this is not a common figure but some lakes would easily make the mark.
Male midge are easily identified; they have quite a large fluffy set of antennae whilst the female does not. It is easy to tell midge from mossies; firstly they do not bite and, whilst at rest, midge hold their forelegs above and forward of their bodies, mossies don’t. Mossies have a proboscis, or what looks like a spike for a nose, that the females use to bite you with.
Olive Brown female Midge size 14 Goulburn River
Female Chironomid (Size14 Dark Olive Pond Midge)
Male Chironomid Pale Olive (size 14) Goulburn River
Little black Male Midge (Size 30) Goulburn River
Male Little Black Male Chironomid (Size 30) pond or lake midge
The Large Ballarat Black Midge (Size 10) Lake Midge
As stated earlier midge are everywhere and are found in most waters but how do you know what species are in your area and what size fly to use and when? I wish I could answer that question but I can’t. The answer is up to you.
Get to know your favourite waters and take some time out to look at the bugs that are moving around you. Take written notes or at least mental notes such as size, colour and the date. If you have a camera that has a reasonable macro facility, all the better as it will do the above for you.
Colour can vary a lot in any one water; they can vary from pale olive green to black and every shade in between. A point to remember is that in a lot of instances the colour of the adult flying midge will be similar in colour to the emerging midge.
To see what is happening, check the leaves on overhanging bushes or trees and you will see them. They are very flighty and will take off at any unnatural movement of the leaves or branches. Just the same, the key colours to carry in your box are pale olive, olive, black and blood red.
The bottom line is learn about your water, study what those fish feed on and catching fish will become a very frequent event.
Fishing midge is different from the standard techniques but if you try you will succeed and over time the rewards will be very beneficial.
Bubble line water great for all types of fly-fishing be it dry, nymph or midge
Very little need to use heavy flies in this water
If you are into “Short line Nymphing”, you are well on your way, as that technique is ideal for midge fishing in streams and rivers.
Slow bubble line type water, fish one of two flies, with or without an indicator and watch your line of drift very closely. Give it 110% and expect a take with every cast. Believe me, intense concentration is the key to success. If fishing faster water, you need weighted flies to get down to where the fish are. If you are just starting off, look for the bubble line water, it is easier to handle.
In water like this you need weighted midge patterns
Fishing mountain streams you not only need to cast short but in fast water you also need to get down. I would recommend a couple of weighted flies, one with a small tungsten bead or gold bead on the tip and a blood red midge on a dropper. Naturally in fast water a couple of weighted flies are your best option. In fast water use a short leader and have your two flies no more than 20cm apart and if needed use a sliding indicator (see list of flies below with keys to fishing them).
Often you will just see a flash as a trout takes your fly and strike immediately. A key indication of late striking is when you continuously lose fish. As I stated earlier, you need that concentration, expect a take at any time and be ready to strike at the slightest inkling of a take. The faster you are the more fish you will catch.
When is the best time to try fishing a midge pattern? Well midge come off all year round, with late spring and through summer being the best. But importantly, it is that week leading up to a full moon that is when they prefer to hatch on mass.
Midge on most lakes can produce some of the most intense fishing that can be found on still water. The best fishing times are from daylight to on occasions mid morning and again at last light.
On still mornings you can often see trout feeding all over the lake and the key food source on most occasions is the mighty midge
As a bonus for an early morning start you could be lucky enough to witness a hatch of Caenis and do they bring the fish up. Note the Midge shuck in the centre of the picture.
Slick water or smooth patches can also be an early morning feeding area
Accurate casting is the secret, your fly must land just ahead of your fish. A Trout will rarely divert from its feeding lane to take a small fly.
Watch the rise for indication of which way it is going.
It’s seen it. Note the pressure wave as the fish is heading towards the fly.
A nice Brown caught and released
After the early morning calm a breeze will normally come up and wind lanes will start to form and that is when the fishing really gets interesting. Wind lanes come in two forms, those that form over the same area and those that just form because they want to. These lanes are like highways for feeding fish. As they form, so the floating food matter is compacted within these lanes. It is common to find a number of fish feeding at any one time. Some fish like Rainbows will group up and feed together, working their way down the lanes. Keep your eye on the edges of these wind lanes as trout often cruise along the outside, using the rough area as cover and move into the lane to feed whenever they so choose.
On clear sunny days the trout will generally feed along the lane with the sun to their backs. This is because they have no eyelids so as you know, it is difficult to look into the sun, especially for fish when feeding on the surface.
Your approach to fishing these lanes is tantamount to your success. If you can come up behind your fish, you have a definite advantage. If you have to cast to a fish coming towards you, you have the additional problem of it seeing you. Frequently a bunch of trout will feed along for just a few seconds then disappear, so you have to be quick and very accurate.
But that is why fishing wind lanes is so challenging and very rewarding; you really have to hunt those fish.
Note the distinctive borders on this wind lane
On a good morning the lake’s surface can be littered with the empty shucks of midge that have emerged during the night; amongst this litter are also a lot of adult flying midge. The midge pupa can hover under the surface for hours before breaking through the meniscus to emerge. Trout feeding on the pupa have a funny habit of gently porpoising as they feed and they wiggle their tail as they complete this manoeuvre.
￼Just watch for those slow and gentle rises and if that tail wags as they head back down, you can be sure that they are feeding on midge
At times those wind lanes can be a real smorgasbord, with all sorts of bugs from beetles to spinners and midge.
It has been stated that this wind lane feeding activity is mostly Rainbow Trout but I have found this not necessarily to be the case, especially with lakes such as Lake Fyans in Western Victoria, which receives equal stocking of both Brown and Rainbows.
What’s the bottom line get to know your water? As my mentor, the late Lindsay Haslem, would say, “Learn to see what you are looking at; the answer is always there, you are just too stupid to see it”.
About the hooks used; I highly recommend that you tie your midge patterns using a grub hook, preferably with a straight eye, such as the Mustad Signature Series C49S in sizes 18 through to size 10. It should be noted that you should carry midge patterns in a number of sizes, as explained with the tyings featured below.
Tungsten Bead-head Dark Brown Midge tied by Mick Hall
Hook: Mustad C49S
Thread: Tan 10/0
Bead: Small Tungsten 0 bead
Body: Uni-Flex Dark Brown
Ribbing: Copper wire 5 turns
Notes: Use this pattern on streams in moderate to fast water. If really fast water, try two, one on the tip and the second on a dropper. If needed you can use an indicator so you can follow the drift line. Don’t knock it when your eyes start to fail, they can be your best friend.
Tying tip: Tie in the Uni-Flex at the eye of the hook and pull tight as you wind back along the shank; this will give you a neat under-body without any lumps or bumps. If using a rib, tie it in at the eye with the Uni-Flex and stretch both together as you wind down the shank and partially around the bend, as in the picture.
￼Mercury Midge as designed by Pat Dorsey USA, tied by Mick Hall
Hook: Mustard C49S
Size: 16 to 12
Bead: Hi Lite Silver glass beads from Spirit River size to suit (small, medium, or large).
Thread: Brown 10/0
Body: Black Uni-Flex
Ribbing: Copper wire 5 turns
Notes: Use this fly in mild or still water, grease your leader tip well to hold in or near the surface film. Also good on a dropper with a Tungsten bead head on the tip. If you have trouble obtaining these beads locally, try http://www.otetackle.com, you will be surprised.
Pat Dorsey’s book, Tying and Fishing Tail-water Flies, is a great read available from Stackpol Books USA, $39.95 plus postage.
Blood Worm Midge as tied by Mick Hall
Hook: Mustad C49S
Thread: White 10/0
Bead: Hi Lite Silver glass bead size to suit
Body: Uni-Flex red
Notes: Tungsten beads, glass beads or plain gold can be used or if you want this fly to sit just under the surface, use a little dubbing. I prefer “Dark Olive”, which is a blend of olive and black rabbit fur.
Use: Lake or River.
Red Brassy as tied by Mick Hall
Hook: Mustad C49S
Thread: White or red 10/0
Bead: Tungsten, gold, or Hi Lite Silver glass bead, size to suit
Body: Fine red wire or copper wire as an option
Notes: Again this is a very versatile pattern and is great for fast water if tied heavy.
Fluoro Midge as tied by Mick Hall
Hook: Mustad C49S
Thread: White 10/0
Body: Chartreuse Uni-Flex
Thorax: Dubbing dark olive
Notes: This pattern can be very effective when a little UV is favoured. The white thread adds to the translucency and you can also add a little olive to the back of this pattern with a marking pen. This pattern is very light in weight and hovers just under the surface. Ideal for lakes.
Emerging Olive Midge as tied by Mick Hall
Hook: Mustad C49S
Size: 18 to 12
Thread: White 10/0
Body: White Uni-Flex and stained with marking pen
Emerging wing buds: Pearl Crystal Flash 4 strands
Bead: Hi Lite Silver glass bead, size to suit
Notes: This pattern is one of my favourites and I normally tie it with a dubbed thorax as it is essential for lake work.
￼Light Olive Midge tied as Olive Midge above but use a lighter olive marking pen and the tying options are the same.
The Large Ballarat Black as tied by Mick Hall
Thread: White 10/0
Body: Black Uni-Flex
Ribbing: White 3/0 tying thread 7 turns
Wing Buds: Pearl Crystal Flash four or five strands only
Thorax: Dark Olive dubbing.
Balling Midge as tied by Mick Hall
Hook: Mustad R50 dry fly hook
Hook size: 14-12
Thread: Black 10/0
Body Hackle: Whiting Farms Grizzle cock hackle wound from above the barb to the eye.
Notes: This pattern is used on evening when in some waters male midge actually ball up and become a favourite target for old speckles. This fly is a favourite at Lake Eucumbene in the Snowy Mountains during summer months.
Full Stop as tied by Mick Hall
Tied as the balling midge but on a size 18 or 20 Mustad R50 hook. In this instance the hackle has been trimmed to size and to enhance its floating ability.
I designed this pattern just on twenty years ago to match the little black balling midge up on the Yarra River in Victoria during the summer months. This activity is not uncommon on waters that have silt bottoms blended with a little gravel. Again, as Hassa would say, “Learn your water, learn to see what is happening.”
at an estimated 4mm body length it wasn’t the easiest thing to get so close to the beast without it flying off and away but some encouraging words followed with promises of some fresher Gouda kept it a bay long enough to get a somewhat decent shot to be able observe this fish-food’s key elements to be later transposed to imitations of adult chironomids.
apart from getting proportionally slimmer, it’s interesting to note that the adult’s body stays basically the same as in it’s pupal stage. the breathers, antennae and other leggy-wingy goodies are quite delicate and beautiful, transforming it from the Alieny thing below into a mini fairy.
pupa image via Google Images
by Johan Nygren
funny, i was just thinking about this yesterday.
to match the midges that where coming off needed size 24-26-28 emergers but the fishery has 50cm and up fish. sure, i’ve hooked fish before in the same circumstances but the proportion of takes to hook-ups is very low, the disproportion between the fly and the bigger mouth is the problem.
it’s all part of the game to stalk and not hook up but it gets quickly frustrating when you’re not in a Dalaï Lama mood….
Johan’s article addresses this issue with a few tips and pros and cons. good stuff indeed.
To tie a small fly on an over sized hook – benefits (and some disadvantages)
click the pic for Johan’s article. enjoy !
ps- be sure to crush those barbs before you tie ! 😉
nice, buggy, adaptable, most definitely out the box design, basically indestructible and super-easy to tie. those are a lot of good points for a fly i’d say. enjoy !
Buzzers – Midges: Chironomids
a flash from the past happened as i was watching Davie McPhail’s tying video of this truly amazing pattern. a lot of memories trickled back of all the good trout-stalking fun and success i’ve had with this pattern and i thought i’d share it here.
often neglected because of it’s ‘looks like nothing’ appearance…, i’ve heard they’re banned in some waters because they’re so effective.
(see, i wasn’t kidding, they’re awesomely butt-ugly ! these old munched and crunched ones come from my box, they’re around 3-4 years old and a conservative guesstimation has them at maybe 25-30 fish each)
created in the 70’s by Dave Shipman to imitate ‘buzzer or chironomid hatches on England’s Rutland reservoir, it can be fished with a floating line on top like a dry, half way in/half way out like an emerger or sunk.
dead-drifted with the wind or animated slooooowly, it’s a pretty rare occasion where these won’t catch the fish’s attention.
sizes range from no. 8 to 28 sized hooks. any color will do with personal favorites being black, red, claret, and darkish brown and combining all those colors makes it super-versatile and sexy !
i’ve had great success with it in rivers and streams as well. it’s not just a stocked fish stillwater pattern because midge distribution is getting bigger and bigger because of pollution and other nasties: the ‘standard’ trout bugs have a hard time living in dirtier waters and the midges move in because their metabolism allows it.
here’s how Davie ties it, in fact he ties three different versions for us. enjoy !
btw, don’t forget this previously talked about method of presenting them:
Frank Sawyer’s Bow Tie
following the line grub idea of using fly lines as body parts for flies here’s a little midge-type emerger with an extended abdomen.
size 18 grub hook
Veevus 14/0 brown thread
extended body- fly line, tips burned to seal the line and colored with permanent markers, coated and secured with BugBond
abdomen- severals dubbing materials (can’t remember but there’s Glister, seal’s fur, ? and ?)
wing wisps- brown-beige fox body fur
wings- twisted Chrystal Flash
wing case- pheasant tail
head- Antron dubbing black
edit: Ronan’s comment below has lead me to change this fly’s name. it sounds a lot better this way, thanks !
” My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest past, nothing of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory, over which, if you can still stand my style (I am writing under observation), the sun of my infancy had set: surely, you all know those redolent remnants of day suspended, with the midges, about some hedge in bloom or suddenly entered and traversed by the rambler, at the bottom of a hill, in the summer dusk; a furry warmth, golden midges.”
well, they’re small enough to be really hard to see and easily trip over…
anyway, whatever they are, there’s more and more of them in a lot of trout waters around the globe as the typical caddis, mayflies and stoneflies are having a hard time with mankind and what we’re doing to the aquatic systems. midges thrive just about everywhere at just about anytime of the year and in some areas, become the primary food source for salmonids and other bug eating species.
today’s film is chapter five of the seminal documentary ‘Bugs of the Underworld’ by Lisa and Ralph Cutter. yes, a lot of you have heard about it for years but it’s still a reference and an amazing film every freshwater fisher should own and study because we get to see how the bugs we try so hard to imitate look and behave in real life and not how some fly tier steeped in someone else’s tradition decided they should look.
we’ll also notice that the highly sought after ‘dead-drift’ might not always be in sync with what the real bugs are doing. in short, most bugs are a lot more alive than our stuffy imitations.
there are trillions of nice midge imitations out and about but here are a few recent ties that caught my eye.
KG’s Fullback/Foamback Midge…Glissmeyer/Variant…Chocolate, #18-#22
(Andy gets bonus points for the name !)
Al’s Rat midge pupae by Tightline Productions
and just in case you’re one of those flat-earther, keds wearing, climate change denying, bamboo shwooshing mayfly dryfly-only purist types, here’s proof that trout are already drastically changing their feeding habits…