As we move into full on winter time fishing (it was 6 degrees the other night!) this can only mean one thing; Midges, Midges and more Midges. Midges are a non biting member of the mosquito family. They are prevalent in just about every waterway that Trout inhabit. Available year round, they are a large part of a Trout's diet. As the water begins to cool Midges should become a primary focus of our fishing tactics and in the dead of winter December, January and February they may be one of the only active and available food sources. Under water flies will be well represented with patterns in the #18 to #22 size range. Top water or "dry" patterns will be in the #20 to #24 range. Most serious Trout fishermen will have a fly box dedicated to Midges only. As mentioned, you should carry your Midge box year round, I have caught trout on Midge patterns in February as well as in June. I would like to share with you six of my favorite, most productive Midge patterns. Try as I might I just could not get the pictures of the small flies to come out properly. For the sake of clarity the pictures of the actual flies were pulled from the internet. My thanks to the people who's picture taking ability is far superior to mine.
If you are going to become a serious Midge fisherman you need to wrap your mind around a few things. Sometimes as hard as it is to get them to eat a #24, keeping them buttoned up is another story. There will be times when you just cant stick them, by contrast there will be times when you stick them good and after a second or 2 the hook pulls. It is the nature of the beast. Even on the best of hook designs the gap on a size 24 hook is minuscule at best. One suggestion is to use a quality hook and be sure it is sharp. Offsetting the hook point a bit will help in this area as well. Also, when using a curved shank hook with a bead, go up one hook size. This will allow more room between the hook point and the bead and keep the hook gap open. If you roll the hook point clip it off and tie on a fresh fly. These patterns are usually simple and fast to tie. Don't fish with dull hooks! Small flies call for small tippet. It is hard to get a good drift with a size #24 fly on 4X. The next time you have a small hook, 22 or smaller, try to thread 4X through the hook eye. You will be surprised to find out it may not even go through. Get yourself a few spools of 6X and get comfortable casting and fishing a longer than normal leader. At the tying bench realize although there is not typically much detail in these patterns tying flies this small can be a challenge. It can take as long to put the bead on a #22 as it takes to actually tie the fly. Tie in a well lit area, pre bead your hooks and take your time. Just because they are small doesn't mean you should get sloppy. A well stocked Midge box filled with well tied flies is a thing of beauty. Tie flies and arrange boxes you can be proud of. You will be glad you did.
Books are great sources of information and can be used as future reference for years to come. As I get a little older I have come to appreciate books as a form of investment. An investment that I do not need to worry if they will hold their value. I am sure everybody has their favorites, and I am no exception. "Midge Magic" by Don Holbrook & Ed Koch and "Modern Midges" by Rick Takahashi & Jerry Hubka are two of the best. A copy of each should be on every fly tiers book shelf. These two books have more information and patterns than most people could digest in a lifetime. A quick search of the web provided many outlets to purchase each, or you could just click here. I believe "Midge Magic" is out of print so if you are interested I would suggest you get a copy ASAP before it goes by the way of my hair line, the 2008 Phillies World Series, and all of the good Metal music of the '80's...gone forever!
Well, here is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. My 6 favorite Midge patterns. These 6 flies have proven themselves on both stocked and wild fish. An easy to moderate skill level is all that is required to tie them with a minimal amount materials. Tie these 6 flies and you can fish in most any water condition at any time during the year and have success.
1) The Zebra Midge. Possibly the most popular Midge Larva pattern ever. A bead, thread body and wire rib is all that is needed. You can add a dubbed collar if you choose, but may not be necessary. Tied in black, red and olive in sizes 18 to 22. Every Midge box should be well stocked with a bunch of these.
2) Al's Rat. Why is it the most effective flies are often the most simple to tie? Thread and dubbing are all that is needed. I will usually hang this as a dropper off of a tungsten beaded fly to help get it down. This fly is a great choice to add a third fly to your rig without adding bulk. It is rare that my wintertime doesn't have a Rat hanging off the back.
3) The Frostbite Midge. This is my go to fly on my home waters of the White Clay. Probably the most detailed of all the patterns on my list. The red Diamond Braid body on this fly makes for a great Blood worm imitation. I have more confidence in this fly than any other on the list.
The Rainbow Warrior. I don't know If this was originally designed as a Midge pattern or not. I do know the more I fish the more confidence I have in it. I first saw this fly in the great book "Dynamic Nymphing" by George Daniel. Instantly I had an idea where this fly would be successful in my personal fishing. Tied on a #20 this fly has proven deadly this winter tough waters like Maryland's Gunpowder.
We go on top for our next two patterns, and the Sprout Midge is one of the best! Tied parachute style, this fly rides in the film and is very easy to see. Tied with a foam post this fly is an excellent choice for "dry and dropper" fishing, but does quite well all by it's self. Personally, my success has been far better with body colors of light olive and tan. The black version just has not been as productive for me.
This next pattern is near and dear to my heart. My good friend, Rick, introduced me to this pattern one early March day on one of our favorite rivers. When I say "introduced" what I mean is he was banging fish and I, only 50 yards below him in the same run couldn't catch a cold. On the way home, with my tail still between my legs from the beating I had just received on the water, I finally asked him what fly. He told me "The CDC Puff" The next day we sat down at the bench and he taught me how to tie this simple, yet highly effective fly. The picture shows the body wrapped with some type of flash. I have a few tied like this but, over time, have come to prefer using just plain flat waxed nylon thread for the body.
Well, there they are. These 6 Midge patterns have served me well over the years and they will continue to do so. Are these the only flies in my Midge box? Absolutely not. I am always looking for that next "new" pattern, that is how lists like this grow and evolve. I do know I will never be on a Trout river without these 6 patterns! Pick up a copy of "Midge Magic" and or "Modern Midges", pick some patterns that speak to you and get out and give them a shot. Who knows, maybe in a year or so you will have your own "confidence list". Till next time...