I've written about midges in previous posts. I have tried to reorganize
those posts and add some new information to make a more coherent approach
to midge fishing.
The entomology of a midge is pretty simple. They are in the order Dipthera
for "two wings". Our friend the mosquito is in the same order but midges
have no biting mouth parts. All Dipthera have 4 parts to their life cycle -
egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Like caddises, we fish only the pupa to adult
stage including the intermediate emerger.
I'm sure that there are some large goliath midges somewhere but in general
we are talking small insects here. In fact, I've been told of "midge"
hatches which were actually micro caddises or small mayflies. Some fishers
use it as a generic term for small insect but I know you wouldn't make that
What makes midges important to trout is that they often hatch when there
are no other insects hatching, such as in the middle of winter. They are
also very prolific in stillwaters. They come up in such numbers and their
hatches can last a long time. Both of these factors are made for
I think of midge fishing in the same way I think of fishing the Trico
spinner fall. Think midges (or spinners) when you see trout rising to an
invisible hatch. I describe this situation as "the fish eating water"
because you cannot tell what they are taking. Like rises to spinners, the
rise to a midge hatch tends to be a sipping rise and the rises will tend to
Midges usually emerge in the quieter sections of the stream, the flatter
waters. they don't pop out of their pupa as caddises are *said* to do. They
stay on the surface for quite a while and this is part of the reason the
rises are so calm. They can be quite small and the Griffth's Gnat and OBA
(the olive bodied adams, the sacred fly of FF@) are often taken as a
cluster of midges. They tend to group together as they float down the
stream. If you look for them they are not that difficult to spot, but the
fishermen often ignore them because they can't believe the trout would be
interested in such a small insect.
You want to look for the rises then in the quiet areas of the stream such
as the backwashes and stream edges and current seams. This is where the
midges will congregate. Look very closely at the water because you will
need to differentiate whether the trout are taking spinners vs midges vs
Now you have decided the trout are taking midges. What do you do? I do my
stomach pump trick on the first trout I catch but you might prefer to seine
the water with a fine net to try to sample a pupa and the adult. I carry a
magnifying lens to better see the color and shape of the midge pupa.
You will need a good selection of midge flies - pupas, emergers, and drys.
For pupas I would suggest brassies (note, that there are different colored
wires now so that you can tie a green brassie or even a red brassie and not
only the copper ones), WD 40's. For emergers - a KF emerger, beadhead
emerger. For drys, a Griffith's gnat, midge cluster, RS2, palomino, and of
course the OBA. The colors depend on the midge population in your streams.
One tip - Most fishers try to fish the midge pupa dead drift. Sometimes the
key will be to let it swing below you and the trout will take it as it
rises to the surface. If you see a feeding trout who refuses your pattern,
try getting above him and time your drift so that the pupa rises up just in
front of him. It often entices a strike.
Another tip. The Griffith's gnat is a versatile fly. You can cut the bottom
hackles off flush with the hook so that the fly rides lower in the water.
Often this will increase the effectiveness of the fly. If this doesn't
help, then I try the fly wet just under the surface using the greased line
technique by putting floatant on the leader stopping about 4 inches from
the fly. This causes the fly to float just under the surface and you use
the floating leader as a strike indicator. If you can't see the midge
patterns, I do not hesitate to use a small polypro strike inicator tied
with a slip knot about 2-3 feet up from the fly. It will help you locate
your fly and help you decide if a rise could possible be to your fly.
Here's one final HK tip. Midge fishing will sometimes require a level of
casting accuracy that you may think is beyond your capabilities. The
trout's feeding lane or window is often very small because they are so
close to the surface when feeding on midges. If you try the traditional up
and across cast, you will become frustrated in a hurry.
Since the window they see out of the top of the water is small, use this to
your advantage. You can get closer by careful wading and staying low. If
you have trouble putting the fly into the proper drift, approach from
above and use a parachute cast down to the trout. Since the window he sees
out of is small, you can adjust your fly's floating lane by skating the fly
into his drift lane. Then lower your rod gradually to allow a drag free
float into his window. If the trout does not take, slowly drag the leader
to the side out of his lane and window before picking up for another cast.
This is a time to break out those longer leaders so you can drag the leader
out of the drift lane befor the flyline gets into the trout's window.
I hope some of these suggestions will help you to think of midges as
perhaps the first pattern to try. You will then have arrived as a midge
Copyright 1996 by Henry Kanemoto.
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