In this post, we’ll cover fly fishing midges and everything you need to know about fishing these classic flies including important midge fly patterns, how to cast them, when to use them, and much more.
Believe it or not, there are a few “old standbys” when it comes to your fly choices. In a sport where it seems like everything changes on a daily basis, safety nets are not easy to find. Midge patterns are as close to a guarantee of fish as you’ll ever find. They should be in the fly box of every angler no matter the time of year.
I spent the first few months of my fly fishing career only using midges. I was given a few midge patterns from my older brother and caught all the fish I wanted on them. I couldn’t believe how well they worked regardless of the conditions.
Table of Contents
- Flies Technique
- What is a Midge Fly Pattern?
- Life Cycle of a Midge
- When To Use Midge Fly Patterns?
- How To Cast a Midge Fly Pattern?
- Species For Fly Fishing Midges
- The Best Midge Fly Patterns
- Gear To Use When Fishing With Midge Flies
- Fly Rods
- Fly Reels
- Fly Line
- Best Time For Fly Fishing Midges
- Fly Fishing Midges Techniques, Tips & Tricks
- Best Destinations For Fly Fishing Midges
- Are You Ready For Fly Fishing Midges?
Fly fishing with midge patterns takes a bit to get used to, but once you gain the feel you’re in for some eventful days on the water. There are few patterns in the world that are as productive!
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What is a Midge Fly Pattern?
Midge flies are a part of the Chironomid family. They have one set of wings and have a strong resemblance to mosquitoes. Rest assured, they don’t bite even though they have a similar appearance.
They have a similar long, soft body with fairly long wings. The legs are the main difference between a midge and a mosquito. When resting, the first pair of legs sits forwards and upwards. Obviously, if they aren’t biting you, you can assume what you’re seeing is a midge.
Life Cycle of a Midge
Midge flies have similar life cycles to other insects. They have a lifespan of upwards of four years. These insects hatch in incredible numbers and they make up the majority of the diet of many trout.
The larvae stage of a midge is a favorite for many fly anglers. When they’re larvae, the midge are called bloodworms. The long, skinny and red bodies can be found at the bottom of lakes, ponds and rivers.
These are prevalent and many nymphs can be found to resemble this stage. These blood worms can also be found in other damp places outside of the water. A main reason these insects are so prevalent is because they can hatch in a variety of ecosystems.
Midge flies will spend one to three years in the larvae stage. They stay attached to rocks, logs and other surfaces under the water. They scavenge for food and eventually start making their way to the surface of the water.
The pupa stage of a midge is very short. It only takes a few days for the fly to float to the surface and begin to hatch into the adult stage. The pupa stage is a favorite for trout. They love to eat these flies as they are helpless and floating on the surface or just below.
This is known as the emerging stage in fly fishing. It’s a short window, but if you can time it right, the fish will eat up any emerger you throw their way.
The adult stage of a midge only lasts up to a few weeks. They spend the majority of their lives under water. When males reach this stage, they are often seen in a massive group. You’ll see these swarms of midge patterns right near the surface of the water.
The females are rarely in the swarms. As soon as a male identifies a female, it mates and often returns to the swarm and dies rather quickly. As soon as you start seeing the swarms of adults, you know it’s time to break out the dries.
When To Use Midge Fly Patterns?
It’s a common question in fly fishing: what should I use? If you have no idea and can’t seem to find any information on the body of water you’re fishing, you’re safe with throwing a midge.
Midge patterns work all year round. It doesn’t matter the season, this fly will catch fish. Don’t make things too complicated. Almost all trout and other insect eating fish will eat midge patterns. As long as you know the fish are feeding, go ahead and throw one of these patterns.
How To Cast a Midge Fly Pattern?
Casting midge patterns depends on what type of fly you’re using. As a rule of thumb, however, it’s best to cast upstream and let the fly drift down and across your body. This will allow the fly to achieve the most natural looking drift.
It’s also important to remember to not get too far ahead of yourself and use an excessive amount of fly line. This is going to ruin your drift unless you’re highly skilled and can mend appropriately!
Species For Fly Fishing Midges
Midge patterns work primarily with trout. These flies make up the most of a trout’s diet. Since they’re almost always available to trout or to a brook trout for fly fishing, they can’t help but eat their fill on a daily basis. Take advantage of any opportunity you get to fish these patterns!
The Best Midge Fly Patterns
There are thousands of midge patterns that you can choose from and all seem to land fish. Here is a list of some of the best midge patterns that will provide you with some fish on your next adventure.
The Tungteaser is a great option if you’re planning on fishing a tailwater. It’s best used in size 18 to 20. Since it’s such a small fly, your best bet would be to use it if you’re planning on fishing a dry dropper or tandem rig.
It has a tungsten beadhead so it will drop in the water column faster than a majority of flies. You can find these in a variety of colors so make sure you visit your local fly shop or do some research before you decide which color to use.
Use this fly at any point in the year. Fish will eat it no matter the weather or water temperature!
The Blood Midge is one of the most productive fly patterns in the entire world. It’s usually found in sizes 18-22 and drives the fish crazy. If you know midge patterns live in a body of water and you aren’t seeing a hatch, don’t be afraid to throw this pattern.
Also, if you’re interested in starting to tie your own midge patterns, this is a great one to start with. You need some Uni-Thread and some Ultra-Wire. Cover the fly with the thread and wrap the wire around as well.
Again, the blood midge is a great representation of the larvae stage of the midge. This pattern can also work well as the anchor to a dry dropper rig. If you’re searching and aren’t quite sure what to use or what depth to fish, use this pattern.
Finding midge emerging patterns that truly work isn’t an easy task. The designer of the UV Midge Emerger seems to have found the secret. The flashiness of the fly draws the attention of the fish as it floats near the surface.
While this fly has a bit of weight to it, you’ll never find it on the bottom. It hovers throughout the water column and draws attention from the fish as they are starting to look towards the surface. Remember, the time to fish emerging patterns isn’t long, but if you know a hatch is going to happen in the next 30 minutes, use this.
The beauty of this pattern is that you can find it from size 16-24. Depending on what the fish want, you can have more of a presence in the water or stay in the shadows.
The Crackleback Midge is a more unique pattern, but is a productive dry fly pattern. As you’re choosing what midge pattern to throw, see if you can find a live midge and see what it looks like.
If the fly looks particularly buggy, the Crackleback Midge is a great option. Make sure you cover this fly with a floatant because you want it to stand out far above the rest of the flies on the surface of the water.
You can find this fly in numerous colors and between sizes 16-24. The bright colors make this a great option for your next trip.
The Smokejumper Midge looks like it has an especially pronounced afro. It has a similar appearance to a blood midge except for the extra material near the eye of the hook. This pattern represents an emerger.
There is no beadhead so this will fluctuate in the water column depending on the speed of the current. If you need it a bit lower in the water column, it’s not a bad idea to tie on a split shot to drop a bit more.
It’s one of the more unique patterns that you’ll find. These patterns are smart to keep in your box. Fish can become immune to certain patterns because they see them all the time. The more buggy and unique the pattern, the better success that you might have.
This pattern is great to use in the evenings. When you start seeing midge swarms, tie on the Griffith’s Gnat and see what happens. This is a small pattern, but the high visibility material makes it easy to follow.
Throw these wherever you see a rise. If it’s early in the hatch, follow the foam line. The fish usually look here first before the hatch truly begins. This is one of the best search dry patterns you can fish. You’ll find it from size 18 to 24. See what the fish want and don’t be afraid to try a few different sizes!
The Zebra Midge is another classic pattern in the world of midge fishing. It’s simple and can be used no matter the time of the year. This is another one of those patterns that you can tie if you’re new to fly tying!
Take your pick with whatever color you would like. Speak to some locals to see what they suggest before you make your decision. They’re a great dropper in a dry dropper rig. Anglers have had success with this pattern for years!
The Renegade is my personal favorite midge pattern. It’s a great option for those tailwaters out west. If you start seeing mating clusters, tie on the renegade. It can imitate a dead midge as well as a cluster.
It was invented right around WWI and has made its presence felt ever since then. The old-time anglers love this pattern. It has caught thousands of trophy fish through the years. There are few things more exciting than seeing a big trout chase after one of these patterns.
The last fly on this list is fitting. The Klinkhammer looks like a dog with a bad haircut. The material sticking straight up and out to the side looks obnoxious, but it’s extremely effective.
Many anglers would classify this as an attractor pattern. It’s so bizarre that the fish are too curious to not come and take a look. I like to save these patterns if I’ve hit a hole quite a few times and I know there are fish, but I can’t get them to take.
By throwing this unique pattern, I usually almost always get a strike. The beauty of this fly is that it is not a one hit wonder. It’ll work multiple times in a pool or seam. Don’t ever forget about the trusty Klinkhammer!
Gear To Use When Fishing With Midge Flies
When you’re setting up your rig and wanting to fish with midges, make sure you are prepared to finesse your way around the water. Midge fishing rarely requires power and it’s important for anglers to remember that.
When you’re choosing a rod, make sure it’s one you’re comfortable using. Ideally, you would use a 3 or 4-weight when fishing with midge flies on smaller rivers and streams. These weights allow you to pick and choose your spots with precision. You need to be able to finesse your way around the stream in order to land fish.
If you’re fishing a larger body of water, a 5 or 6-weight will be plenty. You may need more power to fight the conditions or even land some of the larger fish. Fish don’t discriminate against small flies! Some of the biggest fish I have caught have been on size 18 flies.
Whatever you do, make sure your reel matches your rod. Balance is key to a successful cast. The goal should be to make sure that your reel is never more than one size heavier or lighter than your rod. If it is, the casting balance will feel strange and you may not be as accurate.
Also, it’s also smart to purchase large arbor reels. These are more versatile and will work in almost any conditions you put them in!
Your fly line is dependent on what type of fishing you’re doing. If you’re using dries, you need to use a floating fly line. The worst thing you can do is have your line pull your flies under the water. Flies need to sit high on the surface and floating lines won’t interfere with this.
If you’re throwing nymph patterns, you can use a weight forward line. This will pull the flies deeper in the water column and a bit faster. Plus, the weight forward line is much easier to cast!
You can also use a weight forward line if you’re using emerging patterns. The flies will fluctuate in the water column. However, if you’d prefer it to almost act as a dry fly, I would recommend using a floating line.
When choosing a leader, make sure it fits the size of fish and fishing conditions. With most midge patterns, you won’t need any larger than 3x leader. This is going to be easier to cast and won’t stand out too much to the fish.
Also, it’s important to use tapered leader. Midge patterns are small and fish like to get up close and personal with them before they eat. If they can identify the line on the end, you’re in big trouble!
Tippet can be a lifesaver when you’re fishing with midge patterns. Use 4x tippet when fishing with midges. The fish won’t be able to see it and you’ll still be able to land those impressive fish. It’s especially important to use a tippet when you’re fishing with dry flies.
You’ll see the fish flashing from the depths below and you’ll be in for a great morning or evening.
Best Time For Fly Fishing Midges
There are few flies more versatile than midges. You can use midge patterns year round. However, the most productive times are going to be in the spring and throughout the summer. Fish in the mornings and evenings when the fish are most active.
Fly Fishing Midges Techniques, Tips & Tricks
Fishing with midge patterns requires you to be versatile. You never know when you’ll have to switch things up and try a new technique to get fish to bite. Since they often act as searching flies, it’ll likely take some time for you to learn the best method.
When fishing with midge nymphs, make sure you remember that less is more. Start by only throwing 15 or 20 feet of fly line. This will allow you to mend and keep control of the nymph for the entire drift.
Cast up and across the stream at about a 45 degree angle. As the fly drifts, strip the slack and make sure that the fly is leading the charge. If you start to see your fly line loop below the fly, you need to make a change.
Mend upstream to make sure the fly leads the way. Strip in the slack and raise your rod tip as it drifts closer to you. Once the fly is about 5-feet upstream, you’re entering the strike zone. This is where the drift looks the most natural.
As it drifts across your body, make sure you continue to strip and pay close attention to your strike indicator especially if you are into chironomid fishing. Once the fly is 5 or 10 feet past you, go ahead and strip the rest in and cast again.
Midge nymph patterns are often very small so make sure that they’re weighted properly to get to the bottom of the water column. Split shots come in handy when you’re fishing with midge nymphs.
Midge Dry Fly Patterns
When fishing with dry fly patterns, don’t overcomplicate things. Cast to where you see rises. When you see a rise, that is where fish are feeding and where your fly needs to be. You may seem some rise down stream, but it’s important that you continue to cast upstream.
You might have to move downstream, but always make sure you spend your time looking up. You’ll get the most natural drifts when you cast upstream. If you don’t get a hit within the first few seconds of your fly being on the water, try again. If a hatch is happening, the fish aren’t going to wait long to strike.
Best Destinations For Fly Fishing Midges
It’s not often you can say everywhere when it comes to best destinations for fly fishing. Anywhere trout live, there are going to be midge flies. It’s as simple as that! Every angler must carry quite a few of these patterns in their box.
Are You Ready For Fly Fishing Midges?
If you’re new to the fly fishing world, using midge patterns is a great way to learn the tendencies of fish. Since fish want so desperately to eat these, you will have a quick introduction into how fish behave.
They’re small flies that require quite a bit of finesse and quality casts, but the better you become at fishing midge patterns, the better you will be at fly fishing in general. Fly fishing can be frustrating and there is quite a bit of unknown involved in the sport.
Midge patterns take the questions out of fly angling. Learn the different patterns that work on your local waters and get going! You’ll love how many fish you catch.