In this complete step-by-step fly tying guide, I’ll teach you how to tie the Zebra Midge. It’s an easy fly to tie, making it perfect for beginners. But don’t let that fool you; the Zebra Midge is a very useful midge pattern and should be given a permanent spot in both your river and lake box.
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- Difficulty level: Easy as pie
- Tying time: 3-5 minutes
- Materials: Curved shank hook, countersunk bead, thread, and ribbing
- Hook size: 14-20
What Is a Zebra Midge?
The Zebra Midge was developed by Ted Welling, a Lees Ferry guide. As the name suggests, the fly imitates a small midge pupa. The most popular color combination is silver and black, where the silver ribbing and bead imitate air trapped in the organism’s body.
The Zebra Midge sinks fast due to its slender body and heavy bead. This feature allows anglers to target fish in both fast-moving water and deep runs and lakes.
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How to Fish a Zebra Midge
The Zebra Midge may be fished on its own, but in my experience, it works best when used in tandem with other flies. Let’s take a look at the different scenarios where the Zebra Midge works best.
Lakes and Stillwaters
The beauty of the Zebra Midge is that it sinks fast. Use it in tandem with other flies like Bloodworm Larva, Damselfly Nymphs, or a Copper John.
Make a cast in the location where you expect the fish to be. If you’re blind casting, cast as far as you can. Allow the flies to sink while counting the time before you start retrieving. This technique will allow you to fish at more or less the same depth every time.
A figure-of-eight retrieve or a slow long strip works best with the Zebra Midge.
The Zebra Midge is a deadly trout pattern when used on a nymphing rig. Once again, the fly is used in tandem with other flies. The trick is to stay in contact with the fly as it drifts naturally down the run. Takes can be very subtle, but you’ll catch a ton of fish.
Rivers: Dry and Dropper
A small (18-20) Zebra Midge is perfect to use in a dry-dropper rig. Attach the Zebra Midge behind a buoyant dry fly. What I love about this technique is that you cover the two main areas where trout feed.
Another benefit is that if a fish misses the dry fly, you can represent your flies to it. Often, that same fish will eat the nymph within five casts.
Materials You’ll Need to Tie a Zebra Midge
You’ll need the following materials to tie a Zebra Midge:
Most Zebra Midges are tied on curved shank hooks, although this shouldn’t prevent you from tying them on a straight shank if you’re running short. I encourage anglers to use barbless hooks as they penetrate the fish’s jaw easily and come out without any effort.
If you don’t have a favorite curved shank hook, the following will serve you well:
If the fly needs to get down quickly, there’s no substitute for tungsten beads. I use a countersunk tungsten bead on the Zebra Midges I tie. However, if you’re using jig hooks, you might want to look at slotted tungsten beads.
The bead’s size will be determined by the hook size and sink rate you’re after, but carry a good selection ranging from 2 to 3.5mm. Some of the best colors include:
- Metallic red
The thread forms the tapered body of the Zebra Midge and therefore needs to be flat. Any color may be used, as midges vary greatly in appearance.
Some of my favorite threads for the Zebra Midge include:
- Danville’s 70 denier Flymaster 6/0 waxed
- UTC Ultra Thread 70 denier
- Semperfli Nano Silk 50 denier
The ribbing creates contrast, adds weight, and gives the fly a segmented appearance. As with the thread mentioned above, the color may be varied. My favorite ribbing materials are:
- UTC Ultra Wire in medium for sizes 14-16
- UTC Ultra Wire in brassie size for flies 18-20
Although this is technically not required for the Zebra Midge, I prefer a coat of resin as it makes the fly look more refined. The two resins that I use are either:
- Sally Hansen Hard as Nails
- Solarez Bone Dry Thin
Tools Needed to Tie a Zebra Midge
You’ll need the following tools to tie a Zebra Midge:
- Bobbin holder for the thread
- Scissors including an old pair to cut the ribbing wire
- Whip finishing tool
- Bodkin (optional)
- UV torch (only if you’re using a UV resin)
Step-by-Step Guide to Tie a Zebra Midge
Below, I go through the step-by-step procedure to tie the Zebra Midge. If you’d like to follow along, grab the materials listed below, and let’s start tying.
Zebra Midge Recipe
The specific materials I use are:
- Hook: Mouche 8464 size 14
- Thread: Danville’s 70 denier Flymaster 6/0 waxed in black
- Bead: 3mm silver tungsten
- Ribbing: UTC Ultra Wire Medium in silver
- Resin: Solarez Bone Dry Thin
Step 1: Slide the Bead onto the Hook
The countersunk bead has a small hole on one side and a larger one located at the back.
Slide the small hole over the hook point first until it sits against the hook eye.
Step 2: Secure the Hook in the Vise
Place the bottom part of the hook bend between the jaws of your vise and lock it in place.
The hook point should protrude well, and the eye must be nearly level. Test that the hook is adequately secured to prevent any headaches down the line.
Step 3: Attach the Thread
Lay the thread over the hook behind the bead and wrap forward five times. Then, back the thread over itself five times to lock it in place.
Trim off the excess tag end.
Step 4: Build a Thread Dam
Build a thread dam behind the bead to prevent it from running back. This thread dam will be the start of the taper we’re building.
Step 5: Lay a Thread Foundation
Open the thread by spinning the bobbin counterclockwise and wrap the thread rearwards with touching turns.
Stop when you reach the back of the hook, then run the thread forward, resting it behind the bead.
Step 6: Tie In the Ribbing
Hold a piece of ribbing wire on the side of the shank and make three wraps to hold it in place.
Now, pull the ribbing rearward so that the end of it slides into the thread wraps you made over it, and then secure properly with thread.
Secure the ribbing wire rearwards to the end of the thread foundation.
Step 7: Taper the Body
Open the thread again and wrap taper the body with touching turns.
Once you’re happy with the taper, leave the thread right behind the bead.
Step 8: Wrap the Ribbing
Wrap the ribbing around the shank to create the segmented abdomen. This isn’t an exact science, and remember, trout can’t count, so do what looks best to you.
Try to get the spacing of each wrap equal. Secure with tying thread behind the bead and cut or break off the wire.
Step 9: Whip Finish
Cover any exposed part of the ribbing wire and complete the fly with a good whip finish.
Trim off the thread.
Step 10: Seal the Fly
Apply a thin coat of Solarez Bone Dry Thin to the fly and spread it around the body with a bodkin.
Cure with a UV light once you’re happy.
That’s How to Tie a Zebra Midge
As you can see, the Zebra Midge is quick and easy to tie. It also uses minimal materials, making it perfect if you’re learning how to tie flies. I hope that you found the guide clear and informative. Please leave any comments, questions, or suggestions at the bottom of the page.
Until next time.