It is thought that midges represent about one-half of the insects in streams and lakes. Although
streams and lakes with soft bottoms and weed beds usually have more than other types of water, if
the water supports trout it has midges. This includes fast flowing freestone mountain streams. It
doesn’t matter whether the bottom is muddy, rocky, or sandy. Midge species of one type or another
can survive as long as algae exist for them to feed on. Lakes, pond and sloughs are usually loaded
with midge activity.
Another important consideration is that midges normally hatch periodically just about year round and
are available as food for trout in the larvae, pupae or adult stages throughout the year.
Midges are small two winged flies that resemble mosquitoes. They begin life from an egg deposited
by swarming adults as they mate and skim over the surface of the water. Some species deposit their
eggs underwater on structure and plants. Some of the species are free-swimming larvae and others
form tubes from the bottom materials that they live in.
The bloodworm and glassworm species are free- swimming larvae. These larvae develop into the
pupae stage of life and emerge by assenting to the surface of the water where they hatch into the full,
grown adults. This emerging process usually takes anywhere from several seconds to a minute or
two. Depending upon the species, the adults live for an hour or two, up to a couple of months.
One commonly known fact about the midge is that it provides fishing action during the cold, winter
months when nothing else may be hatching. From late fall until early spring, in many locations they
are the only thing hatching. This is certainly one great reason to fish midge patterns but it may also
tend to cause some anglers to think that the only time midges are effective for trout is during the cold
months of the year when nothing else works well. This is a very false belief. Midges may be the best
approach to use on any given day during the year, even days when major mayfly or caddisfly hatches
are occurring. In many streams and lakes where midges are a major part of the trout’s diet, fish may
take midges selectively over other much larger flies. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that if the
weather is nice and warm, you don’t need your midge box. That may be a big mistake.
It is not easy to detect that trout are feeding on midges even when they are doing it selectively at the
exclusion of everything else. Angler may spot midges on the water and simply not be able to see trout
taking them. It is even more difficult to spot trout taking the emerging midges and almost impossible
to see them taking the larvae.
Trout feeding on adult midges tend to hold just beneath the surface where they can easily sip the
midges. They make very subtle rise forms and are usually fairly easily spooked since they are holding
so shallow. Bad presentations can easily spook them and well as your presence and motions made
casting. Wakes made from wading will spook trout holding very shallow also.
Midges seem to never hatch when you expect them. They can hatch anytime of the day from early in
the morning to late in the evening. Snow, wind and rain seem to have little effect on the hatch times.
They can hatch on the hottest day in July or coldest day of January. There are some clues that may,
keep in mind we are saying may, help you select the best fishing times however.
Like many other aquatic insects, midge emergence is greatest during periods of low atmospheric
pressure, or cloudy, overcast day. This is when the hatches seem to be the most concentrated and
the heaviest; however, you may find midges hatching on the brightest days of the year. It also seems
that the calmer the water, the heavier the hatch, but this may just be a factor in how well you can see
them. Dark, overcast, days, also aid you in getting closer to the fish feeding on midges and makes it
easier for you to fool them with an imitation.
It takes a lot of midges to supply the necessary energy trout expend even in cold water during the
winter season when their metabolism is the lowest. That means trout usually feed on midges for a
long period of time, even hours, in order to get enough of them.
Bad weather conditions, especially cold air temperatures, can slow down the emerging process
considerably. The freshly hatched midges will remain on the surface much longer drying and
exercising their wings.
Fishing Dry Flies:
In slow moving water, such as you may find in pools, midges will often be drifting in the surface film in
scum lines or current seams with bubbles present. The emerging midge pupae are not visible and
your only clues are the slight bulges made by a sipping trout
A good dead drift is always required to keep from spooking the fish under these conditions. You
should get as close to a rising fish, or the spot you expect trout to be sipping midge pupae, as
possible. It is necessary that your fly be presented right in front of a trout’s mouth because they are
simply not going to expend much energy moving about chasing down a single minute size midge
pupa. Another reason your presentation must be in the immediate area of feeding is that the trout are
usually holding just under the surface and the area they can spot drifting midges is very small. When
trout are holding close to the surface of the water, they will not see your fly drifting several feet away.
A long leader is usually required, Start with at least a ten feet long leader and preferable twelve. Six or
seven X tippets are usually required. Slow action rods are generally preferred over fast action
because they allow the flex to protect the light tippets needed when you set the hook and fight the fish.
It is of course, very difficult to see the adult midges on the water, real or fake. One way to help
determine exactly where your fly is, is to cast far above where you suspect the trout are and when you
think your fly is approaching the area, pull the fly to create a slight v wake. This will let you know where
the fly is. Align it above the fish as best you can before it gets close enough for the trout to notice what
is going on. This way your fly will be in line to drift over the fish and you can just about time when it will
be there. You may have to make several cast to determine exactly what effect the current is having on
the fly and to get the cast and subsequent v drag in line to drift the fly right over the fish.
Copyright 2013 James Marsh
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