The Understated Midge

Written by: Paul Procter


Midges tend to accumulate where currents fall slack.
Photo by Paul Procter

Most fly fishers’ will no doubt be buoyed on by rumours of Large dark olives and March browns as the season gets underway. Understandably these hatches are highly coveted as the appearance of such flies often makes the difference between success and failure. Given that upwing nymphs prefer dull, wet days for emerging, dry fly enthusiasts are likely to be pray for rain too.

Sunny weather during spring then is often cursed by those in search of surface sport. And although bright days scupper any hopes of upwing hatches, interestingly such conditions don’t seem to deter midges from emerging. Granted, midges might be understated in their stature, but make no mistake, trout are extremely fond of these miniscule food forms, on spring afternoons.

The mere word “midges” strikes fear into the heart of many for two reasons. Firstly, folk think of biting flies that are simply going to annoy them and secondly, the idea of fishing a fly smaller than a size 16 seems ridiculous to many. Thankfully, the midges we speak of belong to the Chironomid family, which are non-biting. Furthermore these tiny midges occur in far greater numbers than we realise. Naturally, being small they often remain under our radar, especially on breezes days that ruffle the water’s surface.

Most of the midges evident throughout spring are dark brown, or black, so imitations of these colours are all you’ll need. As to size, granted many naturals will appear as minute creatures, yet this doesn’t mean we have to religiously match them by hook size. Far better is to use a slightly larger hook of say a size 18 and dress your pattern short, so it only extends a little way along the hook shank. Not only does a wider gape potentially provide a better hook hold, slightly larger hooks are generally stronger that give us piece of mind in the event of connecting with sizeable trout.

In the main the idea is to target smoother water where adult midge or those weak and feeble emergers accumulate. Pool tails are a favourite place, as are the inside banks of a long, sweeping bends. Don’t expect whooping great rise forms either, as trout sipping down tiny food forms tend to do so with little disturbance. It’s important then to progress slowly, constantly combing the water for dimpling rises.


Imitations can be made to look smaller by dressing them short on a slightly larger hook.
Photo by Paul Procter

When it comes to presenting tiny imitations, leaders of some 16-18ft help prevent micro drag though ultimately, prevailing conditions namely a strong breeze will determine your overall leader length when it’s shrewd to shorten a leader. Longer rods too, offer an advantage for controlling and mending line, with a 3-4 weight rated outfit protecting those finer tippets of approx 3lb. My current favourite is a 10 foot 4-weight which readily yields on feisty trout though has enough oomph to cope with a nagging breeze.


Make on mistake, big trout will happily sip down adult midges, especially during spring when upwings fails to show up.
Photo by Paul Procter


About Paul: Life long Orvis supporter, AAPGAI Master Instructor, Orvis Endorsed Guide and Wild Trout Trust vice president, Paul Procter is a dedicated flyfisher with over 40 years experience under his belt. Aside from being a regular on the Orvis Blog, Paul is a leading contributor to Trout & Salmon, Trout Fishermen and the Fieldsports Magazine. Travelling extensively throughout the UK, Europe and Southern Hemisphere, Paul has gained extensive knowledge in both fresh and saltwater disciplines. His abiding love though is to target large wild brown trout using dry fly techniques.

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