In this, the first in a series of articles
on trout food and its imitation, I will cover the lifecycle
and flies that imitate the midges. The midges are the
most profuse of the aquatic insects that trout feed
upon and can be an incredibly frustrating hatch to fish
successfully. Midge fishing is not for the impatient.
They are found in nearly all slow water or still water
situations throughout the world. They do not inhabit
The midges are found in the family Diptera, along with
the mosquitoes and houseflies, and are often mistaken
for mosquitoes. The adults have two sets of wings, but
only one pair fully forms; the other pair remains small
vestigial stubs. Midges undergo complete metamorphosis
like a butterfly. They have a larval, pupa, and adult
The midge lifecycle starts out in the muddy bottom of the
lake or pond. Here the larvae dwell in a worm-like form about
¾ of an inch in length. They range in colour, but for the
most part are blood red or tan, thus their common name . .
. bloodworm. Although the bloodworms don’t move any significant
distance, they do wriggle around a lot. They are available
to the trout all year ‘round but are most profuse during the
spring and summer. The midge hatch is always the first to
occur after ice off of any lake.
Any thin red fly pattern will work well when the fish are
taking the bloodworms, but two patterns I have found effective
are the red Carey Special and my own larva lace bloodworm.
While tying instructions can be found almost anywhere for
the popular Carey, here is how to tie my simple larva lace
Larva Lace Bloodworm:
|Hook: #12 or 14 Mustad 9672
|Thread: Black monocord
|Tail: Short black marabou feather
|Underbody: White floss
|Overbody: Red larva lace
(clear red plastic lacing)
|Head: Black monocord
Fly Tying Instructions:
- Attach the thread to the hook shank and tie in, at the
butt, a very short tail of black marabou. Don’t make it
too thick, as you want it to flow freely and impart motion
to the fly.
- Then tie in a length of red larva lace and then a length
of bright white floss.
- Wrap the floss to the head of the fly ensuring you cover
the entire shank of the hook and tie off.
- Wrap the larva lace to the head of the fly ensuring you
do not overlap the wraps.
- Tie off.
- Create a black head by wrapping the thread around the
shank behind the eye until you achieve a small smooth head.
- Whip finish and cement.
To fish the bloodworm stage successfully you must get your
fly to the bottom, or very close. In water less that 10 feet
deep I like to use a dry line and a long sinking leader. Simply
measure the water depth and then attach a leader the same
length as the water is deep. Cast the fly out and allow it
to sink. Once there you don’t retrieve it. You simply bring
in your line just fast enough to keep the slack out of the
floating portion. When you feel resistance or see the dry
line hesitate or head the other way raise the rod tip and
set the hook.
If the water is deeper than 10 feet then I switch to a sink-tip
or full sinking line. The technique is basically the same
as with the dry line except that you will have to move the
fly faster to avoid letting your line sink and settle on the
bottom. This is not nearly as effective as the dry line method,
but it still catches fish.
The larva pupates into the pupa on the bottom and the pupa
immediately starts its long, wriggly ascent to the surface.
This pupa stage is called the chironomid and is the best known
stage of the insect’s lifecycle. The trout key in on the chironomids
almost exclusively at this time and can be extremely fussy
as to the size, shape, colour, and motion of your imitation.
Once the pupa reaches the surface it tends to get stuck under
the surface film and takes awhile to push through it. While
they are doing this they hang in the film like little commas
and the trout cruise along at a leisurely pace sipping chironomids
at or just under the surface. This classic rise form shows
no fish at all most of the time, just a subtle ringlet. Other
times you may see the top of the shoulders, then the back
and then the top of the tail as the fish porpoises slowly
to take a surface-film chironomid.
There are a great many patterns in existence which imitate
various colour patterns of the different species of chironomids.
Two have proven more effective in more conditions across BC
than any others and they are the black and silver, and the
copper and brown.
Both patterns are tied identically; you simply substitute
different coloured material to make the other. Below are the
instructions on how to tie the chironomid:
|Hook: #12 – 18 Mustad 94840
|Thread: Brown (or black) waxed
|Tail: None or short marabou to match
|Abdomen: Brown (or black) floss or
|Rib: Fine copper (or silver) wire
|Thorax: Brown (or black) floss or
|Shellback: Pheasant tail fibres (or
|Gills: White ostrich herl
|Head: None or thread
Fly Tying Instructions:
- Tie in the thread and tie in a sparse, short tail of brown
- Tie in the wire and then the floss or Spanflex at the
butt of the hook.
- Wrap the floss to a point midway between the hook point
and the eye and secure. Do not cut it off.
- Wrap the wire in the opposite direction to the direction
you wrapped the floss, to form a rib to the same point along
- Tie it off and cut.
- Tie in the pheasant tail fibres on top of the hook shank.
- Wrap the remaining length of thorax with the floss, building
up a small bulge to form the thorax.
- Tie off and cut at the head.
- Tie in one strand of white ostrich herl at the head and
wrap once to form the gills.
- Tie off and cut.
- Pull the pheasant tail fibres over the back and over
- Tie off to form the wing case or shellback.
- Whip finish and cement.
To tie up the black and silver version of this pattern, simply
substitute black floss or Spanflex for the brown, silver wire
for the copper and black marabou for the brown.
There are two ways to fish the chironomid. One is deep, using
a full sinking line and the other is just under the surface
using a dry line. To fish the pattern deep simply cast out
your full sinking line and allow it to sink to the bottom.
Once there you retrieve the fly very slowly to the surface
using a slow hand twist or short strip retrieve. The fly should
ascend no faster than one six-inch strip every five seconds,
slower if you can stand it.
The other method is called the "greased line" method. Using
a dry line, tie on your fly and grease the leader with fly
floatant to within six inches of the fly. Cast out well in
front of a feeding trout and allow the fly to sink and hang
vertically from your tippet. The floatant will keep the rest
of the leader on the surface. Retrieve it only fast enough
to keep the slack out of the line and watch the leader as
you would a strike indicator. If the leader straightens, sinks
quickly, or heads the other way, set the hook.
Once the pupa manages to break through the surface film it
emerges from the pupal shuck as an adult that looks very similar
to a mosquito, but without the biting mouthparts. Trout rarely
feed on the adults and although I carry some tiny black Tom
Thumbs in my box as imitations, I have yet to have a fish
take one for an adult midge.
Midging can be a very successful way to fish for trout,
especially during the chironomid rise and ensuing hatch. Tie
up some of these patterns and carry them with you, especially
in the spring and early summer. The midge hatch is one of
the four major hatches and you really should not be caught
Bill Luscombe has been hunting and fishing for most of his
42 years. He has been flyfishing for 20 years. He instructs
flyfishing, and has done so for the past 12 years. He also
instructs the federal FSET firearms course and the BC CORE
hunter training course. He is an award-winning outdoor writer
and has been writing freelance since 1987. He has been published
in BC Sport Fishing Magazine, Outdoor Edge, BC Outdoors, Western
Sportsman, Island Fish Finder, and the BC Hunting Guide.
Bill Luscombe was born an army brat and raised in Ladner
(Delta, BC) where he was raised hunting waterfowl and pheasants.
He presently resides in North Cowichan on southern Vancouver
Island where he has lived and worked full time as a professional
forester since 1982.
He presently works in Nanaimo for the BC Forest Service and
continue to write the fly-fishing column for BC Sport Fishing
Magazine as well as contributing articles freelance to various
outdoor magazines in western Canada. Bill Luscombe is also
a BC Director of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association.
"Catching fish is not hard. You simply need to understand
what makes them tick. If you think like a fish, you will catch
fish. It’s as simple as that."- Bill Luscombe
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