Winter is known to many fly fishermen as midge season. Without other insects available to trout, they rely heavily on these tiny morsels for their winter diet. When warmer weather arrives here in the Rockies, the snow will melt, and more and more insects will begin to hatch. As this happens, fishwill begin to feed more aggressively and on a wider variety of food.
This does not mean, however, that you should put your midge box away for the summer. Unlike other aquatic insects, midges can hatch on any day of the year. The reason for this is that many midge species are multibrooded, completing multiple full life cycles each year. A lot of warm weather midge hatches go unnoticed by fly fishermen because they tend to get overshadowed by other, more fisherman-friendly insect hatches. They rarely get ignored by the trout, however. Because their populations are so dense, they make an easy meal for foraging fish, both underwater and at the surface. In order to stay prepared, anglers should keep their midge box ready to go all year long.
Midges undergo what is called “complete metamorphosis”, meaning that they first transform from tiny worm-like larvae to pupae, and then into winged adults. A well stocked midge box will include patterns that represent a variety of midge species at each specific stage of their life cycle, with most of the focus being on the pupa stage. Here are some of my favorite midge patterns for Colorado’s western slope.
This classic midge pattern incorporates something important that many others do not. The metal beadhead adds weight. It also helps the fly sink quickly making it an excellent choice for a dropper pattern.
For me, Disco Midge is a go-to when the fishing gets tough. It comes in a few different colors, but the light green color is almost iridescent, and seems to stand out and get attention from the most incredulous trout in fast flowing drifts or off color water.
When the water is clear and slow, and trout are selective, I like the WD-40 for its subtle appearance and natural colors. Real life subsurface midges are not flashy and do not have shiny metal heads, so when close imitation is important, try a small WD-40 in olive, black, grey, or
The Biot Midge is one of the more popular midge “emergers” out there. The biot creates a realistic segmented body and the soft hackle adds movement to the bug while representing the emerging pupa’s thorax.
Top Secret Midge
Pat Dorsey’s Top Secret midge is meant to mimic surface emerging midge pupae as they make their way upward through the water column. The segmented body and natural colors create a realistic look. This fly is great as part of a tandem nymph rig or on its own fished in the surface film.
Crystal Flash Midge
When midge adults begin their journey to the surface, they do so still encased in their pupal husk, many times with a tiny gas bubble trapped in the casing just above the thorax. This bubble is imitated by the twisted pearl mylar tied in at the thorax on the fly. Like the Top Secret midge, the crystal flash midge can be fished either right at the surface or down deep.
When adult midges first take flight, they do it quickly. They do not linger on or near the water’s surface for long. It is for this reason that adult midges are not as important to trout as pupae. There are times when clusters of adult midges gather to mate and lay eggs on the surface. It is during these times that trout most often key in on midge adults. The Griffith’s gnat is a popular and effective imitation of this occurrence.
Vail Valley Anglers has the best fly selection in the valley, including midge larvae, pupae, and adults. Stop by the fly shop to find out which sizes and colors you need to connect with trout all year long.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer