I was panning through some of my older material and found a rather fitting piece I did for The Farmington River Anglers Association Newsletter back in 2008. Read on if you are a winter fisherman, it might shed some subtleties on fishing midges this time of year. The fish in the winter months are on average pretty nice as the pictures depict. Remember, this is only one tactic, there are many that work well.
The colder months are here, the water temperatures are dropping into the lower 40s, and soon the dreaded 30-degree water temperatures of winter will be here to take their stronghold. Like a symbiotic relationship, the average dinner fare of our beloved trout becomes smaller like the dropping water temperatures. We all know about the winter caddis hatches that many an angler is all too familiar with on our home waters of the Farmington, but lets not forget about those even smaller two-winged insects of the order diptera that become a staple for trout in the winter months, and on tailwaters like the Farmington can be the only game in town for those surface oriented anglers out there. Midges are pretty much the main dinner fare for trout in the afternoons during the colder months, and if the air temps rise just enough the hatches can be thick, and the risers can be plenty.
For the most part midges aren’t a very complex insect to imitate, even the beginning tier can make really good midge imitations to fish with. Most imitations consist of thread bodies, and can be tied with as little as two materials. If tying isn’t your forte, then listen up to the recommendations to follow, and all you tiers out their tailor your imitations to these guidelines and you might have some added success.
Aside from the old standby Griffiths Gnat, a time tested pattern, there is another really simple imitation that doesn’t require the tier to bind down and turn tiny hackles. A very simple midge pattern that has worked rather well for me over the past 10 years is a spin off of the more notable Morgan Midge. The fly is tied on a short shank light wire scud hook, preferably a TMC 2488 in sizes 18-26. I tie in a piece of orange or root beer crystal flash at the bend of the hook, twist it back over itself making a shuck approximately the length of the shank and tie it in making sure to wrap the thread neatly back over the flash material. I continue the thread in a uniform line back to a point approximately ¼ the shank length back from the hook eye. The next step is to select a nice full natural colored piece of CDC and tie it in the middle of the feather. I make a couple of good wraps to secure it, then I fold the CDC in half and wrap back over the fold in point. The feather is now pointed backwards across the shank like a caddis. I clip the CDC short to a point where the shuck starts, wrap a nice thread head and then whip finish. Two passes of thread on the hook is all you need to imitate the body of a midge, they are very thin in appearance and if you overdress the hook, you will detract from your success. If you want to add more realism to the fly, you can color the head with a black prismacolor marker.
As a rule of thumb I primarily tie these imitations using UTC 70 thread by Wapsi, and my most productive colors in order are black, grey, olive, brown, red and cream. This time of year you cant go wrong with blacks and greys, but play around with colors and size until you figure it out. If you are on the water and you see those complex subsurface ring rises, dorsal, back tail rises, and the nose up rise, chances are pretty good the fish are taking midge pupae or crippled midges. Tie a few up, and try them out on some "midging" trout, you might be happy you did. Good luck and tight lines.
In addition to those listed, here are a couple of my favorite midge imitations. Click the name to be forwarded to the tying video:
Aside from midge patterns there are various other patterns and food forms out there that work well in the winter. Stay tuned for further blog posts that will discuss some of the others that I personally like to fish.