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Chironomid emergers, midge, small teeny little things

September 15, 2016 4 min read

Midge, Chironomids, small-teeny-little-things, whatever we call them, trout and grayling only know them as 'reliable food'. They abound trout streams (usually) everywhere in the UK, and are frequently found in substantial volumes. Where you will find trout and/or grayling, chironomids will most definitely be found somewhere (if not everywhere) within the catchment. I'm no entomologist, in fact, far from it. What I do note, however, is the size and shape of the natural residents and, from these notes, I tie my patterns, and this specific pattern does well when fish are feeding on midge and/or small emergers.

Large grayling

Large Grayling

The Chironomid Emerger

is a pattern I picked up from a good fishing buddy of mine, Geraint Meadows, another passionate Usk angler who has a huge amount of midge experience, and to whom I have a huge amount of respect. Geraint first showed me this pattern something close to a decade ago, a pattern so simple, it just had to be deadly; a fact proven by countless fish to the net. Over the years I added the flash 'trigger' with the intention of emulating emerging wings or that small pocket of oil-like substance which chironomids expel in order to rise through the water column as if holding on to a buoyancy aid (that bit of entomology I do know).

A number of years back, I also added the rib, which is created by spinning the tying thread to create a tight rope, before winding up the hook-shank away from the butt-end of the pattern. Do the fish care about the rib? I highly doubt it, but I'm just as passionate about fly tying as I am about fishing, so it's always enjoyable to play with such things. Four simple ingredients. That's it. To be honest, you could probably remove the flash and still do well. So, three ingredients. This isn't a searching pattern, nor is it intended for fast or broken waters. This pattern works well on slower, smoother glides, where 'sippy' trout or grayling have to be targeted from a distance and with longer leaders. This is a challenge I love. The Usk, for example, is the perfect scenario. Clouds of midge can quite often be seen swirling above the surface, and watching these small invertebrates hatch is something of a spectacle.

Brown trout fishing

Brown trout love 'em

Trout will happily gorge on them...

and when you've thrown nearly every fly in your fly box over a sipping trout, I've found it to be this pattern which usually has the best result. At a distance though, the pattern can be a little tough to see, but this can be easily remedied by tying 2-3' of tippet off the hook-shank of a larger, more visible fly and then adding this pattern to said tippet, exactly the same way in which we would fish the Duo/'Klink & Dink'/Dry-Dropper…something micro fly anglers (those opting to fish sub-size #20 patterns) have been doing for years in order to aid visibility (more on this in a future blog article). Longer leaders starting at 12' tapered 5X tippet (circa 5lb), with an additional 3-4' tippet of 6X is my go-to leader setup.

I spent quite a number of seasons obsessing over small micros, and I have something of a love/hate relationship with tippets of 7X and thinner. As fly fishing is, and always will be, a game of balance, finer diameters will aid in better presentation (as well as enabling you to more easily thread the flies), but will increase the risk of tippet breakages for obvious reasons. As such, rods with a through-action, or those with a softer tip section are essential, as that all important softer tip will cushion and help better protect these fragile tippets. So much so in fact, you will be surprised at the size of fish you can land on light tippet; forget using your fast-action/'tippy' rods. Please remember though, and this is the most important part, balancing tippet diameter with potential fish size can be a tricky one. If in doubt, or if that sippy rise on the far bank 'could' be a larger fish, I'll opt to fish a thicker diameter.

Plume tip

Emerger pattern

Tippet strength

I try to put fish safety before the potential of spooking a fish due to thicker tippet. Trout welfare must always come first; playing around with 9X tippet when you know the fish you're targeting could be a 3-pounder simply isn't, generally speaking, responsible angling. Back tracking a little, and I've only pictured the warmer summer months. Colder winter months will also, should temperatures allow, give these small invertebrates the chance to hatch, and I've often used this pattern to target grayling when snow is on the ground during the short twenty-or-so-minute windows in December to January. Again, these need to be targeted. I've fished small (proper small) flies for the last decade in earnest, and I just love tying and fishing them.

Go slow, watch the water for longer periods; wade and cast gently. Midge fishing can be a hugely rewarding way of targeting fish, and a great tool in every angler's bag of tricks. Midge Rule.

CDC Pattern

Tying Ingredients 

This video is 1 of 94 casting tutorials explaining everything from basic set ups to master level casts

Fundamentals | Starting to Fly Cast

The basics of tackle
Language of casting
Sensory awareness


Fundamentals | Understanding Fly Tackle

Fly line weights, lengths & tapers
Rod lengths & weights
Leaders & tippet
Tackle to practise with


Fundamentals | Overhead Casting

How to hold a fly rod
Circles 8's & straights
Remove all slack
Plane of the Cast
Triangle Method
Overhead Cast
Stop & Drop
Retrieving the Line
High Back Cast
Breaking The Wrist
Shooting the line
Loop Shape
Slipping the Line
Stroke Length
The Forward Delivery
The Shelf
Drift Versus Breaking the Wrist
Backslash Forwardslash
Speed Ramp
Body Movement


Fundamentals | Double Haul

Intro to the Double Haul
Tackle for the Double Haul
Single Haul
Double Haul
Double Haul Fast Track
Cast Trajectory
Late Haul
Hauling Grip
Double Haul for Accuracy
Line Trays
Offset Alignment Guides


Fundamentals | Taking it to the Water

The Lift
Pick Up & Lay Down Cast
Roll cast
Energy of a Roll Cast


Advanced | Spey Casts

Intro to Spey Casting
Switch Cast
45 Degree Single Spey
Backhanded Cast
90 Degree Single Spey
90 Degree Snake Roll
45 Degree Snake Roll
90 Degree Double Spey
The Running Mouse
The Silent Spey
45 Degree Double Spey
45 Degree Snap T
90 Degree Snap T
45 Degree Circle Spey
90 Degree Circle Spey
Body Movement
Spey Cast Hauling
Beating Obstructions Spey


Advanced | Beating the Wind

Tail Wind
Head Wind
Side Wind


Master | Mends

Upstream Downstream Mends
Curve Mends
Reach Mends


Master | Pick Ups

Corkscrew Pick Up
Snap Pick Up
Roll Cast Pick Up
Double Spiral Pick Up
Snap Pick Up Variation
Aerial Spey
Cast Stringing


Master | Accessory Casts

Casting Big Flies
Feed Cast
Free Snag Cast
Snap Cast