Chironomid emergers, midge, small teeny little things
September 15, 20164 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.
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 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.
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.
My favourite methods of fly fishing are dry-fly or sight-fished nymphs/bugs, but particularly during the winter, when fishing on spate rivers, the grayling are usually loath to rise to a dry fly and the water is too coloured, or the light too poor, to see the fish for sight-fishing. It is then that I resort to a range of nymphing techniques. Of which Euronymphing is my most used technique
Frank Sawyer and Oliver Kite showed nymph-fishers the value of the induced take when nymph-fishing and stillwater fly-fishers are aware of the importance of applying movement to lures. However, many of the dry fly anglers that I see appear to rarely apply movement to their surface offerings, believing that ‘dead drift’ is the most effective way of presenting surface flies.
In the early 1960s when I first started fishing split cane was still the most popular rod-making material and fiber glass was just starting to become popular. However my first ever coarse fishing rod was made of ash butt & middle sections with a greenheart wood tip. My first fly rod, bought in the early 1960s, was a second hand 9’ cane rod built by E. Kerry of Lockton, a small village near Pickering.
Presentation is another critical factor in achieving success & grayling are just as unpredictable with respect to this. Sometimes they want a fly ‘on the drop’ & often they will travel quite a distance to take a fly as it slowly sinks. So there are times that it doesn’t pay to fish a fast-sinking, heavily weighted fly.