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Old 06-09-2008, 09:04 PM
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Default Overlooking Midge Larva?

Overlooking Midge Larva?

When it comes to stillwaters, few bugs matter as much in a trout's diet as the midge. A true staple for trout, the midge will hatch all year on open water and up north, from ice-out, 'til ice-on on most of our stillwater fisheries. There are four stages in the midge's life cycle, these stages include the egg, larva, pupa and adult, with the last three of these four stages being quite important to trout and to stillwater fly anglers. The second of these three stages -the larval stage- frequently gets overlooked.

Midges come in many colors and sizes. The adult midge looks very similar to a mosquito but lucky for us lacks the mosquito's proboscis. The most obvious stage of a midge's life cycle -the adult- can be seen on top of the water both when it sheds its pupa shuck and again when it returns to lay its eggs. Although trout prefer the larval and pupa stages of the midge, trout may key in on this stage while the adult is ridding itself of its extol pupa skeleton, or while it waits for its wings to dry before flying off. When the adult midge returns to lay its eggs, the midge will skim across the surface of the water depositing its eggs leaving a come eat me wake behind it, which seams to attract trout well enough.

Click the image to open in full size.

The pupa stage of the midge -the chironomid- receives a lot of attention from both stillwater fly anglers and the stream guys. Although the chironomid (from the name chironomidae meaning non-biting midge) is actually a midge in any stag of it's life cycle, most fly anglers refer to the chironomid as the pupa stag of the midge's life cycle. Fly fishermen concentrate more on this stage of the midge because the chironomid can be found at any depth of a stillwater fishery as it rises from the lake bottom very slowly until it reaches the surface where it transforms into the adult. Because of this, chironomids give trout an easy meal throughout the entire column of water meaning anglers can fish a pupa pattern at nearly any depth of the fishery with a good chance at finding trout. It's during the heat of summer when trout move to deeper, more comfortable water and the pupa activity slows down or when trout start keying in on active larger food items that the chironomid may not get the consistent results one is after.

Click the image to open in full size.

The larval stage of the midge, known as -the bloodworm- is not a true worm due to it's exoskeleton and small clawed legs. The chironomid larva will spend its time living at the bottom of a lake in the mud or sediment feeding on decaying matter known as detritus. In stillwaters, you will find midge larva in a few different colors but red larva are typical. The blood of a midge, like humans, is iron based and because most stillwater bloodworms live in anoxic environments, need a protein called hemoglobin. This hemoglobin is carried by red blood cells and stores oxygen which maintain the viability of it's cells keeping it alive and giving the larva a blood red appearance when little oxygen is available.

Click the image to open in full size.

Bloodworms often get overlooked by many anglers but quite the opposite when it comes to feeding trout. Trout will often key in on the abundance of larva available and due to its familiarity, will readily feed upon larva even when other aquatic life is plentiful. Because you can find Bloodworms on or near the bottom of the lake, anglers will do well to keep their bloodworm patterns one or two feet off any bottom structure they may be fishing. The size of fly you choose to represent a midge larva should be up to three sizes larger then the adult midges seen hatching on the surface as the midge's body length decrease in size from larva, to pupa, then to adult.

Click the image to open in full size.

Fishing The Bloodworm

Fishing a bloodworm is much the same as fishing a chironomid. You'll need a strike indicator (Quick Release indicators work well), floating line and a long leader. The length of your leader will depend on the depth you are fishing but unlike the chironomid, the loodworm will not stray far from the bottom so a foot or two off the bottom will be the required depth.
To find this depth, take a bell weight or hemostats and place it on your bloodworm pattern. Now lower your fly down until it reaches the bottom. Using your thumb and index finger, mark the spot where your leader is even with the surface of the water and secure the strike indicator one foot below this mark. Now retrieve your fly and remove the bell weight. Your indicator will now float your fly one foot off the bottom. In early mornings when the water is at a cooler temperature, trout will be found closer to the shoreline and fishing your bloodworm in shallow water should produce fish. In the heat of the day however, trout may go deeper in search of colder, more comfortable water. Work your way out to deeper water trying different depths from 12 to 22 feet of water or more but always keeping your fly in that one to two foot section off the bottom. Your retrieve should imitate the natural so little to no movement usually produces the best results. Slow short strips or a slow hand twist with long pauses are usually the key to success. There are times however that attention may be what's required to get a hook-up so a couple of quick short strips with long pauses may produce the results you're looking for. Depths of twenty feet or more make for a very long leader and if you've ever tried casting a leader this long, you know it's not the easiest thing in the world to do. When fishing depths of 20 plus feet, a fast sink line may be more to your liking.

Click the image to open in full size.

At these depths, you can fish directly below your boat without fear of spooking the trout. When fishing with a sinking line, find the depth you want to fish at using your bell weight. Drop your weighted fly down to the bottom with your rod tip just an inch off the surface of the water. When your fly hits the bottom, reel up one foot of line. Now remove the bell weight and drop your fly back down. Keep the rod tip one inch from the waters surface and when the tip drops, set the hook. Great attention must be taken with these methods, as takes can be very soft. At times, just a slight movement of the strike indicator or the rod tip is all an angler may see and with such little warning one must set the hook or possibly lose out on an opportunity.

Bloodworms are a true staple for trout at any time of year even when the lakes are frozen over. Paying no attention to the bloodworm is like overlooking scuds, leeches or chironomids themselves. On those slow warm days when nothing seems to be working, toss a midge larva pattern out into some deep water about a foot of the bottom and find out for yourself what you've been overlooking. It may just save a fish-less day.


Mike (Doc) Monteith has been fishing Edmonton's local lakes for 32 years and is the owner/guide of AlbertaStillwater.Com, owner of the information web site Fly Fishing Edmonton and owner/administrator of the Alberta Fly Fishing Forum.

All photos courtesy of Phil Rowley©


Article Copyright © 2008 Mike Monteith - All Rights Reserved
Attached Images
File Type: jpg adult_midge.jpg (7.7 KB, 353 views)
File Type: jpg chiromomid_pupa.jpg (8.0 KB, 412 views)
File Type: jpg midge_larva.jpg (6.0 KB, 418 views)
File Type: jpg midge_larva2.jpg (22.5 KB, 570 views)
File Type: jpg frostbite_bloodworm.jpg (12.6 KB, 368 views)
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Last edited by doc; 04-18-2010 at 11:33 PM.
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Old 06-09-2008, 09:15 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Overlooking Midge Larva?

Very Nice!
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Old 06-16-2008, 10:38 AM
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Default Re: Overlooking Midge Larva?

i find it interesting that you used a straight shanked hook for your midge larvae fly. i usually see them tied with curved shanks. is there a reason for this? i've never fished midges in any form but know i should and will try whenever i go fishing again. whenever that will be...

eric
fresno, ca.
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Old 06-18-2008, 10:11 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Overlooking Midge Larva?

I fish quite a few midge larva patterns. Can you recommend any midge emerger patterns?
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Old 06-19-2008, 12:24 AM
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Default Re: Overlooking Midge Larva?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ezamora View Post
i find it interesting that you used a straight shanked hook for your midge larvae fly. i usually see them tied with curved shanks. is there a reason for this? i've never fished midges in any form but know i should and will try whenever i go fishing again. whenever that will be...

eric
fresno, ca.
I prefer them on a curved shank hook myself. They just look more alive to me.

My favorite midge built that way uses light blue wrapped flashabou mirage for the body and the two tails with a grey lump of thread for a head. I think I usually fish a 20 or 22.

And I definitely think midges are worth the time and fuss involved with tying them on, especially on a slower, deeper, heavily fished river. Its another case where doing-what-the-others-aren't increases your chances.
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Old 06-19-2008, 12:32 AM
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Default Re: Overlooking Midge Larva?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joni View Post
Very Nice!
Thanks Joni.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ezamora View Post
I find it interesting that you used a straight shanked hook for your midge larvae fly. i usually see them tied with curved shanks. is there a reason for this? i've never fished midges in any form but know i should and will try whenever i go fishing again. whenever that will be...
Most midge larva patterns I've seen are tied with a straight shank hook but I don't think that's as important as a uniform diameter from front to rear and keeping your pattern as thin as possible. The pattern used for this article is a Phil Rowley fly called the Frostbite Bloodworm and is tied on a Mustad Signature R72.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smythe View Post
I fish quite a few midge larva patterns. Can you recommend any midge emerger patterns?
I rarely fish emerger patterns except when nothing else seams to be working. Here are a few patterns I do like though.

CDC Emerger
Click the image to open in full size.

This fly will keep it's body just under the surface while the hackle will sit in the film and the post will be on the surface.

For tying recipe go here

Shuttlecock Buzzer
Click the image to open in full size.

This fly will stay just under the surface for a little while then eventually starts to sink but slowly so it's very effective as an emerger.

For tying recipe go here

You can also take any chironomid pattern, remove the bead head and make it a parasol emerger.

Click the image to open in full size.

Click here
to see how

Hope this helps.

Cheers,
Doc
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Old 06-29-2008, 09:46 AM
 
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Default Re: Overlooking Midge Larva?

Very good article. I live in south central Pa where there are lots of limestone springs and crystal clear freestone creeks. There are many days that if you don't fish the midge, you don't catch fish. Another good publication on midge fishing is 'Midge Magic' by Don Holbrook & Ed Koch.
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