A realistic, easy-to-tie midge pattern for fooling wary trout.
[by Baron Zahuranec]
IT’S EARLY WINTERon Colorado’s Fryingpan River and I know there aren’t many hatching insects, so the sight of two big rainbows actively taking something on the surface has me momentarily perplexed. Rising up and dimpling the surface, both fish methodically take something on or near the surface, then sulk in the current. Sometimes they’ll fin quietly without feeding again for a minute or more, then take four insects off the surface in 15 seconds.
The sun is out, but it’s still cold this early afternoon. I’m shocked the fish are feeding at all, but then I catch a glimpse of something skittering on the water, a midge cluster. Those fish are gently taking midges in barely a foot of water.
I tie a Twisted Midge to my 7X tippet, crouch down, and close the distance between the fish and my fly by half. I wait 10 seconds after the closest rainbow rises to make my first attempt; false casting off to the side of the trout so my final delivery is spot-on. The fly lands perfectly. Confident it’s a natural, the fish doesn’t even make a cautious approach; it takes the fly without hesitation.
After steering the rainbow around a few rocks, I quietly bring it to net. The trout and I negotiate over who actually owns the fly in the corner of its mouth, though once freed, the fish shoots out of my hands and back into the traffic of the riffle. There’s an extra sense of satisfaction after duping a fish on the first cast; especially when it’s with a fly created for just such an occasion.
A lot of Colorado waters run crystal clear in the winter, as do many spring creeks and tailwaters across the nation. While the clarity makes it easier to find trout feeding on midges in slow-water runs, it also means the fish have plenty of time to inspect a pattern. Fortunately, it’s easier to tie a convincing, realistic-looking fly on a size 24 hook than to tie a grasshopper patternthere simply aren’t many parts to such a small bug.
The crowning feature of the Twisted Midge is the extended body. Twisting the abdomen material in a furled fashion gives the fly an upturned, realistic look. Match that with some grizzly hackle legs, a touch of peacock herl for the thorax, and Medallion Sheeting wings, and you have a great midge adult facsimile.
For the abdomen, I like to use Montana Fly Company’s Midge Body Thread in either black or golden olive, but you can use any thin, yarnlike material. If you want the abdomen to have a dull finish, try furled 6/0 Uni-Thread in a color to match the naturals. If you want the opposite effect, use something with more sparkle, like Krystal Flash.
When it comes right down to it, the Twisted Midge is a modified Griffith’s Gnata pattern mostly used to imitate mating midge clusters or midge emergers unable to fully break through the tension of the water’s surface film.
Because the pattern is so small, sneaking up on a fish so you’re casting less than 20 feet makes it easy to keep an eye on your fly. If you’re having trouble tracking the fly, try using a larger, lead “indicator” pattern you have no trouble seeing on the water with the more realistic Twisted Midge tied on dropper style, 12 inches behind. With tandem dry flies, once I locate a rising trout and position myself for a cast, I simply watch a small area around the lead fly for a fish rising to the Twisted Midge.
If you’re still having trouble seeing it, tie a few Twisted Midges with a tuft of white or light gray CDC as an overwing. The added buoyancy of the CDC will also help the fly float high on the surface.
Lastly, it’s sometimes hard to get a good, upright drift with palmered dry flies because the pattern rolls over to one side. If you’re encountering that issue, trim the hackle on the bottom of a Twisted Midge so it lands correctly and level on the water with the wings pointing up.
Since a midge is already a small, light fly, it doesn’t need much to keep it afloat. I’ve found three turns of hackle to be enough to get a drift over a feeding trout, though it may pay to tie a few flies to be more robust than others when you need to make long casts or the water is somewhat turbulent. The extra hackle will keep the fly afloat should the added drag from mending 50 feet of line pull the midge, or midges, under.
If you’re working fish in a riffle, you’ll probably need to dress the fly to obtain anything longer than a few feet of drift. At the end of the drift, lightly pick your line off the water and make one or two swift backcasts. This maneuver will shed the water that’s on the fly and quickly dry out the hackle fibers for the next drift.
The next time you come across midging trout and aren’t able to fool them with other midge drys, try the realistic Twisted Midge. Try to get as close to the feeding trout as possible and put the fly in front of their feeding lane. With its low profile and lifelike body and wings, this pattern should deceive even the wariest trout.