Fly Fishing photo

Jason Borger continues to amaze with his simplicity in fly tying. Today we get an excellent post from Mr. Borger on what he says is a “bare bones” list of three materials that’ll help with six easy dressings for hundreds of midge patterns. – TR

Midges are the trout-angler’s constant. Regardless of what’s happening with other insect hatches or with wind, weather, and water, midges often can and do save the day. As such, having a selection of midge patterns in your box is a always good idea–but WHICH midge patterns? Well, there are literally hundreds of excellent midge imitations out there, but with a bare-bones list of three materials, you can create six simple dressings that cover the various midge life-stages.

To begin, you’ll need hooks of the correct size and type. I personally like regular or long-shank hooks for larval and pupal imitations, and short-shank hooks for emergers and adults. When it comes to thread, I prefer to use as fine a strand as I can get away with. For most midges this is usually 8/0, but 10/0 may be needed to tie exceedingly small and/or slim flies (beware, one manufacturer’s 10/0 may actually be another’s 8/0, etc.).

Once you’ve got your hooks and thread, you’ll need the three tying materials: Copper wire, Antron sparkle yarn, and stiff hackle. I prefer copper wire because it has both flash and an earthy coloration–like the natural insect. The Antron (or similar) sparkle yarn (in the appropriate colors) just looks good, and can be employed for a variety of tying purposes. The hackle (again in appropriate colors) provides for an imitation of legs, wings, and, when trimmed, stubbly bodies. That short list is all you’ll need for tying up six useful midge designs.

To imitate the larval stage of many midges, the South Platte Brassie is a terrific choice. Modified with a svelte body and using copper wire in place of brass, the South Platte Brassie is one of my all-time favorites. It has caught everything from stocked bluegills in hole-in-the-ground farm ponds to wild brown trout in the most pristine of spring creeks. And it’s easy to tie.

Fly Fishing photo


To build the South Platte Brassie, wrap the hook shank with red thread (although you could use other colors), leaving the thread at the rear of the shank. The red hue serves as both a simple attractor color, and also imitates the red color of a number of larva. Next, wrap a piece of copper wire (vary the gauge depending on the hook size) from the rear of the shank up to the head, leaving enough space at the head to tie in a throat of brown hackle fibers. Cut off the ends of the copper wire and flatten them against the shank. Now wind the thread forward over the wire, following the gaps between each wrap of wire. Once the thread is at the front of the shank, tie in a half-dozen or so hackle fibers for the throat (more on larger sizes, less on smaller), and then finish the head. That’s the South Platte Brassie–simple, but very effective.
Making a very effective pupal imitation is an even easier matter than tying the Brassie. Basically, it’s nothing more than a dubbed Antron sparkle-yarn abdomen (dubbed thin) with a dubbed Antron thorax that’s picked out with a dubbing brush so that it flows back over the abdomen. The overall effect of this Sparkle Midge Pupa is that of a glimmering, partially translucent, emergent-ready insect. The fly is quite basic, but keep in mind that we’re really trying to impress the fish, not other fishermen. And I can tell you that the fish like the looks of this one.

Fly Fishing photo


If you just can’t stand fishing with a bit of yarn dubbed to a hook (or you’re tying larger sizes), add a few spiraled wraps of the copper wire to the abdomen. The wire adds additional flash, coloration and weight to the fly, as well as hinting at segmentation.

As with mayflies, the emerger stage of midges is very important. And once gain, simplicity rules the day with the patterns here.

Fly Fishing photo


The first design, the Bottle-Brush Midge Emerger, uses a body-length trailing shuck of Antron sparkle yarn (tied sparsely–remember these are midges), followed by a body constructed entirely of tightly wound cock hackle. But here’s the trick: The hackle fibers are trimmed to one-third to one-half hook gap width BEFORE the hackle is wound on. You can wind the hackle on, then trim, but it’s much faster to pre-trim, then wind.

The resultant body looks like a tiny bottle-brush, and imitates the emerging, but as yet unfurled, midge adult. I usually employ grizzly or black hackle for Bottle-Brush Midge Emergers as those two colors nicely mimic most midges.

Fly Fishing photo


The second simple midge emerger is little more than a modified Griffith’s Gnat. Again, the trailing shuck made of Antron, as is the body (in the adult coloration). Like the Griffith’s Gnat, a hackle is palmered over the Antron body. I normally trim the hackle of the bottom of the fly so it rides low in the surface film like the freshly-emerged adult. However, if you don’t trim the hackle, you can fish the fly as a high-riding adult, and then with an on-the-water snip of your nippers, make an emerger–two for the price of one.
You’ve already been given a solid adult midge design–the modified (but unclipped) Griffith’s Gnat. To make a “pure” adult imitation, lose the trailing shuck. Losing the shuck also changes the overall size and profile of the fly, and that may end up being important, especially if fish are looking for the really small stuff.

Fly Fishing photo


The second adult design, the Mating Midges, is much like a Bivisible–it has a hackle at either end of the hook (I typically use grizzly, dun, or black) and a slim body of Antron in between (in the adult coloration). Fish don’t necessarily become selective only to mating midges, but fish certainly do eat midges in two-sies, three-sies, and clumps. And besides, for those with “challenged” eye-sight, a larger double fly makes midge fishing a much more visual activity.

If you do find yourself in a situation where the fish are eating midge clumps, a larger Griffith’s Gnat (like a 12), tied extra bushy can provide for a very visible, and surprisingly effective pattern.

So there you are, six midge designs (plus a couple bonus) that you can make with only three materials. All the designs are simple, some are multi-purpose, and each works well in it’s given role.