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What is a Midge (or Chironomid)


What are midge flies: Even though a relatively simplistic midge may not seem as sexy or interesting to a fly fisher as a giant hexagenia mayfly nymph or the epic activity of thousands of electric green emerging caddis, trout think midges are just fine! Midges are relatively small aquatic insects that can be found in just about any freshwater environment on the planet, and despite their diminutive size, the hundreds of species of these mosquito-like bugs compose a quite significant portion of a healthy trout’s diet. Midges, like caddis, undergo a complete metamorphosis, and experience a larva, pupa, and adult stage within a typical life cycle.

Identifying a Midge fly…
During the larval stage, and similar to caddis, midges look like tiny, segmented worms. Midge larvae display a slightly transparent body and often show furry-looking gills and they are often topped on one end with a pair of wiggly-looking “prolegs.” These tiny creatures really do not grow very large; the largest specimens rarely measure more than one full inch in length. Midges are colorful in both the larva and pupa stages. Common coloration for midge larvae is tan, white, cream, yellow, blood red, and olive green. Midge larvae are most often observed swimming about the weeds and rocks of their lake or river environments and generally don’t stray too far from areas offering potential shelter and safety from hungry predators.

Unlike caddis pupae, midges in the pupa life stage, continue to move about and are quite accomplished swimmers. Midge pupae tend to become a bit shorter and stouter than when they were in their longer, skinnier larval stage. When these insects near the end of their pupa stage, dark wing pads develop, and when these brightly colored (yellow, green, white, red, orange, or black) midge pupae are finally ready to emerge as winged adults, they shimmy out of their shucks and swim to the water’s surface film to hatch.

Adult midges closely resemble the common mosquito and are noted for their long, supportive legs, which allow them to remain high on the surface film just after hatching from their pupa stage. These bugs continue to display a wide range of colors that do not deviate too much from the tans, blacks, greens, yellows, and reds of their earlier life stages.

Because of the wide and prolific distribution of midges in freshwater environments, there’s no reasonable excuse for a serious fly fisher to go without a good selection of midge patterns in all stages of their common life cycle. Probably the most popular adult midge fly pattern is the Griffith’s Gnat, and at the very least, a good fly angler will have stocked her box with a selection of these small trout morsels.

Although midges occur on numerous types of trout streams, they are commonly found in spring creeks. When trout are “midging” on the surface of the water, they are commonly doing this in or near the scum lines that form in the slower waters found in a stream. Whether this occurs on a true spring creek or the spring creek like slower water of a larger river, a subtle presentation of your midge pattern is a must. A long light leader is very important and so is the right fly rod for the job. Leland recommends two fly rods for spring creek midge fishing below:

Leland Rod Company’s New Zealand Spring Creek Fly Rod

Red Truck Fly Rod Company’s Diesel Spring Creek Fly Rod