5 ways to enhance midge pupae

becasue zebra midges are boring.

Purple biot pupa with flash wing

We all know that trout are gluttons for food that is plentiful and have high caloric value.  Because of this, most of us have line upon line of midge pupae in our boxes as a "last resort."  I know that on any given day of the year the trout will take a zebra midge, but with a few tweaks here and there, your midge pupae can turn into bona-fide fish catching machines.  I think there is a lot of value in being able to present a fly that is a bit different from the monotonous designs in the fly shops.

Here are 5 things that you can do to enhance your midge pupae:
Single pheasant tail strand

1- Experiment with different body materials.

  • Substitute the common thread and wire body with something like a biot, spanflex, stripped quills, floss, tinsel, etc.  My favorite body material is a turkey biot with a small wire wrapped over the top of it (in between the segments).  Another thing that I have done is create a body of tinsel, lightly coat with super glue, and then wrap a single pheasant tail fiber through it (see picture)
2- Add flash.  
  • Yes I know that midge pupae don't have wings, but as they move around a lot and trap air against their bodies to help them emerge.  By tying a sparse overwing of krystal flash, midge flash, or other sparkly things, it just adds a bit of a flash element to the fly.  Flash can also be added to the thorax of your midges by dubbing ice dub, or other similar flashy dubbings.  Senyo lazer dub is actually a great dubbing for tiny flies because it is so fine.
3- Vary the weight.
Oversized bead with wingcase to keep it in place
  • I always like to tie my midge pupae in three varieties of weight proportion: tungsten bead, brass bead, and no bead.  The reason for this is that the fish aren't always going to be feeding on the bottom, and if you need to hang a midge pupa off of a tiny dry fly, the tungsten probably isn't an option.  It's nice to have something that won't sink quite as much for those film feeders too.  Conversely, I have tied some pupae with beads that might be a bit too big for the hook.  I have to come up with creative ways to get the bead to fit on the hook without eating up the hook gap.  That usually means that I'm lashing the bead to the top of the hook shank with some monofilament.
4- Vary your hook styles.
    2488 hook with wire and bright floss
  • Most midge pupae are tied on curved shank hooks, but they can be tied with a wide variety of hooks.  For the value oriented fly tyer, they can be tied on the same hooks you are tying your dry flies on such as the TMC 100.  When midge pupae are in the water, they don't always take a curved shape, so a straight shank still imitates the natural quite well. There is a very wide variety of hooks out there, and the key to different hooks is to make your flies slightly different from the rest. 

5- Experiment with colors. 
My #1 color.  Olive.

  • Green or olive are by far my favorite color combos to fish, but there is such a wide array of colors that are fantastic when fished as pupae.  My eyes were opened one summer when I went from catching very few fish on one of my tried and try black patterns to catching fish after fish on a blue pupae with chartreuse wire.  Some staples in my box are black, olive, brown, blue, purple, cream, and chartreuse.  Remember that there are no rules when tying, and you should absolutely try fishing with crazy colors so the fish can decide if they are effective or not.
~ Cheech