Why Go Small?

There's a reason you tie on the small stuff

Taking a page from some of the midge myths we posted about last week, we headed out to find rising fish the other day. My fancy bug net (read: net wand) in hand, I danced around the stream plucking midge pupa from the surface film to get an idea of the size of bugs we'd be dealing with. Luckily the hatch was just starting and we ended up getting into some typical midging fish. Now when I say "typical", I mean somewhat fussy and laser-focused on the specific bugs on the water. Not every midge hatch is this way as some hatches include multiple species of varying sizes and colors -- fish may not be as picky. But this time the fish were really dialed in on the bugs that were hatching. Our midge clusters did nothing and even some of our better midge emergers had some challenges. Cheech, of course, goes directly to the ol' Bunny midge in a #30 and proceeds to clean the entire run. As a matter of scientific curiosity, I ended up throwing patterns of similar size (parachutes, adult midges and a couple of emergers) and didn't have near the success. I'd turn around and the Bunny midge had scored again. And again.

Anyway, see more about this great fly here. But that's not the main point here. The point is these fish were keying in on a very specific size bug in a very specific color. Check out the comparison between the natural (also caught with my fancy net wand) and the bunny midge on the dime here. The pattern below is a #30 and compares nicely to the size and color of the natural.

midge emerger pattern
Bunny midge and midge adult hangin' on a dime
Midge Adult
Midge shucks and other body parts
After taking a quick throat sample from one of the fish to double-check size and color of the naturals, we can see a lot of shucks and adults. This tells us that the fish were likely taking emergers just in the film as they were shucking. Or maybe they just ate the shucks kinda like the tasty skin from a Costco rotisserie chicken.

Either way, it wasn't until we were throwing flies that fit the class of bug the fish were focusing on that we saw solid takes. In fact, while fishing one section, I could see the fish come up, inspect and then ignore my midge cluster on the first few casts. Lesson here: Don't be afraid to tie on a "no-see-um" size fly if the fish are dialed in on the small stuff. On this day, when the midge clusters and other larger bugs wouldn't move a fish, we had to size way down to find our way into some tight lines. And don't be afraid to get down to the water level to seine samples or even (carefully of course) take a throat sample or two if you're not sure -- especially when there's a hatch that involves multiple species. Because when you see fishing rising and they're tight-lipped on your patterns, it's always good to look at the size of the naturals to shed some light on things.