Top 5 Midge Myths

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Large Rainbow caught on a small midge pattern
1. Smaller Flies = Smaller Fish. I'm always surprised when people tell me they don't fish midges because they don't like to settle for smallish fish. Granted a big beefy streamer will likely drum up bigger fish more consistently, but I've had some of my biggest trout on the fly come on midge patterns. I've hit the 24/24 club on a couple of instances (24 inch fish on a #24 fly) and the 22/22 or even 20/20 is more common than you might think. Barring the existence of bigger meals, the fish will often spend the time eating the smaller nutritive morsels in the form of midges. Not always, mind you, but at least be open to the idea that there might be a big fish under that riseform among the no-see-um's.

2. Rise = Dries. When you see fish rising, you need to throw on a dry fly midge adult because they're eating on the surface. I think most fly fisher people know this isn't necessarily true, but still it's a good one to mention. As many midgers understand, you need to pay attention to the rises to determine whether the fish is actually taking something "on" the surface as opposed to something "in" or just below it. As the hatch gets going, you can almost count on the fact that the fish are hitting midge pupa emerging from their shucks trying to break through to the surface. Fish will snack on these helpless targets all day long if they could and they can't help but break the surface of the water as they take the bugs. Look for "finning" or "tailing" as opposed to the standard bubble rise of a surface take to know whether they're up top or just below it.

3. When you're fishing flies so small, the pattern itself doesn't matter as much. Oh if this were only true! While I've found that the smaller you go, the simpler your flies can be, I've definitely concluded you still need to pay attention to size, color and profile. I've fished through enough huge midge hatches with finicky fish (think Silver Creek in Idaho or Rocky Ford in Washington) that I can tell you those things definitely make a difference. With midges especially, since there is a big variety of colors -- even on the same body of water, you need to always pay attention to size, color and profile in order to maximize your results. Go ahead and fish the same style Griffith's Gnat, er Peacock King, across all situations and see how that goes.

4. There's no need to fish flies smaller than #22. Believe it or not, I've heard this on several occasions and have to bite my tongue because it usually comes from one of "those" guys that doesn't pay attention to the rules. Both Cheech and I have run into situations on many occasions that required us to dial down the size to something as ridiculously small as a #32. Now, that doesn't mean we throw on a #32 as a matter of practice, in fact I'd prefer to avoid fishing crap that small, but sometimes you gotta miniaturize. Just pay attention to the naturals and look to see what the fish are doing. And sometimes remember that when things are looking that small, throw on a cluster or something flashy like an Orange Asher and see what happens!

5. I can't tie on a fly that small, let alone see it on the water, so I can't fish midges. This is yet another objection to midging I hear from time to time when teaching tying classes or seminars -- especially when talking about dry flies. True, the smaller flies are virtually impossible to see on the water. But you don't need to see them. Learn to either guesstimate the location of your fly and look for a rise in that area. If you have a hard time doing that, get some small pieces of stick-on foam indicator or some Loon Biostrike to put up your tippet a small distance. As for tying on the small flies, you can always pre-rig with with a threader and have them ready for you to use on-stream. Either that, or invest in some inexpensive magnifier glasses. Or bionic eyes with x-ray vision.

Bottom line, don't give up on midges just because of a few pieces of common misinformation out there. Midge fishing is some of the most addictive and rewarding style of fishing, in my opinion. And if you want some additional pointers, tune into our midge fishing seminar. See details here.