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Week of December 4th: The Might of the Midge

I just can not help myself. I love swinging streamers. Despite all the reports this week and the constant refrain of “zebra midge,” “low and slow,” and “midges, WD40, down deep; put it behind an egg” the allure of a strike on a streamer made me change it up this morning. It was a good choice, but poorly executed due to being lazy and having cold fingers.

The sub freezing nights last week put our fish down. Even hunkered in the slow currents, they eat. Trouts' slower metabolism allows them longer periods between meals, but they are seeing a variety of food and most of what they see is miniscule. Chironomidae are little, tiny worms. Red zebra midges are the pattern that closely resemble this prolific little larvae, but black is a must have color, too. The Rainbow warrior, disco midge, and the Electric Caddis have a similar profile, and each should be fished close to the river bed. An effective method is to trail the midge behind an egg pattern, such as Connor’s egg with skein or sucker spawn. Walt’s and Sexy Walt’s may be the key to ending a Fall slump. We all experience periods of despair; take heart, enjoy the scenery, and keep at it.

There are some larger life forms among the dead leaves and detritus. Crane fly larvae, dace, sculpin and minnows can be replicated at the vice and plunged into pools. Long leaders are best and a slow approach is important, too. Begin close and move across the stream. Fish your way into a seam, rather than have your first cast cut the flow and go right to the thalweg. Ease into it and then move upstream, taking bites, so to speak, up the riffle or run, like a waffle cone. Sinking the fly is probably the most overlooked part of this equation. Trepidation over losing a rig and the thought of re-rigging with frozen fingers is understandable, but you really have to get those tiny offerings down. Minor tippet and slip shot adjustments, until you find the sweet-spot, can be the difference between no fish and that one fish. Patience, trial and error, and dedication pay off.

Or just throw streamers. That's what I did, but I skipped a crucial step. I put a streamer below my lead fly, a wet fly, and got a hit nearly right away. This was on Sunday, so the air was warm (47F) and the rain was falling at around 6am. I may have had the fish to net, too, I think, had the tippet not snapped as the fish turned and I raised the tip. When I chose to swing the wet-streamer set-up, I hesitated and considered bumping up to 5 or even 4x. I didn’t, and that made all the difference. This fish came up for the streamers near the surface. Sink those streamers, too, and let them flow just above the bed. They’ll turn and head toward the surface as the leader plays out. Give them a few tugs to see if something came up behind them. That’s likely what happened this morning. Oh well. It had stopped raining and the air was crisp.

Better luck next time - and definitely wiser choices.

See you out there.

Roy B.

Photo credit goes to Drew F. who captured the moment Conor brought the healthy rainbow to the net -- you guessed it -- black zebra midge!


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