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Modern Midges: 12 Fly Recipes

Fly fishers need patterns to imitate midge larvae, pupae, emergers, adults, and clusters.

Modern Midges: 12 Fly Recipes

The authors amassed more than 1,000 fly patterns and recipes, along with detailed information on how to tie them, from some of the world’s best tiers in Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Croatia, Slovakia, England, the U.S., and elsewhere, for their book, Modern Midges

When we started fishing together on the South Platte River near Deckers, Colorado, we never thought that the tiny but abundant midge was going to become such an important part of our fly-fishing lives.

But as we gained experience on the Frying Pan, San Juan, and other Rocky Mountain tailwaters, we became immersed in all aspects of midge fishing. We dedicated more than 20 years and many hours and days to learn as much as possible about the techniques, equipment, presentation strategies, and fly patterns of the diminutive world of midges and the trout that eat them.

Our study of chironomid entomology led to years of experimentation at the vise, and together we developed more than 100 innovative patterns that represented the various stages of the midge life cycle. We soon realized that many other midge anglers were on the same quest, and our discussions with fellow midge fishers soon became one of our main avenues of discovering new patterns. Over the years, many friends have shared with us their most exciting cutting-edge larva, pupa, and adult midge imitations.

Our years of parking-lot networking—with fly boxes flung open—were enjoyable but didn’t seem the best way to share the combined knowledge of midge fishing. So, a few years ago we decided to write a book and we began contacting our like-minded friends, as well as fly tiers we met online, or have read or heard about.

Our fellow midge anglers gladly obliged, sharing samples and recipes of their favorite midge patterns. We soon amassed more than 1,000 fly patterns, along with detailed information on how to tie them, from some of the world’s best tiers in Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Croatia, Slovakia, England, the U.S., and elsewhere.

This article contains just 12 of the 1,000 patterns we’ve collected. They aren’t the best, or even our favorites (it’s so hard to pick!), but they do represent the diversity and ingenuity we’ve found in the minuscule world of midge fishing.

Why So Many Midge Flies? 

There are more than 100 midge species in North America alone, and it is highly likely that all streams and stillwaters contain midges. Trout are always on the lookout for this food source, especially in seasons when other insect hatches are not occurring. Some streams and stillwaters contain huge midge numbers, and trout in these environments feed on them almost exclusively.

As with most aquatic insects, midges have several life stages that both fly fishers and trout recognize: larva, pupa, and adult; plus two transitional phases, emerger and cluster. Each midge life stage is important to trout, and fly fishers need patterns to imitate all stages and every color phase found in nature.

Riwaka Brassie

Modern Midges
John Nichols, New Zealand

HOOK: #14-20 Tiemco 2457.
THREAD: Black 8/0 Uni-Thread.
BODY: Red and green Ultra Wire wrapped together.
WING: Small tuft of Z-lon.
THORAX: Gray and green rabbit fur, mixed.

Deep Buzzer

Modern Midges
Henk Verhaar, Netherlands

HOOK: #10-16 Tiemco 2457.
THREAD: Black 8/0.
BODY: Tying thread.
RIB: Silver holographic tinsel.
THORAX: Tying thread over wire.
WINGCASE: Gray Swiss straw.
GILLS: White Z-lon.
Note: Cover the fly body with nail polish.

Clearwater Pupa

Modern Midges
Phil Rowley, British Columbia

HOOK: #8-16 Mustad C49S.
THREAD: Olive 8/0.
RIB: Fine copper, silver, or gold wire.
BODY: Stillwater Solutions Midge Braid (olive).
WINGCASE: Mylar peacock/orange.
THORAX: Tying thread.
GILLS: Stillwater Solutions Midge Gill.

Green & Red Larva

Modern Midges
Brian Chan, British Columbia

HOOK: #10-14 Mustad C53S or Tiemco 2302.
THREAD: Red 8/0 Uni-Thread.
RIB: Small silver Ultra Wire.
UNDERBODY: Bright green Flashabou.
OVERBODY: Red Midge Stretch Floss.


Suspender Buzzer

Modern Midges
Peter Durisik, Slovakia

HOOK: #10-12 Dohiku G 644BL.
THREAD: Black 8/0.
ABDOMEN: Tying thread.
BUTT: Fluorescent orange 70-denier Ultra Thread.
RIB: Pearl Flashabou.
THORAX: Red 70-denier Ultra Thread.
WING: Natural CDC.
Note: Coat body with Sally Hansen Hard As Nails clear nail polish.

“O” Shoot Adult Midge Red

Modern Midges
Scott Stisser, Colorado

HOOK: #18-24 Tiemco 2487.
THREAD: Red 6/0 Uni-Thread.
BODY: Tying thread.
RIB: Silver Lagartun wire (fine).
WING: Mylar tinsel.
POST: White poly yarn.
HACKLE: Black ostrich.
THORAX: Black dubbing.

Beadhead Latex Pupa

Modern Midges
Rick Takahashi, Colorado

HOOK: #18-24 Tiemco 2457.
BEAD: Black size 15 Japanese seed bead.
THREAD: White 8/0 Uni-Thread.
BODY: Latex colored with olive Chartpak marker.
WING PADS: Rust goose biot.
COLLAR: Peacock Ice Dub.

Midgling Root Beer

Modern Midges
Mike Mercer, California

HOOK: #16-20 Tiemco 2457 or 2487.
THREAD: Brown 8/0.
BEAD: Root beer.
TAIL: Pearl Angel Hair.
UNDERBODY: Pearl Krystal Flash.
BODY: Brown Midge Tubing.
WINGCASE: Pearl Krystal Flash.
COLLAR: Brown ostrich herl.

Punk Rojo

Modern Midges
Kelli Sandoval, New Mexico

HOOK: #18-22 Daiichi 1273.
THREAD: Red 70-denier Ultra Thread.
BODY: Tying thread.
RIB: Black small Ultra Wire.
COLLAR: Peacock herl.

Olive Brown Chironomid Pupa

Modern Midges
Brian Yamauchi, Colorado

HOOK: #10-16 Tiemco 2302.
THREAD: White 17/0 Uni-Thread.
BODY: Latex strip.
RIB: Extra fine gold Lagartun wire.
THORAX: Tying thread colored with marker.
WING BUDS: Black Microfibetts, melted.
Note: Coat the entire body with UV Knot Sense.

Parachute Emerger

Modern Midges
Roy Christie, England

HOOK: #12-16 Drennan Sedge.
THREAD: Pearsall’s silk to match the natural.
GILLS: Clear Antron.
THORAX: Brown Superfine dubbing.
HACKLE: Grizzly dyed sunburst yellow.
BODY: Mother-of-pearl Mylar, lacquered.

Midge Parachute

Modern Midges
Noritaka Osada, Japan

HOOK: #19-23 Tiemco 212Y.
THREAD: Black 16/0.
POST: Pink Aero Dry Wing.
RIB: Fine black monofilament thread.
BODY: Tan 16/0 thread.
THORAX: Synthetic peacock.

Rick Takahashi is an illustrator, Umpqua Feather Merchants fly designer, and regular Fly Fisherman contributor. Jerry Hubka is a commercial artist and retired art teacher. Their book Modern Midges: Tying and Fishing the World’s Most Effective Patterns (Headwater Books) was published in September 2009.

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