Eye of the Guide


Tom Travis - March 28, 2011

I have discussed how the angler could use the "Formula for Success" to master the skills needed to be a successful still water angler. Now I will show you how to use the "Formula" for problem solving in a still water angling situation.


The problem is successfully fishing the midge worm (larvae) and pupa stages of the midges in a still water angling situation. Now, it might seem like a fairly simple problem when, in truth, this will be a very complex series of problems which will thoroughly test the angler's skill level and problem solving abilities.


To solve this problem the angler will use the knowledge of the life cycle of the midge, how the trout feed on the various stages of the midge, pattern selection, careful observation and what tackle will allow the imitation to be presented at the proper angle and depth.

Almost all still waters have midge hatches and the midge larvae are very important in the diet of the still water trout. The midge larvae are an active swimmer that is constantly moving through the weed beds and across the bottom as it feeds.

Early in the morning, late in the evening or on heavy overcast days the midge larvae will swim and drift towards the surface. Often anglers will see trout cruising and feeding on "something" in 1 to 3 feet of water and be totally frustrated by their inability to move the trout.

This type of feeding can also occur on the downwind side of weed beds during windy days. The wind and wave action will break the midge larvae free of the weed beds and they are actively swimming to regain their position and cover.

The midge larvae will vary in size from 2 to 12 millimeters. The most common colors are red, pale olive, dark tan and dark olive. To be successful, the angler needs the proper imitation. But the proper imitation alone won't cut it. For complete success the angler needs to present the imitation at the proper angle and depth. To do this the angler will need more than just a floating line.

There are 3 basic depths which the angler must be able to effectively reach to be successful.

A.    Surface to one foot: Mastery Floating GPS or XPS

B.    Two feet to three feet: Mastery Clear Stillwater line, sink rate 1.25-1.75 inches per second.

C.    Three feet to six feet: Uniform Sink Type II, sink rate 1.75-2.75 inches per second.


A.    Using the floating line and a 10' foot leader, the angler would cast, allow the fly to settle to the desired depth, lower the rod tip and strip the imitation back using one inch strips and then pause. This retrieve gives the imitation the illusion of the undulating, swimming motion of the natural.

B.    Using the Mastery Clear Stillwater Line and a 4 foot leader (I generally trim down a 7‑1/2' leader), cast out, lower the rod tip to 1" beneath the surface film and count down. (If you want the line to sink to 22", the countdown would be 17.)

This allows you to put the fly, leader and line on the same plane as the feeding trout for the longest duration of the retrieve, thus allowing a better percentage of solid takes. A faster sinking line would take the imitation through the trout's feeding zone. By slowly raising the rod tip as you retrieve, the angler can keep the imitation at the proper depth for the longest period of time. Now, this could be done with a floating line, but this would change the angle of the presentation and the imitation would be in the trout's feeding zone for a very short period of time. The retrieve used would be the same as described above.

C.    Using a Uniform Sink Type II Line and a 4 foot leader. Here again, I either trim down a 7‑1/2' leader or build my own. A leader that is too long will cause the imitation to ride up in the water, away from the depth of the line presenting problems with the angle of the presentation. Cast out, lower the rod tip and count down. For the line to reach a depth of 36" the count would be 14. Then start your retrieve as before, but do not raise the rod tip.


The ability for the angler to solve this presentation problem is directly related to knowledge of the midge life cycle, in being able to identify the food form, in selecting the right imitation and knowing what retrieve will give the proper illusion of life. Also in knowing what line and leader combination will allow you to present the imitation at the proper depth and angle to be successful.

This same situation can be encountered when fishing midge pupas that are rising towards the surface to emerge. Often the observant angler who uses lines that allow for deeper presentation will be the angler who is most successful.

Remember, the midge pupas don’t start out in the surface film and it is logical for the angler to assume that trout are picking off the ascending morsels long before they reach the surface.

Here again, the Mastery Clear Stillwater and the Uniform Sink Fly Lines will allow the angler increased success by presenting the imitation in the trout's feeding zone at the proper angle and depth for the longest period of time during the presentation.

There are many angling situations in both still and moving water that can be solved by using the proper line to get the job done. Regardless of how good your imitation is, if you are not presenting it properly your success rate will be low.


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