Bob Boese - July 27, 2009

Never count out the importance of size.

When they arrived at the Wal-Mart, Clotille went bra shopping while Boudreaux went looking for a new rain suit, since his support bracket broke on his last fishing trip and he had used the his FrogTog pants to tie his muffler back on. Boudreaux's entire shopping experience lasted about one minute – find the tog section, check the size tag, pay and leave – but Clotille was another half hour picking out just the right upper topper flopper stopper. Boudreaux was mostly as uncomfortable as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs but, out of pure boredom, read tags on the merchandise. Clotille gave him a look like he was handing the bras fully loaded with someone else's equipment and he went back to fishing supplies to see if someone had invented a magic lure in the last ten minutes.

When they got back in the car, Boudreaux asked why the bras were marked A through F. After deciding he wasn't trying to be vulgar, Clotille gave a long explanation of how measuring the chest above and below the breasts and then measuring the chest at the middle of the breasts produced a difference in inches that bra size charts translated into cup sizes, marked in letters. When she finished she noticed Broudreaux looked confused. "What's the matter?  What did you think it meant?" she asked.

"Well, I figured A was for 'almost', B was for 'better', C was for 'cool', D was for 'dang', E was for 'enormous' and F was for 'fake'."

Clotille just smiled and decided for Boudreaux that was close enough.

Warm water fly fishermen find it difficult to get into the spirit of midge fishing. Let's face it, the only time you think of midges is when we wonder if that little bastard that just bit you has West Nile. But trout are finicky (especially in winter), and there will be times when the only thing you catch is frustration – unless you know the techniques of midge fishing. There is a mind set (that borders on insanity) to fishing with 8X tippet, recognizing the vague ripples of a subtle rise, or casting extra long leaders (12-15 ft.) for a dead drift through the narrow line of sight of a shallow trout while trying to follow the path of a fly you can't actually see. And there is the whole issue of tying flies small enough to fit a dozen on your little finger nail, but if the object is to catch stubborn trout....

WHAT IS A MIDGE?  The entomology of a midge is pretty simple. A midge is a tiny dipteran (two-winged) fly with thousands of species. In the south we are most familiar with the Ceratopogonidae family of the genus Culicoides (800 species of "biting midges") which are equipped with very specialized mouths that enable them to pierce skin – i.e. mosquitos. However, most species of midges are harmless and belong to the Chironomidae family, and have no piercing mouthparts. These are trout food. Stomach pumps pull more midges (of different varieties) out of trout than any other insect (by a factor of hundreds). While it is true that a single hopper would make up for hundreds of midges, trout never ignore the most available food.

All members of Dipthera have 4 phases to their life cycle - egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Trout begin feeding on midges once the eggs develop into larvae. Larvas inhabit streams or lake bottoms where there are rock crevices, muddy bottom or vegetation. They are slender with a simple profile. As they mature, midge larvae transform into pupal form and develop legs and wings. When it is time for the midge to emerge from the case, it will rise to the surface and "hang" vertically in the surface film. Hatches occur in the surface film, which can be warmer than sub-freezing temperatures of surrounding air or water. At this stage, before emerging as a winged adult, midges are most apparent to trout and will rest for temperature and humidity to give them natural clues, or on the surface for their wings to dry out, before taking to the air. This creates a weather-be-damned opportunity for the fisherman because bad weather keeps the midges from hatching and trout will feast leisurely on the midge emerger buffet. Some of my most successful midge fishing has come in the midst of snow or ugly overcast conditions. Once airborne, midges swarm in a mass to mate, females return to the water to lay eggs and the adults die. More fish food.

Midges are present almost any location where trout are found. Trout love them because they are loaded with protein and are available when there is no other food source – particularly when there are no other insects hatching. Winter and summer hatches frequently involve of a variety of midge species and may occur on a daily basis as midges come up in huge numbers over an extended period of the daylight. Midges usually emerge in the quieter sections of the stream, away from riffles, in flat water. They frequently group together on the surface as they float downstream, moving slowly, and trout will feed on them for long stretches. Looking at a midge hatch, you will notice a swarm of gnats and might see subtle rises or trout rolling near the surface as the fish feed. The rises are rarely dramatic and require that the fisherman do in-stream research to choose the right fly. Rule #1, seine the water for midges. Rule #2; bring magnifying specs to check out what you net. This process will give you both size and color of the current midge hatch.

BUYING/TYING PATTERNS: Many discount fly vendors sell midges cheap, but finding them in size 20 or smaller can be tough. A magnifying lamp is almost an imperative to tie midges.  Midge patterns are never bigger than #16 and usually smaller than #20. Flies patterns are divided into larva imitations, pupa imitations, and dry flies (which includes emergers). The number one dry is the Griffith's Gnat which is supposed to resemble a group of midges floating downstream together and is easily tied with a peacock herl body palmered over with grizzly hackle and cross wound with copper wire. For most midge fishing situations a pupal or larval form of midge fly will be most effective fished singly or in tandem with a strike indicator. The best thing about midge flies is that the simple patterns work and are just that – simple. Once you realize that two thickness of thread on a #24 is all you need, tying a dozen basic flies in a half-hour is a cinch. Winged and collared patterns are a bit touchier, but producing 8-10 an hour is not hard. You want to tie plenty because you want to have a lot of color and size options in your fly box. Things can change suddenly during a midge hatch, or combined midge hatches. Larva patterns are the simplest, an almost shapeless slim body with thread or wire for segmentation. Red, olive and black are favorite colors on most waters, followed by dun and chocolate. Common nymph patterns include the Zebra, Crystal and Mercury Midges. You should be ready to change colors frequently, especially on productive water where large trout have the irritating habit of targeting specific stages of specific insects. If the fish are still working but you aren't getting any action, have that seine ready and get set for a color change.  

SETTING THE HOOK: Don't! Tiny hooks set themselves. Seeing midges on the surface is difficult enough without breaking tippet every bite because you set hard. You will not see your fly and will have a tenancy to jerk when a fish takes. Instead, you want to raise your rod tip and pull gently on the line with your free hand. When the trout is hooked it will be a contest of keeping a tight line but using only as much pressure as you can put on the tippet without breaking off. The most difficult time comes if a trout takes you down stream and you are fighting the current and the fish, or when the trout is tired and starts to "surf" (lay on its side on the surface) and is dead weight. At this point the current will pop your tippet unless you chase down the trout.

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