The other day one of the most amazing natural spectacle
occurred, a hatch of midges that completely covered the water. The
whole surface of the river appeared to be moving. The water surface
looked fuzzy. It was though the surface was covered with dark brown or
Upon reflection, the numbers of these little cousins of the
mosquito must have numbered in the billions. If each insect weighed but
a tenth of a milligram, the biomass of all those insects that hatched on
a ten-mile stretch of river probably approached 500 kilograms or 1100
pounds. (Pardon me for trying to guess what a midge weighs, I really
don't have a clue, I just gave you my best SWAG).
What did all the little insects mean to the trout? Well,
judging by all the trout rising, a whole, heck of a lot. On slow
stretches of the river where rafts of midges and midge clusters drifted
into shadowy areas, the trout were boiling on the midges. There were
places that looked like feeding time at the hatchery.
Aside from the frantic feeding activity of the trout,
another plus was that the weather was delightful. It was the first
seventy-degree day of the year with a nice warm sun glowing in the sky.
The wind didn't blow to speak of so the beautiful day shot big holes in
my theory that it has to be lousy weather to have great fishing.
It is unusual to have dry fly fishing the entire day at any
time during the year, but it seems to me that spring limits the dry fly
fishing to either the middle of the day when the blue-winged olives are
hatching or the last couple hours of daylight when the midge are
clustering. It was hard for me to imagine a day when my clients didn't
have to fish nymphs at all, but it happened.
We started off with a small midge cluster pattern, a Puppy
Pile, that my son, Clint, invented. This modified Griffith gnat with a
CDC wing (tied trude style, on a size 18 dry fly hook), has
been a real workhorse pattern for me for the past two
years. I have liked to fish it close to dusk to imitate the clusters of
two to four midges.
I also like to use the Puppy Pile when the midges are emerging earlier
in the day as a strike indicator fly. I usually fish the size 18 puppy
pile on 5X tippet and tie on a ten-inch segment of 6X tippet to the bend
of the hook and then tie on a size 20 black midge, Adams, or shucked
That's how I rigged them the other morning and the trout took the
smaller flies more consistently, but they also gobbled the Puppy Pile
during the morning and early afternoon.
As the afternoon wore on, the trout started to seek out the midge
clusters. They became a bit wary of the dead drifted flies that my
clients, Sydney and Germaine, were presenting. It was then I
remembered a trick that Paul Garrison had told me: "Try to position
yourself across from the fish. Cast five feet upstream of the fish and
two feet beyond. When the fly is nearly to the fish, twitch it so that
you move directly in front of the fish and then let it float. The
trout usually bomb it once the fly stops."
I gave this bit of advice to my lady anglers, and sure enough, the trout
starting hopping on the flies with gusto. The ladies started picking up
trout from every pod they cast to.
At one stop, Sydney lost her Puppy Pile/shucked midge combo. She was a
ways away from Germaine and me. She didn't have any puppy piles so she
decided to try a fly of her own choice. She tied on a size 14 parachute
Adams and proceeded to kick trout butts all the way down the river.
Well, the midge hatch should last for quite some time this year not only
on the Bighorn, but other rivers and creeks as well. If you want to
have some excellent fishing get out and give dry fly fishing with midge
patterns a try. I'm betting you won't be sorry. ~ Bob Krumm
Bob Krumm is a first-class guide who specializes
on fishing the Big Horn River in Montana,
(and if there terrific fishing somewhere else
he'll know about that too.) Bob has written
several other fine articles for this Eye Of The
Guides series. He is also a commericial fly tier
who owns the Blue Quill Fly
Company which will even do your custom tying!
You can reach him at: 1-307-673-1505 or by email at: