A Trio of Tinies

By Nick Simonson

The first insects of the year to emerge en masse are midges.  While most are relatively tiny – less than one quarter of an inch (or size 20 or smaller on a fly hook) – some can be quite sizeable.  Around the water’s edge, it’s common to see swarms of these gray flying insects and they can be so numerous it is not uncommon to hear the continuous buzz of the swarm.  Right now, young midges are wiggling their way to the surface and taking flight, making them an easy mark for hungry trout and panfish, and before other major bugs like caddisflies and mayflies are present, having a selection of midge imitators will help anglers connect with this early-season feeding frenzy.


The Griffith’s Gnat tied by Nick Simonson.

The most well-known midge imitator is the Griffith’s gnat, and like most midge patterns, it is small and simple to put together. Typically tied on hooks from size 16 down to a tiny size 22, this pairing of peacock herl and grizzly hackle is a great dry fly imitator of those blurry buzzers that swarm around the edge of lakes and streams this time of year.

Hook: Dry size 16 to 22
Thread: 8/0 Black
Underbody: Peacock Herl
Hackle: Dry Grizzly


Start the fly by tying in one strand of peacock herl and one grizzly dry fly hackle (1).  Evenly wrap the peacock herl forward and tie it off just behind the hook eye, trimming the excess (2).  Using a small hackle pliers, do the same with the grizzly hackle, tying off and trimming at the same point as the peacock herl (3).  Whip finish and add a tiny drop

The Red Thread Midge tied by Nick Simonson.

of head cement and the fly is complete (4).



Midge larvae come in a variety of colors – black, olive, yellow, brown and red.  Any of those colors can be substituted in this very easy imitator of their aquatic stage.

Hook: Dry size 18 to 24
Thread: 8/0 Red
Sealant: Head Cement


The thread midge is as easy as it comes.  Start the thread along the hookshank from just behind the hook eye to the bend (1).  From there, form a thread body up to a space about a hook eye length back from the actual hook eye (2).  At that point, build up a slight thread head, then whip finish to secure the thread in place (3).  Evenly coat the entire fly with head cement for posterity and for a high-gloss finish that mimics the body of a midge larvae in the water (4).



The Beadhead Chironomid tied by Nick Simonson

A step up from the simple thread midge is a pattern that boasts the addition of a bead and small piece of ribbing to mimic the segmented body of a midge larvae, often referred to as a chironomid in fly fishing circles, referencing the insects’ Latin family name.

Hook: Dry size 18 to 24
Thread: 8/0 Black
Head: Gold Bead
Ribbing: Fine Gold Wire




Start the fly by slipping a gold bead on the hook and placing it in the vise; beginning the thread base just behind the bead and going all the way back to the bend (1).  At that point, tie in a strand of gold wire and completely cover the wire, advancing the thread to just behind the bead (2).  Evenly wrap the gold wire forward, forming the segmented body; secure the wire and trim the excess and cover the tie in point behind the bead, building up a slight shoulder area before whip finishing (3).

Not only do the larval patterns make great winter trout flies, they can also be added as a dropper under lures like Nils Master Halis when ice fishing for bluegills and perch.  For the next few weeks of spring, midges will be tough to miss, make sure to have a few versions of this common food source ready to go as the season heats up.

(Featured Photo: Away from the swarm.  A midge rests on a fence wire as the swarm buzzes above. Simonson Photo.)

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