I’m sitting around today thinking about winter midge hatches. I could say I’m sulking around because it’s too cold and snowy to actually be up on the river fishing. At least it’s too cold for me. Call it the curse of the tailwater if you want to because I know that somewhere on the river the trout are probably sipping midge pupa and if I was there and my hands, line guides, feet and everything else weren’t frozen I’d be casting a tiny midge imitation in their direction. To me winter midging is the master game. It’s never predictable, that’s for sure.
Let’s say you thoughtfully change midge imitations four or five times then on the sixth change a trout nonchalantly takes the fly. You figure that’s it. Game on. You’ve cracked the code. And you never get another take on that midge pattern. So you go back to square one and change fly patterns. The trout don’t like the first one or the second or the third, but maybe the fourth pattern scores. A trout takes it and rockets off upstream. It’s only momentary elation for you, though, because the tip-top line guide is frozen solid. It sounds something like a muffled “Dink!” when the size #22 fly breaks off. Fortunately, you have more of them. Unfortunately, the trout are over that particular fly. It’s back to square one…..so it goes. Besides you’re midging. It’s winter. If you caught and released too many trout your hands would freeze for sure.
Persistence, observational skills, tactical flexibility and an open mind all come in handy when the trout are taking to midges. So where do we start? How about a conversation I had with my friend Glenn Weisner. We were thinking out loud about what fundamental elements to include in a midge imitation that might trigger trout to take the fly. Without hesitation Glenn said, “Segmentation and action.” It’s one of those conclusions that only come after a lot of thoughtful time spent on that water. It’s the kind of time on the water where you’re not just fishing, but also trying to figure out what’s going on.
So try using a variety of different materials to emphasize segmentation in your midge larva and pupa imitations. When you fish those patterns twitch them once in a while. Figure out ways to let the current subtly swing or lift your fly at the end of the drift. Try using the fly rod to lift the fly during the drift or any way you can think of. That little bit of action may the last bit of encouragement that a trout needs to take the fly.