Fifty years ago fly fishermen didn’t take midges seriously. They considered midge patterns of minor use only – sedges and upwinged flies ruled the clean lakes and rivers. But today, because of declining water quality, midges have taken over and are thriving.
Stillwater trout have had to adapt their feeding habits and now rely heavily on midges for growth after stocking. In fact, reservoirs with large midge populations produce hefty, fully-finned trout, while the slightly acidic waters in the north often contain thin, under-developed fish.
Life-cycle in brief
The female midge lays her eggs on the water surface. After hatching, the larvae sink to the bottom, finding shelter among blanket weeds or burrowing into the silty bottom where they feed on organic matter. They can tolerate the low levels of oxygen common on the bottom and often live in deep water.
In some of the largest species the larvae pupate after a year. The pupae remain close to the bottom, sometimes moving up into the middle layers of the water. Just before emerging as adults they pause and hang under the surface film for a while, depending on the conditions. Then the pupal skins split and the adults leave the water. Hatches can occur throughout the year, except during the very coldest days.
There are 450 or so different species of midges in Britain, the largest being 2.5cm long. Midges come in many different colours, including grey, red, olive and bright green, brown and black.
Flies for all levels
There are probably as many imitation midge patterns as there are species. Here is a selection of established patterns.
1. Shipman’s Buzzer
Devised by reservoir angler Dave Shipman, this emerging buzzer pattern – seal’s fur substitute and white polypropylene — is highly praised by Stillwater boat anglers.
2. Suspender Buzzers Recent innovations, these were popularized by
Brian Leadbetter who fishes them at all lev els. They’re excellent searching patterns when fished on the surface. The body is seal’s fur substitute with thin Pearl Lurex ribbing. The thorax – Plastazote – is tied to the hook and folded over itself. Tie them in many colours.
3. CDC Claret Emerger The use of natural cul de canard feathers is increasingly pop ular. Many modern patterns feature the material. The oil in the feathers makes them waterproof, and they move easily in the water – giving the impression of life.
This pattern, with the wing behind the thorax, sits in the surface film – it is devastating when trout are in the top layers of the water during a hatch.
4. Hare’s Ear/CDC Midges A very slim, sparsely dressed pattern is often deadly for trout feeding on emergers in the film and adult, egg-laying females on the surface. Hare’s fur has always been the standard choice for the body. But try using natural grey cul de canard feathers cut up and dubbed for the body.
5. Pearly Buzzers These colourful pupae imitation patterns are best fished from the bottom to the middle layers. Sometimes trout may be taking natural pupae quite a way below the surface – and the Pearly Buzzers work well for this situation.
6. Black Pennell Stillwater boat anglers in years gone by always had a few Black Pennells in their boxes. This pattern is a reliable, midge-imitating wet fly, best used from a drifting boat. Some anglers prefer to have a sparse hackle while others tie the fly with a bushy, unkempt look.
7. Marabou Bloodworm The silver bead head, fluorescent white collar and long marabou tail make this an excellent pattern for fishing in deep water during the early season – when the trout may be taking bloodworm on the bottom. Fish the fly just off the bottom with a slow strip or figure-of-eight retrieve.
It’s well known that particle baits catch carp – and that these fish go for sweet flavours. Flavoured boilies are the miracle baits of the last decade or so, but there is another range of items that offers nutrition and flavour in one convenient package. For less than a pint of maggots you can buy a variety pack of breakfast cereals and a pint of fresh milk. This means that you enjoy some gr-r-reat sport and sit down to a good breakfast too!