Fly of the Month – Sprout Midge Emerger

J. Stockard Pro Tyer: Paul Shurtleff, Springville UT, You can find Paul @: www.instagram.com/insectinside/, www.facebook.com/pauliescustomflies

The following fly pattern is tied to resemble the emergence stage of a midge pupae. This is my Midge Emerger…

Midge insects or diptera (Latin, meaning “2 wings”), are common in most fresh water streams, lakes, rivers and waterways world wide. Midges have many names and are commonly called buzzers, gnats, chironomids, dipterans and a plethora of nicknames for the same type of insect. These insects resemble and are often mistaken for mosquitos, which they are a close relative to, although harmless (as in midges don’t bite you!).

The life cycle of a midge has 4 stages: Egg, Larvae, Pupae (emergence) to an Adult and they hatch year round in most areas, even during the winter months. Midges often hatch in prolific numbers so great that during certain times of the year there can be literally billions of midges gathered into massive clouds of buzzing midges near and over the water. Midges range in size depending on the body of water where they’re found in and are typically anywhere from a hook size of a #8 down to and including a #32. Typically, midges are a little larger when found in lakes and still waters where they’re more commonly called chironomids, but on tail water rivers and streams it’s not uncommon to be fishing with and using midge fly patterns sized #18 and under with tippets smaller than 5x. What midges don’t have in physical size, they more than make up for in their vast numbers. In some areas, midges make up as much as 60% or more of a trout’s diet which make them a staple food source for not only trout, but for all fish species in waters where there are midges.

The necessity for anglers to carry at least a few midge fly patterns in their fly boxes at all times is evident when taking that fact into consideration. However, it can be a little overwhelming when picking fly patterns to keep in your fly box. There are currently and literally thousands of different fly patterns for midges in their various life cycle stages from all around the world! I can’t claim complete originality for this particular fly pattern because of this fact, this pattern is simply my variant, of a variant, of a variant, etc., etc., etc. It’s my little secret weapon that I’ve put my own little twist on and have had success fishing with over the years on many of Utah’s famous tail water fisheries, my home waters.

My version of the Midge Emerger fly pattern utilizes peacock quills for the abdomen and thorax, genetic dry fly hackle palmered through the peacock herl thorax for legs and it has a foam post to keep it floating high, visible, and performing just like the real hatching insect. I’ve done a couple of things to this pattern that separate mine from other like patterns in that I added a little bit of shimmer to the abdomen with the use of UV resin and UV flashabou. This is done to better mimic and give the illusion of an adult body trying to escape its pupal shuck during emergence. That combined with the hackle fibers through the thorax helps give the illusion of legs from a struggling insect trying to break out of the water. The foam post provides great floatation and visibility for the angler despite fly size, which can be tied on hooks sized well into the #20s. This pattern rides in the water with the abdomen through the surface film with the foam post and hackle fibers keeping the head and thorax area up, just like the real emergent insect.

Midge Emerger materials list:

Hook: Moonlit Fly Fishing ML061 or TMC 2488
Thread: Semperfli’s Nano Silk 18/0
Abdomen: Semperfli’s Picric Acid Dyed Peacock (stripped)
Ribbing: Ice Blue UV Flashabou
Thorax: Semperfli’s Picric Acid Dyed Peacock (1-3 herls) or Nature’s Spirit Dyed Peacock Herl
Legs: Whiting Farms Grizzly (or color of choice) saddle hackle
Gills/Head: Semperfli’s Boobie Tubes or Rainy’s Foam Parachute Posts
Coating: Semperfli’s No Tack UV Resin (for the abdomen)

Note: If Semperfli’s Picric Acid Dyed Peacock is unavailable, substitute it for either natural peacock (or color of choice) from a peacock eye or bundled pack. On flies smaller than #24, substitute the peacock thorax for either thread, superfine or ultrafine dubbing.

I like to fish this emerger pattern with a 3 wt or 4 wt fly rod for a delicate presentation and I use a custom furled leader from Moonlit Fly Fishing with a section of 5x to 7x tippet from the leader to the fly. I typically only use 1 fly at a time but sometimes I’ll add a second fly or a dropper depending on fishing conditions. I typically don’t use fly floatant for this pattern as the foam post works well in keeping the fly floating high. However, if I’m having a hard time seeing the fly on the water, which sometimes happens due to light conditions, I’ll add floatant to the leader and tippet but not on the fly itself. The custom leader I use has a brightly colored sighter built in within the last 8 inches of the furl before the shorb loop, which makes finding the fly after casting an easy task. Even if the fly starts to sink a little too much or gets pulled under, watching the leaders sighter makes detecting takes, which are often subtle, simple. I do my best to “match the hatch” where I try to hunt down and find a natural midge adult to match size to fly pattern and I try to target active rising fish to cast to. As for performance, I’m sure this fly will produce during other times of the year, but I personally use this pattern the most during the winter months into early spring, January through March typically. Midges hatch year round on my homewaters and we’re able to fish year round here in Utah. During the winter months here, fishing midges give us tail water junkies some pretty decent fishing opportunities to cure “cabin fever” and the wintertime blues, if one can tollerate freezing temperatures and deal with fly lines freezing in rod guides I mean. A bonus to winter fishing and my favorite part about it, is solitude! The water conditions are usually low with slow flows and ultra clear water. A lot of the times fishing during the winter, the water temperature on a tail water is warmer than the outside air temperature which creates a eerie misty fog. This pattern also works surprisingly well just before and during the highly anticipated and popular Blue Wing Olive (BWO) mayfly hatches, to which this midge emerger will also double as.

4 thoughts on “Fly of the Month – Sprout Midge Emerger

  1. walter cole

    I tried to locate Ice Blue UV Flashabou through Stockard and Wapsi and it is not listed. Where can I buy this UV material?

    Reply
    1. Paul Shurtleff

      Walter, I believe Hedron makes the Ice Blue flashabou, which is available on JStockard’s website… Hope that helps

      Reply
  2. Rob longsworth

    Well done, Paul. If I were going to tye a bunch of midge emerges I would borrow from your fine example. At size 18 they are a bit large for my intended use on the South Platte by Deckers. Last I checked most of the midges coming off were 24’s to 28’s and they seem to be imitated with a simpler
    pattern.
    My tale began in 1975 on a cold March afternoon as I stood thigh deep in the Platte amazed and wondering
    what I was wittnessing. A midge hatch, of course, the first I had
    seen and a compelling one at that.
    I was relating this same event to a friendet of mine so in order to keep it understandable an addition trip to the river has to be added in as the work in progress began to take shape. As I told
    Josh, “I waded into the river severl yards checking to be sure my hardware was as planned, a 13’ hand tied leader ended
    with 6x tippet, my simple, elegant fly (94840 size 28 in gold wrapped in red Danville abdomen and black Danville head and thorax) secured with a simple knot, a few false casts
    to find the feel and range and then a gentle placement among the many rise forms. A twitch to find it all on the water and
    then a soft sideways take up as it seemed my offering had been accepted. So it was. My special Leonard 50H was playing a couple of first and the 13” brown was a fitting player. There were other days when I caught a weeks worth of fish without moving more than a few feet. Phenomenal. May your fortune be as plentiful as mine.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *