Welcome to Beginning Fly Tying

Part Eight

An Introduction to Fly Tying:
Fall Midge Emerger

By Al Campbell

Lots of Photos, Be Patient!

As we progress in this series, I will assume you have mastered the steps in the previous lesson. For instance, I won't show you how to start the thread, whip finish the fly, the loose wraps needed to begin tying down a material to the hook, or how to tie that material down. If it's been covered, we won't waste the time to cover it again. This will allow us the time and space to progress at a faster pace, and allow you to learn more from this series.

This week we'll learn how to dub a body and attach a down-style wing. Most beginners use too much dubbing, don't wrap the dubbing tight enough or use way too much hair in a wing. The key to successful dubbing is to keep it thin and tight around the thread. Practice makes for a perfect fly, so practice these steps until you have them mastered. If you need to, use a razor blade to strip the hook and start over. This is a building block to the rest of the series and you must master these steps before you can progress to the rest of the flies.

On with the series.

Midges are a significant part of the diet of fish (especially trout) in lakes and streams. This tiny insect hatches all year, often hatching in the warm micro-layer of air just above the water's surface even in sub-freezing temperatures. Even in the summer when many hatches occur on a daily basis, trout and panfish will zero in on the midge as the main source of their daily protein. For this reason it's a good idea to have a few midge patterns in your fly box.

Midges are usually very small, but some hatches, especially in lakes, the midges can be as big as a size 12, although most will be size 16 or smaller. Start tying this pattern in a size 16 and work to smaller hooks as your abilities grow. It's a good idea to have this pattern in sizes 16 to 22 if you want to be able to match the hatch in most of the circumstances. I tie it in colors that range from brown and tan to cream and light yellow. It's not a bad micro-caddis pattern either.

List of materials:

Hook: Eagle Claw L061B, Tiemco 100, Mustad 94840 or equivalent.

Dubbing: Anglers Choice pure silk, tan mink, or any extra fine dubbing.

Rib: Anglers Choice Super Floss, black horse hair, small black nylon.

Wing: Small cluster of pine squirrel tail hairs or similar hair,antron.

Thread: Tan, brown, cream or black. I prefer Gudebrod 8/0 or 10/0.

Tying steps:

  • 1. Start the thread. Tie down ribbing material to the hook bend.

  • 2. Select a few strands of dubbing and twist them around the thread with your thumb and finger.

    Be sure to keep the dubbing thin or you will have a big clump of dubbing on the hook and it won't look natural. A few strands at a time is all it takes. Your dubbing should look like very fine, smooth yarn on the thread. Make a few wraps, add more as needed and make more wraps until you have a body of the right proportions. I stress this because most beginners use way too much dubbing for the fly they are trying to tie. Dub the body to just behind the hook eye, leaving enough room for the head of the fly.

  • 3. Stretch the super floss to a thin, thread like thickness. If using hair or nylon, you won't need to stretch it. Wrap the ribbing material to the front of the body.

  • 4. Tie the rib off and trim.

  • 5. Build a thin thread base behind the hook eye. This will help keep the wing from twisting around the hook.

  • 6. Select a small cluster of hairs for the wing. Don't use too many hairs, about 12 will be enough.

  • 7. Make two loose wraps over the hair, keeping the hair on top of the hook with your fingers. Slide the front of the wing back to the hook eye then tighten your first two wraps. Tie down the wing with several more thread wraps. A slight upward pressure will keep the wing from rotating on the hook.

  • 8. Build the head up slightly and trim or tie down any loose strands of hair. Whip finish the head and cut the thread.

  • 9. Clip the wing above the hook bend. There is a little room for varying wing lengths, but I prefer a shorter wing like this one.

  • 10. Apply a small drop of head cement to the head of the fly. If you get cement in the hook eye, clean it out with a needle or bodkin.

  • 11.Your finished fly should look like this.

    I use midge patterns a lot. Winter is a great time to fish if you have a good midge pattern. The Bighorn River and many others in the west have huge midge hatches in the winter, spring and fall. I've used this pattern to catch fish every time I've been to the Bighorn. It was also a winter favorite when I lived on and fished the Missouri river in Montana.

    You can fish the fly with a dead drift or let it swing. I usually grease it up a bit and drift it over a fish, then let it swing at the end of the drift. It frequently triggers a strike just as it starts to swing across the current. A few of my buddies fish it as a nymph with good success too.

    In lakes I cast the fly in front of cruising fish and retrieve it with small twitches. If that doesn't work, I use long, slow pulls on the line to keep the fly moving slowly on or just below the surface.

    Tie a few up in various sizes and colors. It will likely become a favorite of yours too.

    See ya next week. ~ Al Campbell

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