Midge Patterns for Fly Fishing

Midge Patterns Fly Fishing

Fly Fisher Pro is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Regardless of your angling prowess, the midge pattern is a fishing essential that should never be missing from your fly box. Why, you ask? The answer is simple: trout feast on midges all year round, but particularly during winter. So, if you want to catch trout, you need to have the right midge patterns handy.

But with a plethora of midge patterns out there, how do you know which ones are the best and when to use them? That’s where I come in. As your friendly fishing expert, I’ll guide you through the intricacies of midge patterns for fly fishing. So, let’s dive right in!

Midge Fly Pattern Life Cycle & Flies To Match

The first step in understanding which midge patterns to use for fly fishing is to grasp the midge’s life cycle. Midges pass through four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. As anglers, we are primarily interested in the last three stages, which are the most susceptible to trout.

Here’s a breakdown of each stage and the corresponding fly patterns:

Midge Larvae

midge larvae

Picture tiny segmented worms – that’s what midge larvae resemble. Ranging from sizes 18-22, they come in diverse colors, including black, olive, and red. You’ll usually find them near the river bottom, where they forage among mud, silt, and rocks.

Midge Larvae Flies

Popular midge patterns used to mimic larvae include the root beer midge, blood midges, and the zebra midge. All these patterns come in sizes 18-22 and various colors. Pro tip: Get them in different weights, including a tungsten bead head, to ensure they reach the river bottom.

The zebra midge, one of the most effective patterns for mimicking larvae, comes in an array of colors from olive to red and black. So, don’t hesitate to stock up on this variety.

How To Fish A Midge Larva Fly

Fishing a larva midge pattern like a zebra midge involves nymphing. You can use a single fly rig or a double nymph/dry dropper rig. Just ensure your rig has enough weight to take the flies close to the bottom.

When should I use them?

You can fish larva patterns all day long since midges at this stage are always present at the bottom. Plus, they can be mistaken for other aquatic insects that trout are feeding on.

Midge Pupae

Midge Pupa

During the pupa stage, midges begin emerging. This means they start rising through the water column, heading to the surface. Emerging pupae start to swell up as their wings and legs form. They float to the surface by creating a small bubble that lifts them up.

Midge Pupa Flies

Pupa flies have more material than larva flies as they need to represent the swelling thorax and mimic the bubble with some flash or hair near the head.

Some of the best midge emerger patterns to have in your box include the top-secret midge, disco midge, and crystal midge. The disco midge and crystal midges come in olive, red, and black, so be sure to pick up a few color variations.

How To Fish A Midge Pupa Fly

When fishing a crystal midge, you want the fly to be either just below or in the surface film of the water. This means your pupa emergers should be fished as the point fly on a two-fly rig with a larva fly as the dropper or under a dry fly.

When should I use these midge patterns?

Midges begin to emerge when it’s cooler. In summer, this means in the morning or evening, while in winter they can emerge all day long. Add these winter midge patterns to a double rig with the weighted pattern as the bottom fly and fish it all day long.

Midge Adult

Midge Adult

The final stage of a midge’s life is becoming a winged adult. This is when they’re most noticeable, as they start biting you on the river. The midge adults sit on the water surface after they hatch to dry their wings before they fly off. This is often when they get eaten by hungry trout.

Midge Adult Flies

Midge adult fly patterns are dry flies. The pattern will either represent a single adult or a group of tiny midges like the Griffith’s gnat. Tiny parachute adams or trailing shuck patterns with flashabou wings are perfect for imitating a single adult.

How To Fish A Midge Adult Fly

These dry midge patterns should be fished on a dead drift and on the surface with a light tippet of around 5-8x. They are tiny flies, so it’s sometimes a good idea to tie 2 dry flies on, one larger one with a parachute on the point and the smaller midge dry on the tail.

When should I be fishing these patterns?

As with all dry fly fishing, it’s time to start fishing them when you see trout rising or you see the midges flying around. Add an emerging pattern as a dry dropper to one of the midge dries and you’ll be golden.

Tips For Fly Fishing Midges

Tips For Fly Fishing Midges

Use Light tippet: Midges are tiny flies, and if you use a tippet that is too thick, then trout will notice their unnatural movement in the water. You should drop down to a 6x-7x tippet and tie your midge flies on to that.

Target Slack Water With Dries: Adult midges tend to collect on the surface in large numbers in slack water near banks and in eddies. Pro tip: Try using a large pattern or one with some flash, or your fly might get lost amongst the masses, and the trout might not even notice them.

Tailwaters & Spring Fed Waters Are Best In Winter: Some of the best midge fishing is during winter, but you have to find the right rivers first. Any river that is spring-fed or tailwater from a dam or lake will have warm enough water for midges to be hatching and trout to be active.



Do trout eat midges?

Yes, trout do eat midges. Midges are usually eaten by trout when they are in the larval or pupal stages. The adults may also be eaten, but they are not as desirable to trout.

What size hooks for midges?

The size of the hooks for midges will depend on the size of the midge pattern. Generally, size 16-24 hooks are suitable for midge patterns.

How do you set up a midge rig?

Setting up a midge rig is simple and is the exact same way you’d set up a nymph, double nymph, dry dropper, or dry rig, depending on the flies you want to fish. Using two flies is always a good idea as you will be fishing multiple depths with multiple patterns which always produces more trout than using just one single fly.

What is the best midge pattern?

If there are three midge patterns you should own they are: zebra midge, a top-secret midge, and Griffith’s gnat. Each of these is the best for each stage of development of a midge and by having these in various sizes and colors you’re going to be able to imitate every stage of the midge life cycle perfectly

So there you have it, folks! The world of midge patterns demystified for you. Now that you’re armed with this knowledge, it’s time to hit the water and put these tips to the test. Remember, fly fishing is as much about the experience as it is the catch. So, take your time, observe nature, and enjoy the process. And don’t forget to keep us posted on your fishing adventures. Feel free to drop a comment below sharing your experiences, tips, or any questions you might have. Tight lines, my friends!

Save Up To 50% At Trident Fly Fishing

We’ve partnered with Trident Fly Fishing to get you EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNTS on a huge selection of fly fishing gear. I highly recommend checking out their USED GEAR SECTION to save a ton on a premium rod and reel.

Trident Fly Fishing Deal

Leave a Comment

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

Scroll to Top