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Midge Fly Fishing – Tips For Better Midge Fishing

Midges are a river bug that are available to trout all year long. They are small, mosquito like creatures that are present in most trout streams. Although they hatch all year long, winter time is often the best midge fishing. During the winter months, midges are often the main food source for trout.

Since no other bugs are hatching during the winter months, midges become very important for fly fisherman. Having a good selection of midge flies can really help your winter fishing tactics.

This article will dive into how to fish midges, and some good patterns to try out. If you’re a winter fly fisherman, midges are a great thing to have in your boxes.

Midge Fly Sizing

Midges range in size from a #16 down to a #26 or smaller. During the dead of winter, the smaller sizes will be really prominent. Going down to a #22 or #24 can produce great results. On some technical tailwaters, going down to a #26 can be beneficial, but I really don’t like fishing that small. The hook can pop out very easily on the tiny hooks.

As the rivers start to warm up in the spring, bigger midges come out. #16 and #18 midges will become more abundant. This is often when the blue winged olives are out, too. So you can fish both flies on the same nymph rig.

These days, I don’t like fishing any midge smaller than a #20, I find that the really small hooks can pop or bend out. If I can get away with a size #20 midge, then i’ll feel more confident that I can hook and land trout.

Midge Fly Colors

Common midge colors are black, brown and grey. However, you can experiment with some crazier color patterns. I’ll often fish orange, pink or red midges throughout the winter months. Although they aren’t very realistic, trout seem to bite them anyway.

If the trout are really picky in your area, you’ll probably want to fish duller colors. A black or grey midge can fool even the pickiest of trout. Flip over a rock and see what the midge larva look like. If they are darker colored, it is best to imitate those colors.

The best tactic is to have a large variety of midge colors. Selection is everything when it comes to midge fishing. You’ll often have to shuffle through different patterns to see what the fish want. This is just part of the game.

Midge Fly Patterns

When it comes to midge patterns, there are literally hundreds to choose from. You can even make up your own pattern with some thread and ultra wire.

For fishing here in Colorado streams, my favorite midge patterns are:

As you can see, the patterns are pretty simple. Any beginner fly tyer can get good at midges quickly. There aren’t many materials involved, and you can really get creative with colors.

Rigging Midges

For midge nymphing, I will often just run a two fly rig. Clinch knots to my midges, a split shot, and an indicator.

Sometimes I’ll fish 3 midges in a row, but if you break off, you’ll lose 3 flies at once. Colorado allows for up to 3 hooks on a fishing rig, so 3 fly rigs have gotten really popular. Breaking these rigs off can get very expensive, though. Especially if you don’t tie your own flies.

I will often put a midge with a tungsten bead as my first fly, and then I will trail an unweighted midge off of that. I tie a lot of midges with glass beads which are unweighted. The glass bead looks a lot like an air bubble, which is realistic of a midge hatching. The tungsten bead midge gets my flies down fast, and the unweighted midge gives the trout another option to eat.

For tippet selection, 5x or 6x fluorocarbon is best. It is hard to fit thicker tippet through the small hook eyes, and trout often won’t bite a midge tied to heavy tippet. In the winter, being stealthy is very important, so thinner tippets really help with that.

For fly rod selection, I like to fish a 4 or a 5 weight rod. Since midge rigs are pretty light, there is no need to fish a heavy rod. Longer tapered leaders can be really beneficial for midge fishing. You don’t want the fish to see your fly line when you’re trying to be stealthy in the winter.

Midge Dry Flies

If you see rising trout in the winter, they are probably eating midges! Midge dry fly fishing can be a blast, but the trout can be super picky. Having the right pattern and size can make or break your day.

One of my favorite midge dries is the sprout midge. A small sprout midge can usually fool a winter trout. The white post on this fly allows me to see it very well. A lot of midge dries don’t have any visibility, which can make it very hard to detect strikes.

I usually fish a sprout midge in a size #20 or #22. Black works great, as well as the grey color.

You can also fish a very small parachute adams. A para adams in a #22 or #24 can fool most winter trout. Sometimes I will fish a double dry fly rig – a sprout midge to a parachute adams.

Griffiths gnats can be another great winter choice. This fly looks like a cluster of hatching midges, and trout can be very receptive to it.

I usually end up buying these very small dry flies. I consider myself a good tyer, but they can be very difficult to tie well.

It can be hard to find rising fish in the winter. The good thing is that when you do, they are probably eating midges. This makes matching the hatch much easier, and takes the guess work out of it.


When fly fishing for trout in the winter, patience is key. Hopping around to a bunch of spots doesn’t pay off. Pick a run and work it thoroughly. Dial in your depth, weight, and fly selection. When you start hooking into fish, there is likely to be plenty more in that area. Make lots of drifts and take your time. Patient anglers achieve great results.

Fish midges in slower, deeper water. Trout will spend lots of time in deeper holes in the winter. They don’t have to use much energy, and they can eat a bunch of midges coming their way.