.......................  ......Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park

Fishing Cold Water - Part Eight - Midges
My first real experience fishing midge patterns was on the San Juan River in
New Mexico. When Angie and I first went into a local fly shop to purchase a New
Mexico fishing license, I was amazed at their fly selection. You couldn't find a
mayfly, stonefly or caddisfly pattern. There were hundreds of midge patterns
and I would guess the average hook size was a 22 or smaller. The long fly bins
were covered with plastic tweezers placed there so you could pick up the tiny
midge flies and place them in a container to purchase them.

I just decided I would catch trout the same way I had been catching them, on the
same flies I had been using and not be thrown off-course with a local fly shops
huge display of midges. After a full day of fishing, we concluded something was
wrong with what we were doing. I managed a couple of small trout on a size 20,
blue-winged olive nymph and that was it. Our second day there, we meet a nice
gentlemen who took the time to show us his midge rigs. I think he noticed we
were not using midges. He had hundreds of midge flies in two small boxes, all of
which he tied using various sizes of thread. He insisted we take about two dozen
of them and then he walked down to the river and demonstrated how he fished
them. He caught two trout showing us how to do it. I was amazed at the
effectiveness of his presentation.

The next day we picked out a new section of the river to fish where I would have
no one looking at me like I was a stupid greenhorn. Within the first hour, using
his flies and method of fishing, I caught two brown trout, both over fourteen
inches. Angie tied the flies on for me simply because I couldn't see them well
enough even with my glasses. Later, I found out they were a hook size 24. We
had to purchase 7X tippet material. We didn't even own any at the time.
Anything larger would not go through the eye of the hooks on his flies.

Early in the afternoon, at the head of a long, slow moving pool, I begin to catch
more fish. The largest two went twenty-four and twenty-six inches respectively. I
lost two or three that were probably that large that same day. What I learned
during the next few days we fished the San Juan was that big fish will eat tiny
midges. Now, I must add, that if you pick up a double hand full of bottom from
the San Juan River, and examine it carefully, you will see hundreds of midge
larvae. The trout lie on or very near the bottom in slow to moderately moving
water and apparently eat them like we eat popcorn. That is about all they are for
them to eat in the San Juan. There are few hatches of anything else. I can also
say we have found heavy concentrations of midges in several streams within
Yellowstone National Park as well as the surrounding streams in Yellowstone

I have taken up a lot of time to tell a big fishing story but I wanted to make a
point. Big trout will eat tiny midge larvae, pupae or adult midges. After that
experience, we begin to fish midges just about every where we fished for trout.
What we found was that it doesn't matter if you are fishing the San Juan River,
the Madison River, or any other stream, trout will eat them. It also doesn't matter
what time of year you fish them. What we also discovered was that landing a fish
on 7x tippet and tiny midge flies was really not that difficult. It just takes some
practice and time fighting the fish. When the water is cold, it doesn't hurt to fight
the trout for a while.

Not long after we fished New Mexico, we began to fish imitations of midges on
streams we never thought about fishing them on. So far, when the water has
been cold, we haven't found a stream where we couldn't do well with midge

Copyright 2012 James Marsh