By Steve Smith, River’s Wild Flies

One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of fly fishing is fishing dry flies. In particular, really small dry flies. So what are these mysterious little flies? The tiny gnat looking things that some people mistake for mosquitoes are actually midges. They are one of the hardiest aquatic insects found in any water, hatching virtually year round. They are especially important to trout during the winter and early spring months when they might be the only active insects at the time. Midges are most vulnerable to trout when they are emerging. They will “hang” in the surface film, break away from their pupal skin, then emerge as a fully winged adult. They will rest on the surface to dry out their wings before they take flight. This is where trout come along and snatch them up before they can take off. During a midge hatch there may be a whole pod of trout softly sipping midges. So now the question is – how do I fool one of these guys?

Having the right leader and tippet is the first crucial step. Years ago someone taught me the basic rule of thumb and I’ve never forgotten it. Take the size of flies you are fishing with and divide the number by three and that will tell you what size of tippet you will need. Most of the adult midge patterns are probably going to be size 18 or smaller, so you will need 6X or 7X tippet.  The length of your leader is important as well. Most of the time during a midge hatch, fish will move into calm areas where the midges are abundant and easily available. They will feed warily and spook at the first sight of an improper leader.  9ft. of leader should be sufficient although I have had times where I have lengthened my leader out to 12 ft.

Choosing the right fly is the next step. I think the CDC Adult is a good imitation of the real thing. The CDC feather helps float the fly and makes it highly visible to the fisherman. It’s easy to tie if you can navigate the small hook.

To tie the CDC Adult it involves three simple steps. For the body, you just wrap thread. For the wing use a sparse amount of CDC feather. Clip it down to size so the wing extends to the back of the hook. For the collar, you make one or two turns of small grizzly hackle. Avoid the temptation to overdress this fly. Remember your not tying an Elk Hair Caddis. It should be more on the sparse side.

Hook: Dry fly hook sizes 18-24
Thread: 8/0 Black or Dark Olive
Wing: White or Natural CDC feather.
Hackle: Small grizzly hackle.