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Friday, September 12, 2014

Chironomids - Their Importance to Fly Fishers

For most of us the thought of chironomids just makes us shake our head and wonder why. When we contemplate tossing a tiny midge pattern into that huge expanse of a lake it borders on the irrational. What chance is there that a trout would be able to distinguish our offering in that vast expanse of water poses many questions. One of them is why bother? Fortunately for us stillwater fly fishers the reality of presenting chironomids is different than our initial perception. Especially when it comes to the, pupa and larva in particular. Trout are more than capable of tracking down this calorie rich food source, often in alarming numbers, much more than we wish to give them credit for.

What is the real importance of chironomids to our stillwater fly fishing endeavors? Lets review some facts. Based upon studies, Chironomids are often acknowledged as the most important food source for stillwater trout. Throughout the fly fishing season, daytime feeding samples show that on some lakes 50% of the trout's daytime feeding consists of Chironomids. This drops to 14% for those fish feeding in the evening or at night. Of most importance is the fact that Chironomids are much more significant as a daytime food source.

Once we arrive on the lake and get firmly anchored into correct position we must choose a presentation technique based upon the conditions at hand while answering the challenge of what pattern to choose. Sounds pretty basic, right? We need to learn the life cycle of a chironomid to do so.

Chironomid Hatches

What about the Chironomid hatches? What time of year are they available to the trout and at what stage?

In general, various species of Chironomids hatch whenever there is water free of ice. Seasonal peaks occur from the third week in May to the second week in June and then steadily decline into the fall months. However, very large hatches of individual species can occur at most any time of the year on specific stillwaters. You need to do your homework to determine the hatches on the stillwaters you intend to fish. Use the internet or talk to fly shops in the areas you are intending to fish. Get informed.

Chironomid larva on the lake bottom will sometimes exceed 50,000 individuals per square meter and thus form 'major' hatches. If you are fishing in a 'major' hatch, use a fly that is slightly larger than the actual size of the pupa. For the fly fisher, minor hatches often result in more fish than a major hatch. Hatches usually occur during the daylight hours but various species will hatch at night.

As with all food sources that trout eat, the ultimate success for us fly fishers depends upon an intimate knowledge of the chironomid life cycle. Over the course of the season trout see and consume enough chironomids that they often react in a conditioned response whether there is a hatch or not. In essence if your fly is in front of their noses and you have tied on a reasonable imitation, they will probably eat it. This aspect is why we should not give up on targeting chironomids when fishing stillwaters.

Chironomid 101
I've been compiling research on chironomids from my library and from articles on the web and am writing a series of Articles on Chironomids that cover their Entomolgy and tactics for imitating them. I'll call the series of articles Chironomid 101. I'll also be integrating these articles in the Bug Section of the website. Keep tuned for some inside information on Chironomids from Brian Chan, Phil Rowley and a host of others.

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Have any Questions or Comments? Let me know, Clay.