The Zebra Midge Step-by-Step

The Zebra Midge Step-by-Step:

The minute larva of the Chironomidae, the non-biting midges, are perhaps the most widespread aquatic insects on the planet. With roughly 20,000 known species and a geographic range that stretches from the neotropics to Antarctica, there should be little doubt that midges (larvae, pupa and adult) hold a prominent position in the diet of fish species across the globe. In the realm of fly fishing, however, the trout remains king, and it is the midge’s role in the trout’s diet that has truly brought these tiny aquatics to the forefront.

No where is this more true than the tailwaters of Colorado where guides like Pat Dorsey have largely shaped their careers around a deep understanding of Chironomidae and the trout that feed on them. In his book Colorado Guide Flies, Dorsey includes over 100 subsurface midge patterns alone.

No doubt such a selection feels a bit overwhelming to the novice tyer. Yet, closer inspection reveals the true simplicity of midge fishing. While size, color and adornment (gill tufts, etc) may vary, nearly all of these patterns are constructed on the same base: a thread body with wire or flash ribbing.

As such, anyone who can master the basic midge profile has developed the foundation necessary to eventually tie the plethora of more complex offerings designed by Dorsey and his fellow tailwater experts. Presented below is such a pattern: the Zebra Midge.

Curved Nymph (#18) 70 Denier (Black)Materials Tungsten (Silver; 2mm)
Materials Ultra Wire (XS; Silver)

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The Zebra Midge Step-by-Step Tying Instructions:

(Mobile Viewers: Click images to enlarge)

Tips and Tricks

  1. Thread Sizing– Selecting the appropriate thread size is key when dealing with patterns that predominantly consist of the material. You are not simply utilizing your thread to secure other materials, but instead constructing your fly with it. This means the size, shape and profile of your fly will be dependent on your thread. For a finer taper consider a lower gauge thread (12/0). For a thicker taper, consider a heavier gauge as shown.
  2. Thread Quality – Beyond size, the type and quality of thread utilized will play a significant role in the quality of fly you produce. Tying thread should flatten out when spun counterclockwise. This allows for a smooth tapered body. In the example above, the 6/0 Uni-thread I utilized would not flatten. The result (especially under my camera’s macro lens) is a less-than-ideal ridged appearance to the fly. While this may not be obviously visible without the benefit of a macro lens, it is good practice to consistently flatten your thread when producing such thread bodies.

Proof of Concept

While I’ve been lucky enough to fish some of Colorado’s better known tailwaters on a handful of occasions in recent years, I’ve yet to try my hand at midge fishing. As a result, this proof of concept shall remain incomplete for the time being.

Perhaps if time and conditions allow, I’ll be able to update this section before 2021 comes to a close.

Tight Lines!


The road into Eleven Mile Canyon
Species Caught on the Zebra Midge Fly to Date:

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