Spring Quilled Midges

Sometimes when it’s cool and breezy in the early spring, nothing is seemingly coming out of the water. If you really want to catch a nice trout on a dry fly you have to pull something out of your vest that is part of the buffet line menu for the surface feeders. 

Most often trout throughout the day are still pecking at the surface in the not so hatchy moments. Prior to the Hendrickson hatches it can be discouraging but with a little patience and a keen eye you can feel like your beating the winter blues. Little black midges are quite common during these times of year. Not only are they nearly impossible to see in flight but they are nearly indistinguishable when they are emerging and floating in the surface film. As we all know black midges are hard to fish especially when they are size 22’s and smaller. During certain parts of the day it’s very hard to even see a midge cluster because of reflections and shadows on the water. The trick is to create something that is very small like the naturals but is easy to see so you don’t miss strikes. Being a die hard dry fly guy I don’t even carry nymphs or streamers in my fly boxes so I had to devise a way to keep catching fish on the surface in the off season. These same patterns are actually quite effective very late in the season as well, from late October through end of November.

Over the years I’ve developed my own tactics by doing lots of sight fishing, and casting very small midge emerger patterns. Prospecting, i.e. standing in the water and simply casting dry fly’s in likely areas just does not work that great in early spring and it is not a preferred way of fishing for me personally. If you carry a monocular and spot fish ever so slightly pecking at the surface you may be pleasantly surprised. Sometimes you may find they are Shiners or Chub, but most of the time it’s a trout looking for something to nibble on the surface. The little sucking action is very deceiving during the early spring, they are conserving energy and will not move far from their feeding lanes. So the little nibble can be quite a large fish, they are not going to throw surface bulges like other times of the year.

There are two fly’s that I use almost exclusively, it is the Black Quilled Midge Para Emerger, and the Black Quilled Fore & Aft. I have tweaked my patterns around a bit over the years to my liking using quills, mini silk thoraxes, hackle hues, and different hook types. I fish these on 6x and 7x, and coincidently lose a lot of them too. So I tie up about a dozen at a time. Remember midges do not have tails!, so if your tying up a natural and want to mimic a trailing schuck a few fibers of undyed mallard flank works great. These two patterns are definitely my old stand by’s to transition myself from winter to spring and keep me satiated with my dry fly obsession during the colder parts of the season.

Quilled Midge Para Emerger

Hook: TMC 2487 #18-24

Body: Black dyed quills

Thorax: Pure silk dyed black

Wing Post: Turkey flat

Hackle: Black or dark dun saddle hackle

Black Quilled Fore & Aft

Hook: TMC 101 #20-26

Body: Black dyed quills

Hackle: Black, medium dun, 

or ginger hackle.