Every year after things cool off significantly there is an increasing buzz amongst fly fishers about midges. Adult midges are the small gnat-like bugs that start to appear once things cool off. They offer the most consistent hatch every winter and trout often focus on them. The larva and pupa midges become active and fill the water columns, and not surprisingly trout feed heavily on them. Having said that, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Trout still love large bugs, even in the winter! Its crazy, I know. I’m telling you that caddis, stonefly, and mayfly larva and nymphs still abound in rivers. They don’t mysteriously disappear every fall and reappear every spring. They are there year round, and fish feed on them constantly. Yes its true, there are many more opportunities for trout to chow on midges, but let me ask you this; when you go out to dinner at your favorite steakhouse and they bring you out a side of fries to accompany your gargantuan ribeye, do you eat the fries and leave aside the main course? So what makes you think a fish munching on midges will ignore a well presented ginormous stonefly nymph? I’m here to tell you winter is a great time to fish large patterns to lethargic, hungry fish. I believe these large morsels often entice trout to bite at times when small midges wouldn’t even get a second look by the trout. I don’t want to mislead anyone, stonefly nymphs only work well in streams that are home to stonefly nymphs, the same with mayflies and all large insects. You wouldn’t want to chuck stoneflies to tailwater trout sipping midge pupa. Midges play a very important role to both trout and fishermen, I don’t want to downplay that fact, but I do encourage you to think outside the box and continue to fish your favorite mayfly, stonefly, and caddis patterns in streams and rivers where these large insects are found.
Here are a few examples from the past few winters: