Throughout the open water season chironomids are the number one, and therefore the most important, food item in a trouts diet. Although they are perhaps the toughest discipline for the fly fisher to master, they offer the greatest rewards. If we could fish only one fly on the still water lakes of beautiful British Columbia it would be the chironomid pupa!
Behavior of Larva
The majority of these guys live in tubes in the mud from 6 to 25ft and deeper. They are vulnerable to trout predation when migrating and when, in large numbers, they come out of their tubes to eat and relocate to bigger tubes.
In the spring they migrate towards the shallows and then in the fall they head back to deep water.
They move along slowly crawling on or swimming near the bottom amongst the mud and weeds. During wind generated currents in the spring and fall, large
numbers of larva are swept up to the surface where they are then fed upon by trout.
The chironomid larva can be fished year round but fishing is best in the spring, just after ice off to early summer, & again in the late fall.
Use them when there is little other activity on the surface.
Trout will key on them when the larva are feeding along the bottom or migrating to shallows in the spring and to the depths in the fall.
Behavior of the Pupa
The pupa stage of the chironomid life cycle is relatively short. Chironomids emerge as pupa from their mud tubes on the lake bottom. At this point, and usually in large numbers, the pupa begins its ascent to the surface. With their bodies in a vertical position , they slowly wiggle to the surface becoming very vulnerable to trout predation.
Once at the surface they begin to break free of their pupal casing and crawl vertically from the husk leaving it laying horizontal in the water.
When to Fish the Pupa
Like the larva, the chironomid pupa can be successfully fished year round but is best in the spring just after ice off to early summer and again in late fall. They can be very successful during a hatch and whenever casings are present on surface of the water.
Trout key on the pupa during its slow wiggling ascent to the surface. Another indication of pupa ascent is feeding birds as well as swarms of flies hovering near shore – a clue to a recent hatch.
Fly Line & Presentation (larva & pupa)
Floating Line - A floating line with long leader/tippet is very effective in water up to 10ft. deep. Use either sinking tippet, sinking dressing or a weighted fly to present quickly. Tippet sizes from 4x – 6x are common.
Attach enough tippet material to reach the lake bottom. Place a strike indicator on the tippet to keep the fly suspended near or just on the bottom and keep a careful eye on it.
Use a VERY slow, one inch per second and slower, retrieve. You will be able to detect bottom as the indicator will bob under slightly when retrieved as the fly hooks on weeds.
When a fish takes the fly, the indicator may suddenly dart under the surface or the take may be so subtle that the indicator barley tips over in the water – either way, at this time the fly must be set quickly or you may miss the fish.
To use floating line with no strike indicator let the fly settle to near or on the bottom and slowly retrieve. Keep the line tight and watch end of the floating line for ANY movement. As with the indicator, set quickly upon the movement or you may miss the fish.
… for more detail on this deadly made in BC technique check out … long lining chironomids by Mr. Rainbow!
Sinking Line – Use sinking lines for water over 10 ft. A leader/tippet combo of 6 – 9 ft is fine as are tippet sizes from 4x – 6x.
After your cast simply let the fly settle to the bottom then s-l-o-w-l-y retrieve – one inch per second and slower but throw in the odd quick one to two inch jerk every thirty or so seconds …
If sight fishing, cast your fly in the area of the fish, being careful not to spook them, and then be patient until the fish are near your fly – at this point begin a slow retrieve.
… for more detail on the sinking line style check out … deep water chironomids by John Sclar!
These techniques are just starting pints … vary it up until you find what is working on that particular day. Don’t give up cause when you hit the sweet spot you will be in for some of the best fly fishing that you will ever encounter!
Chironomid Adult (Terrestrial):
Chironomid adults look just like mosquitoes but without the bite. Fish adult chironomids when you see fish taking hatching pupae on the surface. A floating line is required and the presentation is usually very static. A light weight mono leader and tippet is a must to keep the presentation above board. Strikes are more noticeable than the underwater methods as you can literally see the fish sip the fly … this is the time to set the hook.
… check out this incredible underwater video depicting the life stages, natural movements & emergence of the chironomid (larva, pupa & adult) … generously permitted for our our use by Klaus Peter Brodersen!
Flies To Use:
Krazy, Graham or Kamloops Bloodworm, Sizes 10 to16, in red, green or a red/green combo.
Commercial Patterns Include: Red Quill, Carey Red
Other Colors Include: Burgundy, Yellow, Tan & Clear
Any of our pupa patterns from size 10 to 16 in black, brown, red, green and silver.
Commercial Patterns Include: Doc Spratley, Lady McConnell (emerger)
Other Colors Include: Tan, Gray and Clear
Griffiths Gnat, Brian Chan’s Lady McConnell & small Tom Thumbs.
Here’s some of our chironomid flies:
And here’s some of our step by step’s on how to tie them:
- Black & Red Ice Cream Cone Chironomid Pupa
- Chartreaus & Red Ribbed Static Bag Chironomid Pupa
- Hot Spot Chironomids
- John Kent’s Top Ten Chironomid Patterns
- Krazy’s Black & Silver Red Butt Chironomid Pupa
- The “Bleeding Limey” Acetate Floss Chironomid!
- The “Blood Clot” Bloodworm!
- The “KKK” Chironomid Pupa!
- The “Major General” Chironomid Pupa!
- The Bare Bones Chironamo!
- The FGN “Create A Hatch” Chironomid Pupa!
- Wine & Gold
* Looking for some custom tied proven effective BC Interior chironomid fly patterns? Contact us for details!
* For more aquatic entomology information check out our …
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