early spring lake fishing, chironomid pupae, beadhead raspberry midge

My sons hauled me off to a beautiful mountain pond Saturday.  Streams will always be my favorite haunt, but this was a fabulous day made all the nicer with some fine fish brought to boat.  The secret – next to 2 fine sons managing the canoe with me seated comfortably in the bilge – was the use of chironomid pupa imitations, fished 2-3′ off the bottom using a suspending indicator with slow hand-twist retrieve (a useful skill, first learned at age 12 for fishing crappie with wet flies on Mauthe Lake near my childhood home in Wisconsin).

Takes were solid, nothing subtle about it – tight line / bent rod before registering that the indicator was gone.  Fish were smashing these, not merely sipping.

I’m often a bit reluctant to employ a suspending sighter (floating indicator) on rivers, preferring to nymph running water with tight line techniques, but in lakes/ponds particularly, this is a highly effective approach to place/hold a nymph in the appropriate feeding zone.  A beadhead provided sufficient weight, and temptation to add some lead shot was quickly overcome with the appearance of a number of diving ducks (goldeneyes), known to pick up lost lead along with gravel for their gizzard, to their potential detriment. We don’t need no stinking’ lead.

classic-red-buttChironomid (midge) larvae and pupae represent the dominant benthic food source in these lakes throughout the year, and are of particular significance in the early season,  (Although many chironomid species thrive in stagnant and polluted waters this was not the case here, in a pond fed by pristine and highly oxygenated glacial-melt water).  A number of effective patterns have been developed to represent the pupal stage, from the very simple thread-bodied zebra midge in black/silver or other color variations and the WD-40 in olive to more sophisticated “buzzer” patterns; I’m rather fond (even moreso now) of Rob Rooks’ “berry” series of midge pupae (see below). As these pupae possess a hemoglobin-like pigment to bind oxygen, red/pink patterns are often the most effective chironomid imitations.  A more realistic imitation might include white gill material ahead of the thorax, even ahead of the bead, but I’m not about to get into an argument with some 102+ inches of wild trout.

brownMy prize was first fish of the day, my first-ever brown trout – 16″ – (unusual in these parts; 80-yr-old hatchery stock, since established as naturally reproducing).  Doubly sweet, as this was my first fish since a nasty stroke last September.  Caleb’s prize was a fat 17″ ‘bow that rather resembled a tail-dancing tuna hybrid, followed by an even larger brown bounced feet from the gunnel.  Ben managed 3 fish, a nice brown a tad larger than mine & 2 ‘bows.  All these are all back in the lake & swimming for our next visit.

Christened a new rod –  a Taimen (Tichy, Poland) FSX 9′ 4-wt, with Barrio Mallard DT 4-wt line.  A lovely rod at a great price; light-weight, responsive & sensitive.  re buying a rod from Poland, these folks provide excellent service and fast, economical shipping.  And the Barrio Mallard is a very nice-handling line, perfectly-matched to this rod.  Easily cast from my seat in the bilge, without putting my bow- & stern paddlers at risk; or perhaps they’re really good at ducking and far too kind to be critical of their old man.  A 4-wt might be considered to be on the light side for open-water fishing, but this performed admirably.

raspberryFly of the day – (Rooks’) Raspberry midge:

hook: barbless curved grub/pupa hook (Dohiku HDP/HDG, Hanák 300 BL, Hends BL 554 or similar); #14-16 (Hanák 310 BL in #12, Hanák 350 BL in #18)

bead: silver or gold, 2.5mm (for #16-14; adjust for #12, 18)

tail: a few fibres of barred teal, natural mallard,  or wood duck flank; with 2-4 strands of pearl crystal flash

abdomen: Uni-wire, small to brassie; 2 strands red, 1 strand silver; wound simultaneously in parallel for a striped/segmented body (using rotary feature of vice); I believe the original pattern used red floss double-ribbed with silver and red wire, but I prefer the all-wire abdomen for appearance, slimness & weight, & ease of tying.

“wing”: a few fibres of barred teal, mallard,  or wood duck flank (match tail) with 2-4 strands of pearl crystal flash (fold center of 2 strands around tying thread, bind down & cut to length); usually tied shorter than illustrated here

thorax: raspberry sorbet-colored dubbing (Sybai Fine Diamond Dubbing, bright pink, or similar) in thin, tight dubbing noodle over “wing” base, tight up behind the bead.


“blueberry” variant

I tie this pattern as well in “blueberry” (blue),  “loganberry” (purple),  “blackberry” (black/blue/purple), and “gooseberry” (green/olive) variants, and frequently use them – esp. the blue – in dry/dropper arrangement with a #16-18 pupa on a 12-24″dropper  off the bend of a #14-12 dry such as a balloon sedgehammer, for river fishing as “searching” patterns).

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