The business I own operates from about the middle of April through the first of November. This doesn’t leave me much time to fish during the spring, summer and fall, here in Wisconsin. About twelve years ago I headed out west during the months of February, March and the beginning of April. (I spent ten years living in Colorado back in the 70s but I never fished early spring.) The midge hatches are about the only thing going during this time, but when they come off its, Katy bar the door. I had never experienced fish feeding on these tiny bugs before, in such numbers and of such size. It was on that first trip, about twelve years ago, that I matched wits with the midge hatch, and it threw me for a loop. I was fishing some quite water off the main current, during a warm, cloudless, afternoon; nymphing with some success. Then the rise forms started. Slowly at first, but it didn’t take long and I found myself literally surrounded by fish. But try as I did I couldn’t buy a strike. And to top it off, I saw nothing on the water, or in the air. I always carry a small seine and a small vial filled with Bug Balm, so I decided to investigate. The midge pupa immediately showed up in the seine, but I had nothing, even close in size or color, to match. That night I tied a half dozen imitations as close as I could to the specimen in hand. You know exactly where I was the following afternoon, and the emergence came off as I hoped. This time I had a ball.
Last week of February on the San Juan, years back: I was above the braided water, between shore and a small island, on a warm, cloudless, late morning. (I love the warm cloudless days for their comfort, but I’ve had the best fishing in the nastiest weather) The fish were rising sporadically, but I did manage to cast to a few that seemed to have a pattern set. I knew that they were taking small midges because I could see the midges on the water, but I had nothing to match. I took my sample and tied a few that night. These were # 28. I didn’t even have hooks that small in my collection, but thank God the fly shop did. You know exactly where I was the following morning, and the fish were taking. I wasn’t near as successful this time. I only caught three, but one was 21 inches, all on my #28 dry.
So you see, I’ve become hooked on midge fishing, I do 90% of my fishing when the midges are about the only game in town, and consequently 90% of my tying is in the 22 and up sizes. I’ve also had some very good fishing on the BWO hatches in March and April but that too has been covered with the #22. Believe it or not, when I head west in the early spring, the biggest fly in my two boxes is a #18. And I can't remember the last time I used a fly that big.