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Summer Midge Fishing

Judy Van Put - Columnist
Posted 6/22/20

It is now officially the season of Summer! And we hope that the weather is as good as it was in the spring - the past few weeks were absolutely beautiful, ending a mild spring with no late killing …

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Summer Midge Fishing

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It is now officially the season of Summer! And we hope that the weather is as good as it was in the spring - the past few weeks were absolutely beautiful, ending a mild spring with no late killing frosts to disturb the apple and pear blossoms on our trees.

It should be a good year for wild fruits and berries and hopefully the summer weather will be conducive to good vegetable gardening and all the outdoor activities we look forward to during these precious weeks of summer.

On Sunday evening, June 20, 2020, the Beaverkill at Cooks Falls was flowing at 203 cubic feet per second, which was below the average flow on this date of 250 cfs over 105 years of record-keeping. This confirms our findings as we drove along the Willowemoc and Beaverkill that afternoon.

On a fishing trip a couple of evenings ago there were many different types and sizes of flies hatching - from Blue Winged Olives to Caddis flies, Sulphurs and a good number of midges. These tiny flies hatch all throughout the trout fishing season; we have actually seen trout rising to midges along the Beaverkill and Willowemoc in just about every month of the year - even during the dead of winter, when the sun is on the water and air temperatures reach 32 degrees - and as there are not many other flies that are hatching at this time of the year or under wintry conditions, they are sometimes referred to as “snow flies.”

Is there an official name for these “snow flies”/ midges or are they just very small flies? Midges are a distinct family - from the Class of Insecta (insects) the Order Diptera (considered “true flies,” with just one pair of wings, as compared to most of the other flies we fish with, caddis flies, mayflies and stoneflies, that have two pair of wings) and the Family Chironomidae.

These are non-biting midges that somewhat resemble mosquitoes but lack the mouthparts. The larvae of these tiny insects are very abundant in fresh water and are a major part of the young trout's diet; perhaps remaining in the memory of the adult trout, who eagerly feed on the midges when they are hatching.

As can be imagined, fishing with tiny flies is a totally different experience than fishing with larger flies. For those who have not fished with midges, why not take the challenge? It's a different style of fishing that involves using flies of sizes #20, #22, #24 etc. on very fine (size 7X or even 8X) tippet. I remember having listened to a recorded book many years ago - Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, written in 1653 - and being fascinated by the section in which he describes fishing with long lines and small flies.

Trout that are ‘midging' are feeding on flies that are extremely small; and their sight is keen to zero in on them. Therefore, it is of great importance to make your approach to the stream quietly and carefully; spend more time observing the water and watching for small rises (sometimes called dimples) that can actually look like drops of rain, rather than disturbing the water and putting the fish down by noisily wading and casting excessively, until you have a ‘target' to cast to.

Your casts should be dead-on accurate, with the least disturbance to the water as possible. Wait until your fly is downstream and past the area in which the trout is feeding before picking it up - gently - to cast again.

Be ready for the fish to take your fly; it may be difficult to see the trout actually take your fly, but it's not really important to see the fish take - you can set the hook if you see a rise in the general direction that your fly is in. Most trout will continue feeding in the same area, not moving more than inches to take the fly.

When you see a rise in the vicinity of your fly, remember that you are fishing with a very fine tippet; size 7X is not much heavier than a human hair, and generally all you need to do is to raise the rod to set the hook. It may take several attempts at first, but midge fishing is challenging, exciting and fun when you are successful!

Judy Van Put is a long-time member of the NYS Outdoor Writers Association, and is the recipient of the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited's Professional Communications Award.

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