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Flyfishing Chironomid Techniques by Greg Leche
Chironomids can be a total nightmare if you don’t know how to fish them properly. Chironomids are available from the day the ice comes off till it goes back on at the end of the season. They are the first major hatch of the open water season. Most Chironomids hatch from May through until August. There are several stages of a Chironomid. The Larvae (also called Bloodworms), Pupa and the Adult. It is the pupa stage that the trout tend to key in on more than the other stages.
There are several ways to fish the Chironomid Pupa. My favorite is a floating with a long leader. In the early spring I will use a strike indicator to help detect strikes. But if I’m fishing late in Summer I won’t use one because the Chironomids are usually bigger and the trout tend to hit them fairly hard. These bigger Chironomids are known as bombers. Tunkwa and Leighton Lake are known for the Bombers.
Your leader can vary from 9 to 30 feet in length. I like to start with a floating line with a 16 foot leader and a piece of 4 pound tippet about 2 feet long. I use a blood knot to connect the tippet. Then at the knot I add a small piece of lead putty. This will help get your fly down quicker. After your fly has sunk to the desired depth, begin a slow hand twist retrieve. It must be slow.
There is a saying when Chironomid fishing. It says if you think your retrieving it to slow, then retrieve it 10 times slower. To detect a Chironomid hatch you should be looking for birds flying around a certain area. Also watch underneath the water for rising Chironomids.
Another method to fish Chironomids with is to use a fast sinking line. Cast out as far as the depth that you are in. Allow your fly line to sink straight down and begin a slow hand twist retrieve. This method usually results in a hard strike. Another thing to keep in mind is always be anchored to prevent the wind from blowing your float tube or boat all over the place.
Color and size are very important so be on the lookout for emerging Chironomids to determine what to use. Common colors are black, brown, maroon and olive. They can range greatly in size from a size 22 to a size 8. Your average sized Chironomid is about a size 12-14.
Bloodworms are usually effective in early Spring and again in the Fall. Sometimes during the Summer when hatches are minimal, the fish will key in on them. Bloodworms are usually red in color but can also be brown or dark green. They are always on the bottom accept when strong winds stir the lakes bottom and the Bloodworms are swept off the bottom, making them vulnerable to trout. Use the same techniques as you would with the pupa stage.
You have probably noticed the wind usually dies down in the evenings. These conditions bring the adult chironomids back to the lake to lay their eggs. Fish at times will key in on them. A small Tom Thumb or Brian Chan’s Lady McConnel are good patterns to imitate the adult stage. If you watch the rises carefully you can cast to ahead of a certain fish and hopefully you’ll get a fish.