The Ultimate Thompson-Nicola Hatch Guide

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The Ultimate Thompson-Nicola Hatch Guide
- Chironomids -
By Karl Bruhn

Order: Diptera
Family: Chironomidae

Identifying Features
Larvae: The body looks like a segmented tube, almost like a thin worm. Important colors include shades of red, green and brown.

Pupae: The head, thorax and wing pads are closely clumped together; the thorax is much larger than during larval stage (contains the wings of the adult). White tufts (breathing filaments) are visible at the head. The body remains segmented with no tails. Prominent colors are black, green and brown.

What to Look For
As the pupae break through the lake's surface to become adults, they leave behind an almost transparent husk or shell, called the pupal shuck. Watch the water carefully for these shucks -- a sure sign midges have been or are hatching. Bulging surface rises in spring signal fish taking midge pupae just beneath the surface.

Life Cycle
Chironomids, or midges, are found in virtually every lake, pond and tarn in BC. During the larval stage they are bottom dwellers, inhabitating all zones from shoreline shallows to depths of 70 metres and deeper. Mass migrations can occur in spring and fall when larvae look for new homes or move into deeper water to overwinter. The fish respond accordingly. The pupal stage is heavily preyed upon by trout. Surface migration of the fully formed pupae is slow and tedious, although trapped air beneath the pupal shuck helps lift them upward (fish will key to the glint of the air bubble). At the surface pupae may hang suspended just beneath the surface film for some time. Finally, the pupal shuck splits along the back and the adult emerges, taking wing very quickly in search of a mate. Females return to lay their eggs on the lake's surface; the eggs sink to the lake bottom and the cycle is repeated. For most species the entire cycle is completed within one year.

Black Red Butt
Contributed by Brian Chan
Courtesy of Flyfishing British Columbia
Masters Series Book 1

When to Fish
Immediately after ice-off in the spring, midge pupae begin their journey to the surface and adulthood. They provide trout with the first real feast of the year. While there will always be some midges hatching through the ice- free months, nothing equals the frenzied activity of early spring. Mid-May to mid-June is peak midge-fishing time.

How to Fish
Fishing chironomidae pupae sounds like high-tech fly fishing, but is really not much different from light-line fishing with hook and worm. Using a floating line and long leader, with the boat anchored bow and stern, a suitable pupal imitation is cast with the wind. The angler does nothing more; wind and wave action will normally impart life-like action to the imitation. If too much wind moves the fly in an unrealistic manner, find a more sheltered spot to fish. Maintaining a direct link with the fly is critical: keep the line as straight as possible and hold the rod tip down, pointed at the water. A strike indicator can be a big help detecting the characteristic soft take, while also allowing the fly to be fished at various pre-set depths. Set the hook lightly by lifting only the rod, leaving the line to run free. The slip strike is not difficult, but requires practice; the instinct to tightly grip the line must be overcome.

Frostbite Bloodworm Contributed by Phil Rowley
Courtesy of Flyfishing British Columbia
Masters Series Book 1

Fishing Tip
During the heat of summer and again in late fall, trout will take midge larvae on the bottom. In many interior lakes these larvae are deep red in color because they possess hemoglobin -- the famous "bloodworms" of the interior lakes. Suitable imitations can be fished near bottom with sinking lines. Retrieve the line very slowly, a series of two-cm strips followed by a long pause can be effective. Think of this type of fishing as a form of meditation.

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The Observant Flyfisher
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The Ultimate Thompson-Nicola Hatch Guide