By Spencer Durrant
If you want to catch big fish consistently from lakes and ponds, you need some killer chironomid fly patterns.
Chironomids are found in tons of lakes. Fish love to eat them. Chironomids are simple to use, easy to tie, and deadly effective. The patterns included here are time-tested, so you can have confidence in knowing they’ll work when trout are actively looking to feed on these bugs.
Before we get too far into the weeds about patterns, though, we should take a minute to review what chironomids are, and when and how to use them.
What Are Chironomids?
In simplest terms, chironomids are just large midges. Technically, they represent one of the largest insect families on the planet, but as far as the bugs fly fishers are concerned with, they’re the nymph (pupa) stage of large, lake-dwelling midges.
When to Fish Chironomids
Spring and fall are typically the best times of year to fish chironomids. This coincides with when chironomids are moving up from the lakebed (where they hatch from eggs) higher into the water column, before emerging into their dun stage. As these bugs start moving, trout key in on them. Because these bugs hatch when fish are typically most ravenous, it’s not uncommon to catch some of the biggest trout of the year on chironomids during the spring and fall.
How to Fish Chironomids
One of the most effective ways to fish chironomids is beneath an indicator. Another popular method is using a hand-twist retrieve to gently pull the bugs through the water, but an indicator rig is simpler (and arguably more effective).
The rig is simple – stick an indicator about 2-3 feet above your first chironomid, depending on how deep you’re fishing. Then tie anywhere from 3-5 feet of tippet off the end of your first fly and attach the next chironomid there. You should adjust the length between flies based on how deep the lake is that you’re fishing.
We fish chironomids like this because it’s a great method to replicate the natural movement of these bugs in the water. The indicator will bob slightly in the water, which moves your flies in a way that’s eerily similar to how real chironomids travel through the water column. Although we often like to think of lakes as a static environment, there’s almost always some slight drift that results from either wind or gentle currents.
By suspending your flies beneath an indicator, you’re allowing them to move naturally under the influence of wind, currents, or both.
Must-Have Chironomid Fly Patterns
Now that we’ve reviewed the details of chironomids, let’s dive into the killer chironomid fly patterns you need in order to successfully fish these bugs.
Ice Cream Cone
This is probably the most iconic chironomid pattern in existence. It’s deadly easy to tie, and just as effective. The white bead on the end of the fly mimics an air bubble, which is an important feature because real chironomids will have some air trapped around their heads as they rise through the water column.
The subtle ribbing over a dark body is another feature that makes the Ice Cream Cone chironomid a must-have in any trout angler’s box.
This is just one example of many variations on a clear-bodied chironomid. As far as lifelike imitations go, this pattern is fantastic. It looks just like a real-life chironomid, and the fish enjoy eating this pattern, too.
Body Glass Chironomid
Body Glass is a great tying material, and the folks at Fly Fish Food make good use of it here in this chironomid fly pattern.
This pattern sticks out because it combines the look of a bug with an air bubble trapped around its head (that’s what the white yarn and bead are meant to do) but uses good other materials to create a very bug-like body in both color and physical appearance.
Bloody Pearl Chironomid
This chironomid fly pattern aims to imitate blood midges, which are a high-protein food source trout are more than happy to eat. In early spring, right after ice-off, these midges are a must-have food item. They work for the rest of the year, too, but they’re deadly in early spring.
Up in Smoke
This is a unique pattern that has everything you should look for in a chironomid. It’s simple, has the right proportions, and has the physical appearance of an actual bug. The smoky body is a nice touch that’ll really make this fly stand out to trout.
For any dedicated trout angler, these five chironomid fly patterns are must-haves in your box. While they’re most effective in spring and fall, you’ll catch fish year-round on chironomids.
What are your favorite chironomid patterns? Do you have a unique method of fishing them? Let us know in the comments.
If your out a weight on this rig, would it be above the top fly???
Bill, yeah, that’s gonna be the best spot for it. But generally, in a lake, you don’t need any extra weight other than what’s on the flies.