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Chironomid: What? Where? How?

By Aaron Leckie | Published in August 2004

Rainbow trout caught on a chironomid pattern

I have studied chironomids for a couple years now and have learned how to fish them almost everytime with success. Throughout the year chironomids are 40% of the trout's diet intake. Best way to cast out the fly and have a good presentation is in a single anchored Pontoon, holding in a belly boat or double anchored in a car topper. Remember, fisherman always think the farther out the line the more fish you will get. False, fish are sometimes hitting the indicator 5 feet from the boat.

Temperature

One of the most important things while Chironomiding is the temperature of the water and how the hatches will react to it. Generally between 40-50 degrees fahrenheit is the magic number and lots of hatches will occur. When temperature reaches into the 65/68 area, it is a bit to hot and fishermen should start to consider switching over to different patterns of flies.

Location in Lakes to Fish

Ideally when fishing chironomids the fisherman will want to fish 25 feet and shallower in depth from drop offs up to shoals on a muddy bottom. This is not always the case as people have caught them in 40/50/60 feet of water. Chironomids commonly hatch in the muddy bottoms and they raise to the surface of the water once hatched. As they do so the trout will slurp them out of the mud and on their journey up. Sunny days fishing deeper is good and on overcast anywhere in the water column can be deadly.

Emergence

These are the times that Chironomids will hatch during the fishing season:

They are in two stages before hatching at the surface: larvae and pupa. Once at the surface they resemble their cousin the mosquito. As the Pupa venture through the water column it will trap air gases in it's underbody and fisherman will start using patterns called "Chromies" which resemble trapped gases and the shiny silver effect they give off. A square meter in the bottom of a lake can contain 20,000 Chironomids.

Colours of the Hatch

Colours commonly coming off lakes are Lime Green, Green (many shades) Brown, Black, Red, Maroon and the Chromie Silver. Also heard of Orange, Grey and Tan. They will be in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Size 10-22's are most common with 14 and 16's being most productive.

Ways to Fish

Two different methods are commonly used:

  • With an indicator: Chironomid fishing with an indicator is without a doubt the most successful way to present the fly. Fisherman will attach a small foam, corkie looking object in a bright colour to their leader at the desired distance between at which they will want their fly to be presented. This is done on a full floating fly line. Most common zone to have a pupa emering with an indicator is 1-2 feet off the bottom. When setting the indicator for the middle of the water zone, Chromies are often used as the Pupa will have gases trapped in itself as it nears the surface to hatch. Through out the time the fly has been casted out let it sink and every 15 seconds give the line a quick twitch to create the natural occuring action underwater. Line should also stay straight so it is easier for a hook set when it gets pulled under. Phil Rowley has come up with a strike indicator called the "Quick Release" kind of expensive that's why I have designed my own but it helps for when fishing deep depths and having to land the fish as it splits the indicator so the fisherman can bring the leader in more and have an easy landing.
  • "Naked": Chironomid fishing without an indicator is referred to as fishing "naked" the fisherman will cast out his or her line to the lake and slowly retrieve the line in. When fishing a full sink line the fisherman should cast it out the depth of the lake; no more, no less and wait a minute till the line is completely parallel from the tip of the rod down to the bottom of the lake. Then they should do a slow hand twist retrieve to the surface as it is imitating the Chironomid as it makes it's way through the water column. Can be done with a sink tip fly line or full sink.
    A Loop knot that connects the leader to the fly is good, with fishing on a day with the water active and movement it will imitate the movement the Chironomid will give as it naturally hatches.

Both of the noted methods are to have the rod tip always pointed towards the water or in the water so for a strike the fisherman can simply raise his or her rod and give a good hook set.

Fly Lines

When Chironomid fishing a very good fly-line is needed. One that does not hold memory or curl when casted out.

  • Floating: Make sure get one in a colour that is visible in the water, casts long distances, doesnt bunch up or "curl" and will stay floating without dipping in the water. One recommendation is Scientific Anglers and their series called "Mastery" that have come up with a very good high quality of line called "Headstart" It is special for a shortened head and shorter front taper. Its a weight forward full floating and perfect for beginners and occasional anglers.
  • Sink Tip: Same goes for the floating line. Make sure that is doesnt bunch up or curl. Depending on what type of water being fished in a good recommendation is the Scientific Anglers Mastery Series "Wet Tip" Has a sink rate of 1.5-6.25 ips depending on which type purchased. Has a low stiffness and comes in two colours. Another is the Scientific Anglers Mastery Series "Stillwater" It's an invisible sub-surface slow sinking line. Good for shallower water and wary fish that may get spooked when they see it. Sink rate is 1.25-2.0 ips.
  • Full Sink: Same general characteristics as the other lines but will want a fast sinking line to get in the zone faster and to present the fly without waiting very long. A good recommendation is the Scientific Anglers Mastery Series Uniform Sink Plus. Has a sinking rate of 1.5-6 ips. Comes in the colour blue and casts rather nicely.

Leaders

Leaders should be 25-30% longer then the depth fishing in a lake. Lines and leaders should also not be mixed with brand names as often companies will use different coating in their lines and can weaken others. Mono tapered is great, but in more finicky lakes where the fish observe the flies more, fluorocarbon is a good choice.

How Do I Tell Which Colours Are Hatching?

This is a frequently asked question and a good way of finding out is by cruising the surface and shallows of a lake with an aquarium net picking up the Pupas on the surface. Another great way to do so is by using a Throat Pump with a caught fish and seeing what it contains in it's stomach. Be very careful when using a throat pump though. No fish generally under 14 inches should be pumped and the fish is to be treated gentle while doing so. Commonly the insects in the stomach that get pumped would have been eaten within the last 5-10 minutes and are still alive.

Directions:

  • Gently place the bulb into the throat of the fish depressed.
  • Slowly withdrawl it and it will suction out the food contents.
  • The fish can then be released to fight another day.

Beads

Beads are used on Chironomids to add extra weight so the fly gets to the desired depth faster and also give a sense of a head. Colours are crucial with most common being gold, copper, bronze, nickle, clear(glass), black and white.