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The Most Important Hatch of the Year

 

It happens every spring on every lake I’ve been to. Chironomids hatch in such profuse numbers that trout gorge on them exclusively. This is an event where the fishing is either out of this world fantastic, or it’s downright miserable. The determining factor is whether the angler is fishing a chironomid as those that are catch fish like crazy while those that aren’t, watch.

Now I know chironomids are extremely important in the spring, when they hatch by the billions, but what I was surprised to learn was how critically important these bugs are in other seasons. In an ongoing scientific study by University of Alberta PhD student Justin Hanisch (sponsored by the Alberta Conservation Association, Alberta Sport, Recreation, Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Alberta Ingenuity Fund and the Canadian Circumpolar Institute) it was found that during the height of the 2007 summer, a whopping 55.6% of trout sampled had chironomids. This was followed up in 2008 where of all trout sampled, 52.6% contained chironomids.

The statistic is extraordinarily significant in that for both years chironomids were found to be the most common food item eaten. Trout love ‘em.

What that means for us anglers is that chironomids aren’t just a hot ticket come late May through June; they’re an everyday target that is effective throughout the seasons. So if you’re looking to catch more rainbows, brookies, browns, goldens, cutties, or whitefish, get your chironomid hat on and find a way to get good at it.

The glorious thing about chironomid fishing is that it is not an exact science in prairie potholes. In fact, these trout are uneducated and easily fooled. I love oil patch trout. While there are a numerous imitation chironomid flies out there, it is not necessary to carry them all (but can be fun). I have found that if I have three flies from the entire selection I will catch most of the trout most of the time. The first fly, in my opinion, that is the hands down, all around winner is the bead head pheasant tail nymph. This fly can’t seem to help catching fish and is a must have in every trout anglers fly box. For a lake application, a selection of size 8, 10 and 12’s would be perfect. The next fly is the bead head prince nymph which is darker than the pheasant tail and comes in handy if the hatching chironomids have darker bodies. My last selection is a lighter coloured imitation called the bead head hares ear nymph. These three flies in the above sizes and colors will cover the majority of chironomid fishing opportunities.

So when you’re out fishing and you watch a dark coloured chironomid come up match it with the dark coloured prince nymph. If the bug is a medium brown, use the pheasant tail and if the bug is lighter, the hares ear will do the job. That pretty well sums it up in a nutshell.

To fish a chironomid takes two approaches. For the spin fisher, a modified slip bobber system is ideal. For the fly angler, a strike indicator on a long leader and floating line would be perfect.

Chironomids live in the mud and goo of the lake bottom and after a time, they slowly, very slowly rise to the surface to hatch and fly away. This assent can take minutes to cover a few feet of water, so for a hungry trout, the chironomid simply looks suspended, not moving at all. To help lift them to the surface they generally produce a tiny air bubble to give them buoyancy. This is where the bead head has its advantage as the gold bead gives off a similar glint, like an air bubble, drawing attention to the fly.

To fish a chironomid the real secret is patience. Use the smallest slip bobber set up you can find, fish it on light line and just let it sit there. This is how the naturals look and this is how your fly should look. There is one other trick that helps me catch more fish. When I tie the fly to the end of my line I twist the knot on the fly over towards the hook point so that the fly hangs horizontally. This makes the fly look more natural and will entice more fish to take the bait.

Don’t look for ripping strikes off the chironomid, it just doesn’t happen. Instead, look for real slow deliberate strikes as if the bobber was sinking on its own. As soon as that happens reel up the slack and set the hook with a smooth sweep of the rod.

Chironomid fishing takes faith and patience but when you get the hang of it, you’ll never look back. The fishing is great and even on slow days, with this tactic in your back pocket; rare will be the day a trout doesn’t bite.


Previous Fishing Articles

(1) Old Man River

(2) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River

(3) Small stream BT fishing

(4) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started

(5) In The Walleye Zone

(6) Zoo Trout

(7) Fly Selection for Beginners

(8) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(9) New Waters

(10) Big Bad Burbot

(11) Looking Back

(12) Out of Africa

(13) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(14) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(15) The Browns of Autumn

(16) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(17) Walleye Town

(18) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(19) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(20) Going With The Flow

(21) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(22) Swinging The Fences

(23) A View From The Aerie

(24) Dixieland Delight

(25) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(26) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(27) Montana's Cool Missouri

(28) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(29) Toothy Critters

(30) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(31) Top Ten Flies

(32) Northern Exposure

(33) Home Water Lessons

(34) Chicken Of The Sea

(35) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(36) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(37) Keep It Up!

(38) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(39) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(40) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(41) Hawg Holes

(42) Saltwater Salmon

(43) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(44) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(45) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead

(46) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS

(47) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES

(48) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(49) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(50) Fall Walleye

(51) Wet Flies

(52) Versatility the Key to Success

(53) Grayling of the Boreal

(54) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(55) Size Matters

(56) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(57) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(58) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(59) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(60) The Point Of It All

(61) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(62) Fall Fly Fishing

(63) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(64) Big River, Big Fish

(65) Bottom Bonanza

(66) Fishing Small Flies

(67) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(68) Four Seasons of the Bow

(69) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot

(70) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT

(71) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(72) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box

(73) Edge Walleye

(74) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER

(75) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(76) Four Corners – Four Waters

(77) Chasing Pothole Trout

(78) Springtime Stoneflies

(79) The Torrents of Spring

(80) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(81) Bust Them With Bait

(82) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(83) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(84) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(85) Terrestrials

(86) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(87) Rocky Mountain High

(88) Reading the clues

(89) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(90) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(91) Fly Fishing 101

(92) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(93) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(94) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(95) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(96) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(97) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(98) Trust Your Electronics

(99) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(100) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(101) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(102) Walleye can be Humbling

(103) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(104) Winter Flyfishing

(105) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(106) Hot Fall Pike Action

(107) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(108) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(109) Frequently Asked Questions

(110) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(111) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(112) Deep Water Perch

(113) Post Spawn Brookies

(114) A Fisher's Life

(115) The River's Last Stand

(116) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(117) Coho on the Coast

(118) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(119) Summer in the Mountains

(120) Peak Walleye Season

(121) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(122) Last Ice Rainbows

(123) The Burbot Event

(124) Tackle Matching

(125) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(126) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(127) The Lure of Brook Trout

(128) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(129) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(130) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(131) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(132) The Vesatile Plug

(133) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(134) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(135) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(136) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(137) Daily Fish Migrations

(138) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(139) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(140) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(141) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(142) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(143) The Fun in Ultra Light

(144) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(145) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(146) Never Stop Learning

(147) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(148) Jigging through the Ice

(149) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(150) Rainbows on Ice

(151) The Season of Ice Begins

(152) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(153) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(154) Facts On Cats

(155) West Coast Adventure

(156) June Walleye Frenzy

(157) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories

(158) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"

(159) "Northern Exposure"

(160) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish

(161) Early Season Pike On The Fly

(162) Man Overboard