Chironomids are a Stillwater classic, if you're fishing on a lake you need to know a thing or two about this important food source for Rainbow Trout. Chironomids have a complete life cycle: Egg, larvae (aka bloodworm), pupa and adult. They hatch mainly in the Spring and Fall around midday, but can be found in the Summer months as well, when the temperature starts to decrease. Anglers typically focus their energy on imitating and tying the pupa stage of the Chironomid life cycle. The larvae (or bloodworm) live in small burrows on the bottom of the lake. As they mature, they transform into the pupa stage and begin their slow & wiggly ascent to the water's surface. The Chironomid pupa trap gasses within their bodies to aide their rise to the surface. They trap more gasses as they approach the surface, causing their body to turn into a chrome colour. When the pupa reaches the surface, their thorax splits and the adult crawls out. Shortly after, the adult will dry off it's wings and fly away leaving behind small shucks on the water's surface.
What they imitate:
Chironomid Pupa can be found in a variety of different colours and sizes which makes them fun to tie and imitate on the water. Matching the hatch is extremely important when fishing Chironomids. By taking a throat sample, you can review which size and colour the trout are feeding on and make any necessary adjustments to keep your fly and imitation in the zone. Plus, dialing in on a Chironomid hatch can be one of the most rewarding feelings while you're on the water. Chironomid pupa patterns are commonly tied on scud or curved nymph hooks in sizes ranging from #10-18. The colours will vary from olive, tan, black, red, brown and chrome. You'll also want to take note of the white gills, which can be imitated by a white bead, antron, EP fibers or stretch floss. Segmentation is also very important when tying Chironomid pupa patterns. By using wire, tinsel or other holographic materials the segmentations can easily be imitated.
How to fish them:
There are several ways to fish Chironomid pupa: floating line and indicator, the naked method by using a floating line or dangling with a full sink. Indicator fishing proves to be one of the most common methods, but all three are effective depending on the situation. For indicator fishing, you'll always want to start by determining the lakes depth near a shoal, drop off zone or muddy bottom. Start by having your fly 1-2 feet off the bottom. Use a fluorocarbon leader setup, as this will allow the leader to hang in an upright vertical fashion. Mono leaders tend to taper and hang with more of a slope, which means you won't be fishing at your measured depth. You will need to adjust the colour, size and depth until you reach the zone where the fish are feeding. Once you finally dial everything in, sit back and expect a sore arm because soon you'll be into a lot of fish!
How to tie them:
One of the most important takeaways from tying Chironomids is the slenderness of the body. You'll want a slight taper working from the curve in the hook shank up to the bead. The segmentation is also important, there are many folks out there that firmly believe you need 7 ribs on the Chironomid body. We always strive to hit this number as well, but the last time we checked, fish can't count! Start your hook with the appropriate bead size and colour (check out our other blog post, "Fly Tying Bead Size Chart" for this information). Work your thread down to the curve of the hook shank and tie in your wire. Typically size small wire works the best, given the size of Chironomids we're tying. Work the thread until you form a slender taper leading up to the bead. We like to add in a bit of flash to the body of the Chironomid by using materials such as: buzzer wrap, ASB (anti static bag), holographic tinsel or flashabou. Wrap the flash material up the body, secure and remove excess. Wrap the wire up the body of the Chironomid to form the rip and to add durability, secure and remove excess. Whip finish and you're complete! You can apply a coat of resin, Zap-a-gap, Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails or Krazy Glue, etc to increase durability and add an extra sheen.
Hook: Size #10-18 scud or curved nymph hook
Bead: Tungsten or brass size 3/32 or 7/64
Gills (optional): Antron, EP fibers, stretch floss
Thread: UTC 70 denier (colours vary)
Wire: UTC size small (colours vary)
Body: Buzzer wrap, flashabou, ASB (anti static bag), holographic tinsel