Chironomid fly patterns guide by Barry Ord Clarke

Chironomid fly patterns

Fishing chironomid can be a daunting task, especially for beginners. But with the right techniques and gear, it can be a very rewarding experience. In this guide, I will cover everything you need to know about fishing chironomid.

What is Chironomid?

Chironomids are a large family of insects that includes over 440 species, many of these are of terrestrial origin and are of little interest to the fly fisher. Also known as midges, the aquatic species are found in freshwater bodies such as lakes, ponds and rivers. The adults are usually small and slender, with two flat wings and distinctive feather like antenna. Chironomid larvae, also known as bloodworms, are an essential food source for many freshwater fish, making them a popular choice for fly fishing.

Life Cycle of Chironomids

Chironomids undergo a complete metamorphosis, which means they go through four distinct stages of development: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Each stage has its unique characteristics and behavior.

Egg Stage

Chironomids begin their life cycle as tiny, cylindrical eggs that are laid in clusters on submerged vegetation, rocks, or other objects in freshwater habitats. The female chironomid lays her eggs in a gelatinous mass that can contain anywhere from a few dozen to several thousand eggs. The eggs are typically laid in the summer or fall and can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to hatch.

Larval Stage

Once the eggs hatch, the chironomid enters the larva stage. Larvae are worm-like creatures that are typically less than half an inch, with some over and inch long. They have a distinct head and a segmented body with a pair of prolegs on each segment. These prolegs help the larvae move through the water and cling to surfaces.

They vary from olive through varying shades of brown to vivid red which is due to the hemoglobin content in the blood of some species.

Chironomid larvae are often found in large numbers in freshwater habitats, where they feed on algae, bacteria, and detritus. They are also an important food source for many fish and other aquatic animals.

Pupal Stage

Some species of midge have a yearly life cycle, many others produce several generations in one season. After several weeks in the larva stage, chironomids enter the pupal stage. During this stage, the larvae stop feeding and begin to transform into their adult form. The pupal stage typically lasts for two to three days, depending on the species and environmental conditions. The have a quite swollen head, where the legs, wings and thorax are developing. They also have two notable white puffs on top of the head. These are breathing gills. The bodies are strongly segmented and often transparent with the body colour showing through.

Ultra midge pupa fly tied by Barry Ord Clarke
How to tie ultra midge pupa fly

When they are ready to hatch, they swim to the surface and rest, hanging vertically in the surface film. Here they hang looking for a weakness in the film, this takes a little time and is when they are most vulnerable and easy pickings. Its at this stage that the classic sip rise of trout can be observed. Trout cruise slowly just under the surface, sipping in the pupae as they go.

Adult Stage

Within a few seconds of breaking through the surface the pupa adopt a horizontal position and the thorax splits and the adult emerges from the pupal case or shuck.. Adult chironomids have no tails, six long legs, two delicate flat wings and a slender body. They are often mistaken for mosquitoes, but these are none biting midges.

Adult chironomids typically live for only a few days to a few weeks, during which time they mate and lay eggs. Male chironomids can often be seen flying in large swarms in the evening over freshwater habitats, while female chironomids can be found laying their eggs in clusters on submerged vegetation or other structure in the water.

Importance of Chironomids

While chironomids may be considered a nuisance by some people, they play an important role in freshwater ecosystems. For many fish they are the most important overall food source. They also play a large roll to help to break down organic matter in the water.

Chironomids are also important indicators of water quality. Certain species of chironomids are more tolerant of pollution than others, so their presence or absence can be used to assess the health of a freshwater ecosystem.

The Basics of Fishing Chironomid

Before we dive into the specific techniques, let’s go over the basics of fishing chironomid:


To fish chironomid, you’ll need a few essential pieces of equipment, including:

A fly rod (between 9 and 10 feet long)
A reel
A floating or intermediate line
A leader (9-12 feet long)
Tippet (3-5x)
Midge/Chironomid fly patterns


The most common technique for fishing chironomid is using a “strike indicator” or “bobber.” This allows you to suspend the chironomid pattern at a specific depth, usually between 10 and 25 feet, depending on the depth of the water. You can also fish chironomid without an indicator, using a slow retrieve or a static presentation.


Chironomid hatches can occur throughout the year, but the best time to fish them is during the spring and fall when the water temperatures are cooler. In general, chironomid fishing is most productive during the early morning and late afternoon.

Barry Ord Clarke Flytying Material Pack by Veniard

Specific Techniques for Fishing Chironomid

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s get into the specific techniques for fishing chironomid:

1. Indicator Fishing

Indicator fishing is the most popular technique for fishing chironomid. It involves using a strike indicator to suspend the chironomid pattern at a specific depth. This technique allows you to keep the fly in the strike zone for an extended period, increasing your chances of catching fish.

To fish with an indicator, start by tying on a chironomid pattern to your tippet. Then, attach the indicator approximately 10-12 feet above the fly. Cast out and let the fly sink to the desired depth. Keep an eye on the indicator, and if it moves or goes under, set the hook. You can also use a suspender midge pattern. These use a small amount of foam tied at the head of the pattern, this makes it float just in the surface film as it’s about to hatch.

2. Slow Retrieve

If you don’t want to use an indicator, you can fish chironomid with a slow retrieve. Cast out your chironomid pattern and let it sink to the desired depth. Then, retrieve the fly slowly, using a hand-twist or a slow stripping motion. This technique mimics the natural movement of a chironomid larva and can be very effective. You can test different depths of water by using te countdown technique. Once you have cast your fly out in the water, before you start to retrieve, count to 5 and let your fly sink. If you don’t connect with fish, on your next cast count to 10, and repeat until you find the correct fishing depth.

3. Static Presentation

A static presentation is another option for fishing chironomid. With this technique, you don’t move the fly at all. Instead, you cast out your chironomid pattern and let it sit in one place. This technique works best in still water or slow-moving water.

To fish with a static presentation, cast out your chironomid pattern and let it sink to the desired depth. Then, wait for a fish to take the fly. This technique requires a lot of patience, but it can be very effective.

4. Sinking Line

Using a sinking line is another way to fish chironomid. With this technique, you use a sinking line to get your fly down to the desired depth quickly. Once your fly reaches the desired depth, te fly will fish ‘on the drop’ as it’s sinking, then you can retrieve it slowly.

To fish with a sinking line, start by choosing a chironomid pattern that matches the hatch. Then, attach the pattern to your tippet and tie on the sinking line. Cast out and let the line sink to the desired depth before retrieving or waiting for a fish to take the fly.

Choosing the Right Chironomid Fly Pattern

Choosing the right chironomid pattern is crucial to your success when fishing midges. Here are some things to consider when selecting a chironomid pattern:


Chironomids come in a variety of sizes, so it’s essential to match the size of your fly to the size of the natural insect. In general, you’ll want to use smaller patterns in clear water and larger patterns in murky water.


Chironomids can be found in a range of colors, from olive through varying shades of brown to vivid red. The color of your fly should match the color of the natural insect as closely as possible. If you’re not sure what color to use, try using a neutral color like brown or olive.


The depth at which you’re fishing will also impact your fly choice. In general, you’ll want to use smaller, darker patterns in deeper water and larger, brighter patterns in shallower water.

Best Chironomid Fly Pattern

Tips for Fishing Chironomid

Here are some additional tips to help you improve your chironomid fishing skills:

1. Keep it Slow

Chironomid larvae move slowly, so it’s essential to keep your retrieve slow and deliberate. This will help your fly mimic the natural movement of the insect.

2. Pay Attention to Your Line

Watching your line is crucial when fishing chironomid. Look for any movement or hesitation, as this could indicate a fish has taken your fly.

3. Vary Your Retrieve

Fish can be picky, so it’s a good idea to try different retrieve techniques until you find one that works.

4. Match the Hatch

If you notice a lot of chironomids hatching, try to match the size and color of your fly to the natural insect.


Fishing chironomid can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By using the right techniques, gear, and chironomid patterns, you can increase your chances of catching fish. Remember to keep your retrieve slow, pay attention to your line, and vary your retrieve until you find what works. With practice and patience, you’ll soon become a pro at fishing chironomid.


What is the best time of day to fish chironomid?

Chironomid fishing is most productive during the early morning and late afternoon.

What equipment do I need to fish chironomid?

You’ll need a fly rod, reel, line, leader, tippet, and chironomid patterns.

What is the most common technique for fishing chironomid?

The most common technique is using a strike indicator or bobber to suspend the fly at a specific depth.

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