The springtime means big fish eating tiny bugs! Learning to chironomid fish will pay off greatly and help increase your hook up percentages when fly fishing the flat water in the spring. Here is a quick guide for spring chironomid fishing to help you get started.
First let’s start off by looking at the basic gear you need. A 9 to 10 foot fly rod in the 5 or 6 weight range is perfect. This method is typically fished using a floating line with a quick release strike indicator and a 5 to 6lbs leader line that can range 10-20 feet will be adequate. Smaller size tippet material can be used to adjust the last couple of feet to the fly.
The types of chironomids to use all depend on what is hatching and really it is a process of elimination. Some common patterns to have are black body and white bead head; silver, black or even gold bead heads can work. It is good to have a variety of colours and sizes in your fly box. Having some bloodworms in your kit can also produce. Once you catch your first trout throat pump the fish and check the contents and try to match size and colours. Another good tip is to always be observant when on the water. Look on the surface for recent hatches and target that area. It can also pay off huge dividends to stop in to the local fly shop to ask for their advice on some chironomids to help get you started! You can’t beat local knowledge!
During the spring the type of water that you want to be targeting are the shorelines and bays in less than 20 feet of water. Early in the season find muddy bottoms and then as the hatch progresses look for weedy areas. Ideally positioning yourself on the shallow side between the muddy or weedy area and a drop off ledge can sometimes yield results. The drop off ledge provides the fish with quick cover and refuge; however easy access to the shallow water to feed.
When fishing chironomids you want to start off by fishing approximately 1 foot off the bottom. You can either use sonar to identify the depth or you can do this manually. With your strike indicator positioned but not “locked in” on your line, tie a heavy weight to the end of your leader. Drop the weight to the bottom, once you make bottom contact and the strike indicator is on the water surface, pull up one foot and lock in your indicator. You are now perfectly one foot off the bottom. Pull the line back up and tie on your chironomid.
Casting long leaders with a strike indicator and weight on your line can be tricky; it will take practice! It is best to position your boat with the wind at your back. This way the wind will help assist your casting. A little ripple on the water can do a little good, as it will help disguise your strike indicator to the fish. A good anchor system is vital when chironomid fishing and it is recommended to anchor the front and back of the boat to hold your position.
The key to a successful retrieval rate is SLOW! First off cast your line out and allow time for your fly to sit directly under your indicator and at the preferred depth. There will be days that very little retrieval will be needed and the fish will bite, especially when the surface as a ripple as it will move your fly. The 2 primary retrieval methods are 1-2 inch slow strips or a very slow 12-inch strip.
If you aren’t achieving results try changing depths, colours or size of chironomid. Explore other parts of the lake where trout may be holding; hatches can happen quickly so always being aware of your surroundings will help you locate the active trout.
Chironomid fishing becomes more successful with more you practice. So don’t shy away from this method this spring, get out there and try your luck! When you finally get on the right formula for a successful day, you will be in for a day of bent rod fun filled chaos!
BC Fishn Team Member