Midge patterns aren’t new to the fly-fishing world and have been around for a long time. They are in a class of their own and can be fished in still and moving water scenarios with great success.
Many anglers fish variations of the original pattern, but the general pattern still stays true to its origin. The zebra midge is the most popular of the midge flies and probably the fly most of us cut our teeth.
You could have an entire fly box of zebra midges, which is all you will need on the water for the day.
Don’t be fooled by their size. Thinking you need big flies to catch a big fish is often a misconception. This may ring true when throwing streamers at night for big browns, but big fish generally eat tiny flies. Just think about the food sources available to the fish in the river.
Whatever the thoughts, we aren’t here to debate the effectiveness of the zebra midge. This we know. In the below article, we will run through how to fish and tie the pattern.
Why the Zebra Midge is Great
The zebra midge rules the kingdom when it comes to midge patterns. It has all the right triggers to it, and in red, it is a deadly pattern. I also recommended to have it in blacks and greens as well.
A Little History on the Zebra Midge
The midge pattern is a deadly little pattern that should be in all trout fly boxes. Many versions of it have been tied over the years, more specific patterns have come to light in recent years. A simple thread body with a weight bead head and peacock herl thorax are what will get the job done. Colors such as red, green, and black are staples. The red version can also imitate a small blood worm and often will pick more fish on the session.
The zebra midge is no exception. This is one of my favorite patterns. There are two things that make this pattern so effective. Firstly, midges are found in most bodies of water, thus being eaten by trout all over. The second and probably most important point is that they hatch all year round, making them a consistent trout food.
What Fish Does a Zebra Midge Catch?
The zebra midge is mainly tied for trout and has become a very popular trout nymph pattern to fish. Other species, such as the grayling and chub, can also fall victim to its bugginess. In my home waters, the smallmouth yellowfish love them as well. I tie them in size #16, heavily weighted with a 3mm bead and red body wire.
How to Setup a Zebra Midge
The setup you use to fish is entirely up to you and your capabilities. The zebra midge can be fished in so many different ways; it really does depend on you and your waters. Fished as a dry dropper or as the drop fly or point on a nymphing rig, the zebra midge fishes well in all these techniques.
Rod- 9-10’ nymphing or dry fly rod
Leader– Your leader needs to be at least 9’ in length on any given stream or river. As I fish this pattern on a nymphing rig and occasionally on a dry dropper, I use a 17’ leader and have great success. Again, I know anglers who fish longer leaders but can’t confidently manage them, so I stick to my strengths.
Tippet– Your tippet size depends on what size fish you intend to catch. Also, the type of scud hooks that are used to tie these patterns are often the heavy wired hooks and thus have a large thick eye. You will struggle to tie the thinner tippets on these larger eyes as the knot will tend to slip.
Guide PRO TIP– To prevent the knot from slipping, tie the fly on with a Rapala Knot. This is great knot to learn, not just for this purpose but whenever you want to give a pattern more motion. I use this knot for all streamers, woolly buggers, and jig buggers.
What Does the Zebra Midge Represent
As mentioned before, the zebra midge covers the midge larva and pupa stages. If tied with a glass bead and some CDC as a collar, it would imitate the emerging form of the insect. The Griffith Gnat would be the dry fly of the life cycle; having a few of them in your box is a good call as well.
Zebra Midge’s Favorite Size and Color
When it comes to what my favorite sizes and color are for this pattern, it is easy. Red is my go-to choice, and olive green would be next. The olive green can also be passed as a small caddis nymph which is great to be covering two types of insects when fishing.
Here are my top three.
- Zebra Two Tone– this is a great pattern to start with in most conditions. The sight two-tone/ greenish thorax is a great trigger and can also imitate a caddis pupa.
- Classic Zebra Midge– this is the classic pattern that I fish in red, black, and green. This is a great pattern for suspending under a dry fly and fish it dry- dropper style.
- Mercury Black Midge– This is the pattern I mentioned earlier, with a glass bead to fish in the upper water columns. It’s also great as a dropper patten on a nymph rig. Often this is a great pattern to fish when the fish visibly eat adult midges. I like to fish this pattern sub-surface in these conditions, tied behind a very visible dry fly. As the fly hits the water, they generally smash it!
Where to Buy Zebra Midge
All midge patterns are super simple to tie, and if you do tie your own flies, they should be a breeze for you. If you don’t, no worries. I would recommend you order some from Umpqua. Or better yet, go off and support your local fly shop if you have one in your area.
Ventures Fly Co. 40 Fly Assortment Has a Great Selection of Flies
This assortment has most of the flies needed lay the foundation for an effective fly box. the most common dries, nymphs and streamers. Check out the on water video review on YouTube – HERE
How to Tie Zebra Midge
- Hook: Size 14 Wet Hook
- Bead: 1/8” Cyclops Gold
- Thread: 6/0 Red or Black
- Rib: Fine Gold Wire
Options: Switch up the thread to black, smaller sizes to 16
Download a PDF a materials list with pictures FREE 👉 Zebra Nymph Download
- Slip-on bead
- Secure the hook in vice and wrap a level thread base ending 2/3rds down the hook shank.
- Tie in gold wire.
- Wrap thread forward and back to create a tapered thread body.
- End with wraps behind the bead.
- Wrap gold wire forward in the opposite direction and tie off behind the bead.
- Whip finish.
PRO TIP– A light coating of Solarez gives the pattern a bullet-type body that falls through the water very quickly. If you fish faster waters, this is a great option to have.
One Last Cast with the Zebra Midge
So, there you have it, the zebra midge isn’t even really a choice but rather a question of how many to carry.
It is such an easy pattern to tie and relatively cheap to buy; we should all carry a few in the box.
When the going gets tough, and the trout get picky, the go-to fly is the Zebra Midge. It has worked for me and should for you. Go get yours now!
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Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.