B.C. Boat and Sportsmen's Show
Chironomid - Fly of Choice
By Nick Basok

When someone mentions Chironomid fishing at this time of year, we immediately think of Interior Lakes...What!, are the lakes ice free already?! Whoa there fella , it’s still winter up there!

We’re talking about our local lakes from Mission to Harrison East. In the Mission/Stave Lake area we have Devils Lake, Cedar, Florence, Rolley and Whonnock.

In the Dewdney area, Davis, Twin Lakes, Salsbury and Kenyon. In the Morris Valley area, Elbow and Echo Lakes.

The Harrison West region has Grace, Wolf, Eel, Francis, Weaver, Wood, Lookout, Sunrise and a couple of unnamed potholes.

The Harrison East area has Trout, Hicks, Deer, Moss and three unnamed potholes east of Moss.

These lakes can’t compare to the fertility or growth potential of Interior lakes but they all have reasonably good populations of either Rainbow or Coastal Cutthroat. On the same basis you can’t compare fish size with that of Interior because Coastal lakes lack the nutrient levels needed to rear large fish. What these lakes do provide is another four to six weeks on to your fly fishing season. You might call it a primer before the Interior lakes take off.

Another important fact regarding these lakes is that they all have good early season Chironomid hatches. This brings about a really unique situation in that you can get the ìkinksî out of your gear and your casting while still having a challenge fishing these lakes. Trust me, even though the trout in most of these local lakes are of modest size (20-45 cm.) they will make you fish hard to catch them. There are several reasons for this:

Most of the lakes have little if any shoal area and hatches of Chironomids occur in deeper water sometimes making them harder to detect and consequently making it more difficult to gauge what depth is best to fish at.

The size of Chironomids found in our local lakes are generally of a smaller variety than the Interior type and range in size from #14 to #20. The Coastal lakes being less fertile than Interior lakes are much clearer, so not only must you fish very light, your imitations should have more detail and a good presentation to the fish is a must.

The timing for Chironomid fishing in our local lakes starts just after ice off or usually near the end of February and lasts until late May. Now that I’ve given you some Where To and When To, here comes some How To.

To properly fish Chironomids, your boat should be double anchored, front and back to keep it as still as possible. This is very important for fly presentation and line control for bite detection. Another point to keep in mind is the fact that the bulk of Chironomids eaten by trout are taken in the nymph stage near the lake bottom whether you are fishing in three feet or thirty feet of water. They also feed on them in mid-water and on the surface but the bulk of the feeding is on or near the bottom.

The two most popular methods for fishing Chironomids are: A dry line with or without an indicator. Or with a full sinking line. I have used a dry line for fishing in twenty-five feet of water using horrendously long leaders which is not a lot of fun and you have less control of your line and your fly. The rule of thumb I go by is eighteen feet of water and shallower I use my dry line with an indicator to help detect these very light strikes. Deeper than eighteen feet or when the wind is blowing hard I prefer to use a full sinking line for two reasons:

It gets the fly down into the strike zone quicker. You have better control and can detect bites easier in the deeper water. Many times the bite can be very light and you may just feel the line barely tighten up or they can take very hard even to the point of breaking your tippet on the take. Another point to remember when Chironomid fishing is the speed of your retrieve. Whether you are using a dry line or a wet line, you cannot go to slow when retrieving Chironomids.

If you are not getting many strikes try taking your slowest retrieve and cut it in half and this speed should be about right. Chironomids rise from their larval stage on the lake bottom as nymphs swimming very slowly straight up towards the surface resting intermittently on their way up. You want to imitate this swimming motion as closely as you can to have the best success.

All my Chironomids are weighted with Tungsten beads or lead wire wrapped around the hook shank built right into the fly. This accomplishes two important things needed for good fly presentation: It gets the fly down quicker on your dry line and keeps it there. It keeps the fly hanging straight down and this most closely imitates the real thing.

As far as flies go, try and match the color and size of Chironomids hatching on that particular day you are angling. You can get an idea of the color and size by capturing live nymphs as they reach the surface or you can pump the stomach of fish you catch and observe the contents.

This can be a very helpful tool during the day as size and color of the Chironomids hatching can change several times. I have found that the most consistent colors for our local lakes are brown, black and green bodies with an assortment of silver, copper, gold or red ribbing in hook sizes of #14 or #16 (3761 Tiemco) (9671 Mustad).

When using these very small flies you should use light leaders (5x4lb. To 7x 2lb.) and a rod to match #3 to #5 weight.

When first getting to a lake, somethings to look for when trying to locate a hatching area are swallows dipping the surface, hatched out Chironomid casings and rising fish. Once you have located a Fishy area take the time to figure out how you want to fish , wet or dry, deep or shallow, what color, size etc. Once you are fishing if you keep getting small bumps but few solid strikes try changing fly colour or size or both. Something is not quite right and it usually takes a bit of trial and error to figure out the best combo, but what the heck that’s what it’s all about, right! TIGHT LINES AND GOOD FISHING.

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