On the fly: Midge madness | AspenTimes.com

On the fly: Midge madness

Kirk Webb
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – As we quickly approach the month of March, several exciting changes take place along the rivers of the Roaring Fork Valley. Forget about basketball and March madness, this is the time of year when anglers return to fishing the Gold Medal waters of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers.

Longer and warmer days are here and with that comes the most overlooked hatch of the entire year: midges. What these minute insects lack in size they make up for in sheer numbers. During afternoons and early evenings, these diminutive insects hatch in such massive numbers that they often ball or cluster up in soft (slow) pieces of water where they become easy meals for trout that are hungry after a long and cold winter.

Early in the morning, you’ll want to focus on fishing various midge larva patterns such as TC red midges, bling midges, rojo midges and desert storms in shades of red, gray and black. These flies should be fished in the deeper seams and pools with plenty of split shot to drive them near the river bottom.

As the day wears on and the air and water temperatures rise, look for the trout to slowly transition to the shallower riffles where the midges prefer to hatch. Pupa and emerger patterns now become effective. Medallion midges, biot Mmidges and RS-2s are all superb fly patterns to match this stage of the midge’s life cycle. During this time, the fish feed aggressively and the possibility of catching numbers of fish increases. Keep a sharp eye and look for signs of fish activity such as flashes, boils and rises.

Anglers will relish in the late afternoon and early evening hours as the sheer numbers of midge adults on the waters surface promotes some exciting and overlooked dry-fly fishing opportunities. If you’ve yet to try fly fishing during this time of year, hiring an experienced local guide will greatly benefit you. The lower Roaring Fork River below Carbondale, the Fryingpan River above Basalt, as well as the Colorado River below Glenwood Springs will all be superb places to encounter this hatch of epic proportions.

Tandem dry-fly setups utilizing a high visibility cluster midge such as a hi-viz Griffiths gnat, trailed by a surface midge emerger pattern like a Bill’s midge emerger, Morgan’s parachute midge or Fryingpan emerger in size Nos. 18-22 will suffice. Midge madness is here; don’t miss it.