Caney Fork River  

David Holding a Large Brown Trout

A Smaller Brown

Nice Rainbow Trout


Hands down, the best tailwater fly here in Tennessee for me over the last few years, the Zebra Midge is one of the easiest flies to tie and also one of the easiest to fish. I fish it quite often and mention it many of my fishing reports on the Little River Outfitters Message Board. People often ask me exactly how I fish it so I’ll do my best to address this question. I'm sure different people have different preferences and many different methods will work with this fly so don't just stick to the method I'm about to share.

First, it is important to understand exactly what the Zebra Midge represents. This deadly fly is designed primarily to imitate a midge pupa ascending to surface to emerge. Thus it is most effective to use when you see fish feeding up high in the water column. You will often see rises which are actually trout taking the pupa just under the surface as the bugs drift upwards. Occasionally, fish will break the surface as they pursue the tiny insects. A quick check of the water should be done to verify that there are indeed midges hatching. On tailwaters this is often the case but fish will feed on other insects this way as well. A few minutes of careful observation should make it clear as to what insects are actually prevalent at the time you are fishing.

Whenever you see the fish feeding like this and there are midges around, it is time to try the Zebra Midge. Some type of strike indicator is generally very helpful with this type of fishing. I personally use a dry fly such as a parachute Adams because I feel it gives the fish another option and I'm always surprised at how often nice fish will take the dry. After you tie on the dry, use anywhere from 6-24 inches of 6x or 7x tippet and tie it to the bend of the dry fly. Using fluorocarbon tippet material will improve the breaking strength allowing you to effectively play larger fish. The depth should be determined by how near to the surface the majority of the fish seem to be feeding. It also important to remember two other things about the length of the dropper. First, fish will move upwards to take the fly so when in doubt, go shorter. Also, the longer the dropper, the more takes you will miss. I generally start with my dropper at around 12-16 inches.

Now that you are rigged up and ready to fish, you need to find some fish. This rig will work to fish the water blind, but you will be a lot more successful casting to specific fish or specific holding lies whenever possible. I like to locate a fish before casting. When you cast to the fish, you want the dropper to land up current of the dry or indicator to make it easy to detect the strike. Sometimes the take will be subtle. In fact, fish will often take the dropper without moving the indicator. This brings up my favorite method: When you find a specific fish working, cast above the fish and watch the fish closely as the indicator/dry nears the vicinity of the fish. Any side to side movement or quick darting to the side will mean that the fish likely took your fly. Often, fish will see the fly as it is passing and dart downstream. WAIT TO SET THE HOOK until the fish makes a sudden turn to face back into the current or to the side. The turn will indicate that the fish has taken the fly. I’ve had fish move from several feet away to take a midge pattern so don’t give up on a drift until you’re sure it is well past the fish you are targeting.

Finally, once you have hooked the fish, be very gentle. When using light tippets, it is easy to break off the fish if you use too much pressure. However, don't overplay the fish. With practice, 6x tippet will take a lot more abuse than most people think, allowing you to land the fish without exhausting it.

Fishing this fly can be a lot of fun. You will quite possibly catch more and better fish, particularly on waters where midges are a predominant food source. You might even be surprised at some of the fish that will eat this fly. I know I was when I caught a nice bass on one...

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