This week I am tying my favorite lake fly, Don’s Emerger. The weather is warming up and the ice is starting to melt with a few lakes free of ice. With the rivers on the rise and periodic blowouts lakes are going to provide great fishing. Streamers and midges are my first choices when fishing lakes. Dons Emerger is a simple pattern that you can tie and various colors and sizes to meet your midging needs.
I first met Don Scrable at Carpenter Lake in Eureka Montana. He was pulling his boat out of the water and I was putting mine in. After some small talk we realized that we had more in common than we thought. We both lived in Santa Cruz for a while, his son and I were practically neighbors and we both love to fly fish. As it turned out we both currently lived in Trego, Montana and Don was in need of some flies. Don fishes more than anyone I have ever met. Every day Don is on the water and he needed flies? Perfect, tell me what you need and I’ll tie them for you. Don described his perfect midge pattern and in a few days Don had a hand full of his dream midges.
Midges are a very important food source for trout in lakes. Midges undergo complete metamorphosis egg, larva, pupae, and adult stage. Adult midges typically mate during flight, and tend to gather in large mating swarms along the edges of lakes. Once mating is complete the females fly back over the water to release fertilized eggs by tipping her abdomen in the surface film. These tiny eggs eventually sink to the bottom of the lake. Once the eggs reach the bottom they begin their transformation into larva. Most midges have a one year life cycle but some lake midges will have a 2 year life cycle. This means that grow bigger than their river brethren. Fully developed larvae then undergo their change into the pupal stage. Once the pupa is fully developed it breaks free of the old larval casing and begins to rise to the surface of the stream or lake. A gas beneath the abdomen gives the pupa a silver, shinny appearance that trout will often key on. When the pupa reaches the surface film a split forms on the back of the thorax and the adult phase emerges on the water surface and immediately flies off. Somewhere between 24-48 hours later the adult will mate and return to start the cycle all over.
Don’s Emerger imitates the vulnerable pupae ascending the water column in it’s attempt to become an adult. The natural has a gill on its head, imtitated by the Antron tuft on top, the silver bead imitates the gas bubble, the peacock ice dub imitates the darker thorax and the ribbing gives a little shine and segmentation. You can tie this pattern in a variety of colors and sizes. Olive, brown, red, black are my four favorites. Red and wine colors do a great job of imitating “blood worms”. Blood worms are just midge pupae that have large numbers of hemoglobin, oxygen carrying blood cells, this gives them their red color. Sizes? 10’s through 16’s are great but I mostly fish 14’s and 12’s.
I typically fish this fly under an indicator. The fly rides straight up and down with the tuft on top to imitate gills. The key is finding where the fish are eating, weed beds. Weed beds are full of bugs and the fish know it. Find them and your fish count will improve.
Don’s Emerger ready for a lake near you!
One last thing, you might be wondering what a Chironomid is? Class-Insecta, Order-Diptera, Family-Chironomidae. Remember this from science class? Me either, but Chironomidae is a non biting Diptera. What? Mosquitos, well they bite and belong to the Family-Culicidae. So a midge is a Chironomid is a midge.