Fly Tying (Shady Flies)

Eight Reasons the Zebra Midge is the Perfect First Fly to Tie

Tying your own flies is a huge leap in the pursuit of becoming a great fly fisher.  If you are just starting out, congratulations. 

Now that you have decided to start tying flies, you may be asking, “what fly should I learn to tie first?”  The Zebra Midge is an outstanding answer for many reasons.

Why the Zebra Midge First?

1. It is Simple.

The Zebra Midge is an extremely simple, but highly effective fly.  I mean it REALLY catches fish.  Fishing it as a dropper off almost any nymph can often produce trout that are constantly feeding off tiny insects in the bottom part of the water column, often referred to as “the strike zone”.  It is not always what the fish want, but for a large part of the year, the Zebra Midge is worst case, a good guess, and best case, deadly — but not truly deadly, because I am a catch and release guy…

2. It Catches Fish.

The Zebra Midge works on almost any trout stream.  I have caught trout in Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Missouri, and North Carolina with a simple black Zebra Midge.

Because it is such a good fly, on so many rivers, you will most likely be able to start using this fly right away.  This is what my concept of R2FS (River To Fly Strategy) is all about, and it is a great way to approach tying flies in the beginning.  Basically, it means that if you develop a plan to tie flies that you will actually use, you will catch fish with your own flies, which results in more enjoyment and faster proficiency the noble art of fly tying.

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | River to Fly Strategy (R2FS) – A Fly Tying Process for the Beginner’s Success.

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | A Beginner’s Guide On How to Start and Keep Tying Your Own Flies.

3. Easy to Tie.

Do not be intimidated by the size.  There are only a handful of simple steps to tying the Zebra Midge.  Starting out you can tie size 16 and then try size 18 and 20 as you get more proficient and comfortable with tying.  This fly is about as basic as you can get.

4. Few Materials.

It requires only four materials: scud hook, beadhead, thread, and wire.  This is good for simplicity and for cost. 

5. Good Lead in to Other Flies.

The materials can be used to tie other great beginner flies as well.  Flies like the pheasant tail, hare’s ear, copper john, and simple scud will all use some of the materials from the Zebra Midge. 

6. Quick Tie.

Because they are simple and easy to tie, you can tie the Zebra Midge quickly.  This means you will be able to tie enough flies to build proficiency and fill your fly box, while also easily mastering the fly.

7. Teaches the Basics.

Tying the zebra midge teaches many basic fly tying skillsets.  You will learn to: tie a small fly, tie in wire, spin thread, wrap wire, use a bead head, whip finish, and apply head cement.

8. Variations are Abundant.

Not only is the Zebra Midge simple to tie and useful in many trout habitats, there are also many variations of this fly that you can use to present a fly for exactly what the fish are eating.  There is not much difference in the process of tying a Zebra Midge for the Yakima River, or a Blood Midge for the White. If you make just a few additions to this pattern you can create flies like the Black Beauty, Improved Zebra Midge, or Top Secret. All killer midge patterns.

Check out this excellent YouTube video from Tightlinevideo demonstrating how to tie the Zebra Midge:

If you are about to start or you already are a beginner fly tier, put the Zebra Midge at the top of your list.  You will learn to tie it fast, you will be happy with your flies, and you will catch more trout. 


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Jason Shemchuk

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