Fly Patterns - Zebra Midge

                        Zebra Midge



The Zebra Midge is my go-to midge pattern. It is typically tied in black, but variations can include red, silver, white, burnt orange and other colors and hues. It is the ultimate in simplicity, being composed of just a few materials. With a bit of practice, it’s a 5-minute fly.

In the summer of 2007, Jim Holmes, Mike Howes, John Peterson and I traveled up to eastern Oregon to fish several streams there. Our plan was to stay for 3 weeks or so—which we did. One of the rivers we fished was the Owyhee, a beautiful tailwater stream. We camped beside the upper stretch of the river and fished four days on the river. We caught a lot of very large brown trout—but, strangely, no rainbows.


One afternoon we parked several miles downstream from our camp area, to fish a section that we had not tried. I wandered away, looking for some good water upstream of the others. In an area where the stream braided out, I tossed my short line rig into a small pool in a tiny side channel, beneath an overhanging tree. The line stopped abruptly and I set the hook. Thinking I was snagged I began to try to loosen the flies from the bottom, only to have the line and leader burst from the pool. Stunned, I watched as the rig swiftly ran downstream. Regaining my senses, I put a little pressure on the fish, which I had not yet seen. I was thinking “foul hooked” but was secretly hoping it was a big toad fair hooked. My minute or two fight with the fish ended abruptly when it (uncharacteristically, for a brown trout) cleared the water in the tiny channel and managed to beach itself on the sand and cobble where it flopped about. I couldn’t believe my eyes—was this the biggest brown I’d ever “caught”?


Well, as it turns out, it was the second biggest—but I cannot claim that I landed it because in effect it landed itself. I yelled for John, who was closest to me, but the downstream cataract was too noisy and he didn’t hear me. I slipped the hook from the fish’s hooked old jaw and slid it back into the stream, where it lazily swam off as if nothing had happened. I, on the other hand, was nearly a basket case, scratching my head wondering why such a large specimen was hanging out in that small pool in the tiny side channel—and how truly lucky I was to have had this odd experience. The fly, incidentally, was a #18 Zebra Midge.


The standard pattern calls for a brass or copper bead at the head. I prefer, however, a silver colored glass bead—the kind that are clear but have a silver lining in the hole. Let’s tie the little imp using that bead.


Tying Instructions  (For best viewing: (1) Maximize your Browser Window. (2) Type "Ctrl + or -" to enlarge or contract the webpage display. (3) Use the Horizontal and Vertical Scroll Bars to scroll right and up/down to display larger photos in your browser)

  1. Crimp the hook barb and place the bead on the hook.




2.       Cover the hook shank with a layer of thread, working from the back of the bead to the hook bend. The thread should extend at least halfway down the bend.


3.       Tie in a piece of silver wire at the point where the thread ends.




4.       Wrap the thread back up the shank to the back of the bead and leave the bobbin there. Your wraps should be smooth and even, covering all gaps with no hook surface showing.


5.       Wrap the ribbing material in even turns up the shank and tie it off behind the bead.



6.       Place a tiny bit of dubbing on the thread and dub a sparse collar just behind the bead.


7.       Whip finish.




Tying Tips

1.       The two principal ways to fish this fly on a stream are to put it under an indicator rig, or use it as a trailer or “stinger” with about 16-20” of tippet material tied off to the bend of the main fly’s hook.


2.       When making the thread body, create a nice smooth finish, with no lumps or gaps.


Now, go tie one, and then go fish it, and…




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