chironomid techniques

Anyone fish chironomids without an indicator, on a long leader, floating line? Seems like it would be fun, but the couple times I thought about it I did not feel confident with it. I usually try one cast and then get the indicator on. Also does anyone ever use 3 flies instead of 2 or 1? Seems like I can tangle two flies up real good, I hate to see what I could do with three.... Like many who have posted before, I seem to catch 90% of my fish on the bottom fly anyway so I am unsure how much good adding the third fly would be.

I have caught fish on chironomids using a full sink line in deep water retrieving the fly vertically up from the bottom using a very slow hand roll retrieve. Also have caught quite a few fish fishing a unweighted chironomid just below the surface. Using a dry fly line you take some dry fly floatant and apply it to your leader from the end of the fly line all the way up until a short distance from the fly. if you want to fish your chironomid 8 inches below the surface you leave that amount of the leader un greased. you change the depth of where you are fishing by how much of the leader you grease up in relation to the fly. This works really well when trout are feeding just below the surface on chironomids about to emerge.

Scott Salzer

previously micro brew

I see it done all the time. Some will use a full sink and drop it straight down, others a floating line with short or long leaders (20'+) - hard for me to cast.

Not sure (3) flies is legal, check the regs.


Tom Palmer

Active Member
Hi Wayne,

Just a few thoughts on your questions.

re: no indicator

Fishing "naked" as it is often called is a regular technique to use fishing chironomids. It is often employed in two situations. The first is comprised mainly by those who simply don't like "bobbers." You can call them traditionalists or just stubborn (!) but they enjoy the challenge of not relying on indicators. The usual technique is to figure out what depth you want to fish and then adjust your leader accordingly. Say the fish are taking chironomids above the weed bed in 14' of water. You might figure you want the fly roughly 11' down, so you add an additional 25% of leader (formula varies) and cast out. You then watch where the leader enters the water and look for any dip, twitch or hesitation that indicates a fish. This is a very effective technique as you are simply replacing the indicator with your constant attention to the end of the line.

The second situation is on pressured lakes or where fishing are feeding in shallow water. It doesn't take long for the fish to become accustom to bobbers and steer clear. In this case greasing your leader to adjust the depth allows for a much more natural presentation and when you get it right you can significantly outfish someone who only knows how to fish with an indicator. If you watch feeding fish in the right conditions you can clearly see when this is happening... the fish will swim right around setups like they are mine fields.

There are always going to be times when wind and/or glare can make fishing w/o an indicator tough. Other times the fish want the fly hanging motionless at an exact depth which is harder to do w/o the indicator. Even the most ardent supporters generally carry bobbers and are prepared for whatever the fish want.

re: three flies

It is legal in most lakes to fish three flies and I do it all the time (check the regs of course). I have a slightly different take on judging multiple fly effectiveness so see if you buy what I'm about to say... :)

Let's say the fish are taking size 18 chiro's in fifteen feet of water, a very common occurrence here in the NW. Now if I fished that chiro by itself it would take forever to get down that deep. Some would add a split shot or swivel but I want my weight to have a hook in it so I simply use a bigger fly. Every fish I land on that 18 I give some of the credit to the larger fly. I also of course pick up bonus fish here and there on the top fly.

But there's another reason to use multiple flies. I often choose top flies that stand out- larger size, brighter color, darker... something that gets the fishes attention. I am convinced I have many hookups on the smaller trailing fly because the larger fly first gets the attention.

What proof do I have that any of this is true? I notice I catch significantly more fish when fishing multiple flies instead of one.

One reason you don't hear more about fishing multiple flies is because the expert chironomiders (BC) can only fish one fly in BC. Talk to Phil Rowley or Brian Chan and they will tell you they always fish multiple fly rigs when in Alberta or the states.

More flies equals more fish, even if it seems the bottom fly gets all the love!

I have fished without an indicator. Usually a long leader, 10ft plus, long cast let it set without moving for two or three minutes, a very, very slow retrieve. Sometimes it works great. Sometimes it doesn't work at all.

Thanks for the replies. I think I just need ot go out and fish without an indicator for awhile to get the hand of it. I wanted to feel better about chironomid fishing a couple years ago, but whenever I would be out fishing, I would immediately change to stripping nymphs and trolling. I finally went out one time with just one rod, and only chironomids in my box. I got the hang of it fairly quickly - it only takes catching a few fish to make me confident in a technique.

I really need to get out soon to fish, maybe tomorrow......



Do it outside!
15ft or less... I fish an indicator.
15ft or more I fish type 3 straight down. Just make sure you are a foot off the bottom and hold on to your rod, real good like! When the take happens its hard! Very very fun, espically if your attention is elsewhere.

Jeff Studebaker

Kayak Fly Angler
I'm a newbie to chironomid fishing in stillwater but I'm getting the hang of it. After having little success with lots of different combos, I managed to have a good day yesterday at a local favorite lake (begins with "P" and rhymes with "a$$"). I brought four 'bows and one brown to the net with a size 18, black/silver, chiro. It was unweighted, and the day was breezy, so I got it down to the bottom with a small weight clamped on the line. I found I needed an indicator to keep my floating line floating.

I also use one on days where it is impossible to keep a floating line straight. Otherwise, on calmer days I find I don't really need an indicator, since line-watching is little different from bobber-watching.

I do have a question for more experienced indicator-users, though:

When there's a fish on, and you've got 18 feet of leader and only 3 feet of net arm, how do you get the danged indicator off so you can reel him in?


Active Member
I do this style all the time. 30' of straight mono/fluoro at the most. I do fish 20' allot, so, attach a chironomid at 19' and another at 17'. Then I use the slip indicators like on my blog. The same ones Rowely is now using. And floating line of choice. I will also add weight about 6" up from bottom fly to get it down fast and past the dinks. I have caught two on many occasions.


Hello My name is Thad and Im addicted to flyfishin
I use midge's,and scuds often in lakes. This is my go to technique. I usally fish them under a bobber (thingamabobber are best for me). The technique's I find most effective is bobber into a bead head of sorts paticullarly a copper john or prince nymph, then into your midge/scud dropper. I belive the bead head acts as an attractor fly. I like to cast close to shore and either let it sit and soak with a bobber or turtle strips without. I also will do a hopper/caddis with a midge dropper, only if there is surface activity.This technique can be very effective. The real challenge is to match the type of food that most prodominant in the area,at that moment.Just a simple color or size change can be all the difference.
And as far as the casting goes, I admit it can be tough with bobbers and droppers. The important thing is to maintain a good, even line speed. So your probaly not going to beable to false cast.So it's best just to pick up the line letting the water load the rod.Then with only one back cast before placing the line back onto the water. Repeate this cast letting more line out each time. This will let you get distance you need. Remeber the futher out you get. You'll soon need to single, or even double haul the line to continue to generate the approprate line speed.
Remember, chironomid is a non biting midge, so don't just restrict yourself to just chironomid patterns.Especcially if they're not present.
Very informative post here. I will add much of this info to my arsenal. I'm thinking next time I hit a lake, perhaps this weekend, I will leave the 5 wt at home and just bring the 4 wt, a floating line, and some chironomids. I too often get impatient and lack confidence so I give up quickly and move on to other techniques. Putting such self imposed limitations on my gear will force me to stick it out.



I like to rip lips,,
I fish chroni's naked as a jail bird. I grease my fly line with mucilin. I always fish 3 flies and mix them up by color and size.

This is how I do it and I am changing droppers up to 10 times in a day.

I attach my droppers with a perfection loop tightened on the up side of the tippet knot, the dropper can be easily removed and I always use Flourocarbon. keep them on the shortish side. I make mine less than 6".