When to use Small Chironomids 18-22

Just thinking about getting out in the next two weeks. I have an assortmet of chironos tied from size 10 to 22. I have had limited success using the smaller chironomids, it seems that I am not using those smaller flies at the right time, or depth. Any insight?
From what I understand, and there are people here smarter than me on these things, chironomids tend to be bigger in the spring and get smaller as the year goes on. Catch and fish, pump its stomach contents, and see what it is eating -color and size. Or look at shucks on the water.

Thanks, I have pumped fish stomachs and from Lone and Pass to find the size 12 to 10 blood worms and size 12-16 pupae. I will keep working the gig, just getting ready to hit some chironomid fishing soon and thought I would inquire. I have hit fish on the smaller flies, but I was searching and put one on to see what the outcome would be. I did not pump those fish, should have. Appreciate the response.
When it comes to size, I try to match (or get close to) the size of mids hatching. The pupae are usually one size larger than the winged adult but fishing the adult size has always been fine to start. When you catch a fish or two take a throat sample and see if there is a size preference. That will also help determine color if needed.
In the spring when mid hatches really get going, different size mids will be available to the trout on the same day. On those days I've noticed as long as you're fishing a size the fish are/have been eating then size isn't that critical. If there is only one hatch daily then you need to match the size. I don't fish mids smaller than size 20. Sizes 18-20 usually work for me when smaller bugs are hatching.


Indi "Ira" Jones
The analogy I use is the steak versus M&M. Sometimes you are in the mood for meat and other times you just want a handful of candy. I think trout do the same in a way.

I second/third/fourth the idea of conducting a throat pump, the only problem with that is you just caught a fish on whatever fly you were using so now do you switch because the throat sample says something different? If you find lots of tiny bugs then I say yes but maybe just slightly bigger in the same color (some folks only like to eat the green M&Ms first, then they eat the other colors), but do not remove the bug that was just working! Maybe all they are eating is the green M&Ms because someone else ate all the red ones, then you throw on a red one and they quickly gobble it up. Having two bugs on (doesn't work in B.C. unless you fish two rods because you are only allowed one bug per rod) somewhat close together after you have hook a fish in a zone will really help you determine what they really want.

Small bugs can sink at a much slower rate, so I suggest that fishing two sizes of bugs is also good because a larger bug allows for a larger bead or more wrap, depending on your preference. I use mostly tungsten either way. This puts you in the zone quicker and it makes sure that your bugs are hanging where you want them too. Sometimes small bugs don't work as well as large bugs during a switch over because your small bug is simply not sinking to where the fish are. I know some folks who use split shot to make sure this doesn't happen, but this is not something I've explored much except in rivers.

Small bugs even if they are not present in a throat sample can also pay off big in over fished waters because let's face it, guys tend to not fish them as often. So often times if I know fish are working buy my catch rate has dropped off I'll but on a general small bug and find that the fish are simply not as cautious of it. I once did this at Dry Falls and actually watched fish shy away from my size 12 but readily without hesitation eat a size 16.

Your bugs are nice looking by the way.

Have you found similar experience to what I mentioned?



Left handed Gemini.
I like all of the answers you've already gotten and I find that using a pump is the best way to go, I'll pump, check for what the fish are eating, determine size and color and go from there, once at lenice I was fishing a leech pattern I pumped a fish and the predominate prey in the sample was a size 22# black and grey chironomide I tied on one that closely matched under a larger pattern to get the small one down and got nothing zilch no takes, tried a chromey black and gunmetal same reaction zilch, what the hell, went back to a leech pumped the next fish and it was full of those little black and silvery grey pupae, so I decided to try again this time I put on #22 all black and that was the ticket, I used that pattern for the next 6 hours, when one spot seemed to dry up I would move to another and start getting into fish again, that day I caught the largest brown trout I'd ever caught there using that pattern, it was excellent, hard to believe the fish would even notice something so small but they do, so pump and match is what I would recommend.


Active Member
Just some of the Chironomids I am using.... and tying.:hmmm::hmmm:
Love that #2 and #3 pattern. Resembles the English Buzzers! I gun down to a smaller size when the action has slowed, sometimes even fishing the dropper a size smaller than the top bug. Throat samples and clues with the air adults can indicate that its time to go small or change your depth as the day progresses. Also pay attention to your graph, with a temperature increase and good hatch in session I've seen fish start from the bottom 1-2' above the mud and then hover and feed actively in that mid layer. When the fish are comfortable and the hatch is emerging, the trout feed greedily for the easy meal of the wiggling nymphs and then the susceptible emerger.
I have had great success with the mid sizes, but have gone smaller when it slows down. That is when I will get the renegade hook up on the smaller sizes.... I think the concensus is that I should use the pump more. My problem is that I love to leech too. If the chironomids slow down I carry a pole with an intermediate line ready to leech. I just switch up and start paddling. I have always caught fish on leeches....I am trying to get more consistent with the chironomids. I recently have gone away from the bobber and went to a class 7 full sink. First two times was very fun. I need to get out in the next few weeks or I may bust.