On My Vise: Zebra Midges “Just because they are small, doesn’t mean they should be overlooked!”

Certain flies have a tendency to become overlooked for various reasons:

– they are considered “elementary”: ” a San Juan worm?!! Those are too simple to tie. No good for someone as advanced as me. ” 🙄

-they look ridiculous: “Really?? An egg pattern?! eww. I would never fish with that. Not happening”


– A Size 20?! Never! The fish will never see that little thing, why waste my time!”

Cold weather often means empty rivers, so get out and fish while others are staying home!

But you see, that’s just the thing , they do work and trout do see them.

 These “ridiculous” flies not only work, but they work very well in these current winter months in which we are in.

..And the sad little zebra midge.. half hidden in the slot of your fly box.. is no stranger to being passed on by..

Zebra Midge

Zebra Midge

Hook: Caddis or scud hook (16-22)

Bead: Glass

Thread: Black (keep in mind that the thread is also the body color)

Ribbing: Silver Tinsel or wire

So Grab that material and lets go!

I keep my glass beads in separate small glass bottles, with just a few colors mixed in. It makes it easy to just shake a small handful out as needed.

Here we go!

Place bead on the hook.

When it comes to sizing a glass bead to a hook, be sure to look closely when its on, to ensure that there is enough room between the bead and the hook point.

An oversized bead will take over the body shape, and cause the hook gap to become crowded once the body is finished.

That in turn will not allow a proper hook set.

Start your thread behind the bead and run it back along the shank, stopping across from the barb.

Ribbing can be either wire or tinsel, the choice is yours.

Now you want to grab some tinsel, and if you are like me.. where every so often you refuse to break off a new piece of material after glancing at that mess of a bench..

.. then grab some scrap tinsel!

Uh oh..

Relax! It’ll straighten out as I use it.

Tie your tinsel in across from the barb, cover the waste ends, cut the excess and bring your thread back to the front.

Creating the Body

Begin to taper the body but remember that your thread underbody IS the body and will be showing through.

Taper the body

If you are having trouble building a taper on your body, please see this previous post on “Creating a uniform underbody” scroll halfway down it and take a look at the troubleshooting and step-by-step section.

It will open in a new window so that you can continue tying.

When you think its done, Stop behind the bead and take a look before continuing..

Is the gap behind the bead too big?

This only needs a few more turns, go ahead! Fill it in.

If it looks like the photo above then Keep going, wrap that underbody just a littleeeee bit more behind the bead.

Leaving enough room so that two turns of thread to tie off the material, and two more turns to whip finish it off, isn’t enough to crowd it.

Zebra midges are small flies and it only takes a few too many turns to over crowd them.

That’s good, stop right there!

Wrapping the Tinsel ribbing

Before you go any further I recommend putting a thin coat, (like a half a drop of head cement over the thread body) to give the tinsel something to hold on to.

Just a little!
hmm..Thats a little too much, so just take your finger and blot a little off.

If it looks like this photo above, then you have added too much. You don’t need it to be covered because you are going to put another coat over it when it’s finished. If this happens to you its not a big deal, just take your finger and blot a little off.

Now you’ve got it, looks good!

What you want to do now is to grab your flash material and make about 5 evenly spaced turns up the body towards the back of the bead, and tie it off.

Remember that curly piece of flashy scrap?

Now its straight! So use what you have laying around.

One you have reached the bead, Take one or two turns to lock it in, then cut off the excess.

Now add a two turn whip finish before cutting off your thread.

Top coat options

There are a few things you can do in regards to a top coat.

-Clear nail polish

-One or two coats of head cement.


-a UV resin.

I have currently been trying out the Loon UV clear finish in thin, and it has been working well for me on small flies.

Keep in mind all UV’s are not the same, some of the shatter like glass when hit with pliers, so test them out and see what works for you.


Be sure you keep that hook eye clear! Getting a top coat in there is an aggravating thing to have to deal with on the side of a river.
Top coat of UV complete!

That’s it, your fly is done!

Remember, there is no limit to the combinations of beads, ribbing and thread that you could use.

The possibilities are endless, so experiment and see what works best in your area.

The black and silver I find is a good pattern in many places, so be sure to keep these on hand as well as some others.

Another Idea?

Are you looking for a tiny caddis pattern? In that case, Just change your thread color, use a bit of tiny wire and here you go!

Just be sure you don’t accidentally grab the bobbin with a rough spot that you were planning to throw out!! Or you’ll have a shredded body like i do here. aahahah

Zebra midges aren’t anything spectacular to look at, they aren’t fancy, but they sure are some fine fish catchers.

A few tips when fishing a Zebra Midge.

I don’t fish with indicators often, but in the cold slow waters of the winter I have a tendency to use them. I like to fish these flies as one of the flies, in a two fly rig.

With an Indicator:

 -I tie a frenchie jig on as my anchor fly, with the midge being tied on around 18″ ABOVE that, coming off of a tippet ring.


Without an Indicator:

-A lighter egg pattern tied as my anchor fly, with the midge tied on around 18″ ABOVE that coming off of a tippet ring, and… depending on the water depth, I put a split shot for weight that is a foot ABOVE them both.

*Yes It may sound weird but my love of swinging wet flies, has crept into my winter nymphing!*

By tying my rig with the split shot above my two flies, It creates a ‘V’ shape  underwater that allows the weight to bring my rig to the bottom, while letting my lighter flies float justtttttt above the bottom, into the sight of a trout, without getting hung up.

Winter is here!

However you like to fish them, just be sure to fish them! They might be tiny but shouldn’t be over looked!

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