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Home->Articles->Fly Patterns->Archives->Getting the Skinny on Chironomids   
Fly Patterns
Getting the Skinny on Chironomids


The Copper Chromie

(Created By Ken Woodward)




Hook:           Daiichi 1120, 1130 or 1150 #8-#16

Thread:        MFC 8/0 or UTC 70, Rusty Brown

Rib:              Fine Red Wire

Under Body: Copper Flashabou #6906

Over Body:   Black over Pearl Flashabou #6931

Thorax:        Tying Thread

Bead:           Copper

Gills:            UV2 Sparkle Yarn or Uni Stretch, White


Tying Note:  Coat entire body with a brushable superglue or Loon UV Clear Fly Finish-Flow


I have the good fortune to speak at a variety of shows, fly clubs, seminars and demonstrations.  Tying demonstrations are a favorite component.  Whenever I feature a chironomid pupa pattern on lookers often ask how I manage to keep my patterns so slender.  I firmly believe developing a skinny pattern discipline is one of the keys to successful chironomid fishing.  A feat that can be harder than it seems. 


Experienced Kelowna fly tyer and fellow chironomid addict Ken Woodward spends countless hours on the water using his svelte chironomid patterns.  A teacher by profession, Ken has the luxury of extended summer vacations that he puts to good use throughout the south central interior.  During the hot summer months when most anglers chose other patterns or forsake stillwaters all together some interior lakes offer the finest chironomid action of the season.  At this time of the year hordes of large “bomber” pupa elevate their way to the surface stimulating a feeding frenzy.  Ken’s Copper Chromie is an excellent pattern to ply productive stillwaters and is a perfect example of what a skinny pattern should be.


Thread choice and management are critical.  Become comfortable using fine diameter thread.  Thread manufacturers such as Gudebrod offer a vast array of 8/0 and 10/0 tying threads with strength beyond their size.  Thicker diameter threads including traditional 6/0 can build up unnecessary bulk, especially on size 12 or smaller patterns.  Some brands of tying thread can be spun counter clockwise removoing twist and providing flat wraps.  This process should be done a number of times during the tying process.


When winding thread and securing materials exercise discipline by using only enough thread wraps to get the job done.  Don’t use 10 wraps when 3 will suffice.  Keep in mind thread builds up in a cumulative fashion as additional materials are secured.  In some instances such as creating red butts unwind the tying thread back to the butt tie off area as opposed to winding back and increasing bulk.  When finishing a fly use the whip finish process to build the head avoiding unnecessary additional wraps.


Chironomid pupa patterns are often dunked into deep water and in conjunction with wind induced circulation currents pattern weight becomes an issue.  With the advent of metal and tungsten beads tyers can now incorporate weight into the fly while complimenting the overall look of the pattern.  Use the following as a guide:


  • Size 8=1/8 inch beads
  • Size 10=7/64 inch beads
  • Size 12 through 16=3/32nds

For fussy trout that have seen an assortment of bead head patterns squash .010” lead wire substitute using smooth jawed pliers and bind in place.  Under thread pressure the flattened lead envelops the hook adding a minimum of bulk.  Keep in mind, slender chironomid patterns slice through the water.


Forming the body is where pupal patterns often accumulate mass.  Owing to a chironomid pattern’s minimalist nature materials must be bound along the entire shank.  Lumpy patterns are as undesirable as bulky ones.  Use all sides of the hook when binding materials in place.  For example, tie in the ribbing material along the near side of the hook and bind the body material along the top side.  This material dispersal works wonders.  Many popular body materials including Stretch Floss, Midge Flex and Scud Back have an elasticity easily taken advantage of.  Tie in with 3 firm wraps and pull the material tight to reduce bulk and bind along the shank with firm open wraps.  Trimming Midge Flex and Scud Back to a tapered point keeps things skinny too.  Midge Braid and Frostbite are also popular body materials.  Unwind these materials to maintain a slender profile.  Trim a 1 to 1 ˝ inch length of material.  Pull on both ends to unwind.  The material unravels into two strands kept together at one end by a knot.  Moisten the material, keeping the two strands together. Plagued by a memory from its woven state Midge Braid and Frostbit can be unruly.  Secure the material in place at any point along its length and pull gently until it is just about to slip from under the thread.  Bind in place with 3-4 additional wraps. 

Doubling is another technique that works well with Crystal Flash or Flashabou.  Take one or two strands depending upon fly size and lay them perpendicular across the bobbin barrel so that there are equal amounts of material on both sides.  Grasp the ends of material and pull them together.  Maintaining a good grip, slide the material off the barrel onto the tying thread up to the shank.  Using thread tension to control the Flashabou or Crystal Hair secure with minimal thread wraps.  This technique is fantastic for “aiming” materials into position.  When forming chironomid bodies in this manner bind the materials in place at the thorax area. Wind the materials down and back forming the body.  Bodies tied in this manner are slender, smooth and durable.  Complete the fly by applying a coat of brushable Super Glue to the body providing additional durability and shine. 


Tying Instructions


1) De-barb the hook and slide a copper bead onto the hook shank.  Attach the tying thread at the hook eye and bind in a single strand of UV2 Sparkle Yarn so the majority of the material protrudes out over the hook eye.  Don’t worry about the length as this will be trimmed to proportion later.  Place a wrap or two underneath the yarn gills at the hook eye to cock them up.  Trim the waste end trailing back over the hook at an angle and cover with tying thread.  Whip finish and remove the tying thread.



2) Slide the bead forward over to the hook eye and reattach the tying thread directly behind the copper bead.



3) Take a length of fine red wire and stab it inside the bead to help position it along the near side of the hook.  Bind the wire in place down the shank of the hook into the bend and return the tying thread to the rear of the bead.



4) Attach two strands of copper Flashabou directly behind the bead, moisten the strands to help keep them together.  Wind the Flashabou down the hook shank into the bend and then back over itself to the bead.  Make sure the wraps are smooth and that there are no visible gaps between the Flashabou.  A coating of Fisherman’s Glue can be added to the thread wraps prior to winding the Flashabou if desired.  Conversely one can cover the entire fly body upon completion for added durability and shine.



5) Repeat the same process with the dyed black over pearl Flashabou tying the material in directly behind the bead and winding down the shank and back up to the bead.  0nce again make sure the wraps are smooth and there are no gaps visible.  Keep in mind the body must be slender to match the natural chironomid pupa.



6) Counter wind one complete wrap of red wire around the rear of the body to suggest a small red butt and provide further protection to the body.  With the wire butt in place counter wind the wire rib in open spirals over the body.  Tie off the wire rib then twist and break off the excess.



7) Build up a neat tapered thread thorax at the rear of the bead.  Whip finish and remove the tying thread.  Trim the gills so that they are the same length as the bead.  The gills can be pulled back over the bead and trimmed even with the back of the bead to ensure the gills proportions are correct and consistent.  Cover the body and thorax with brushable superglue or Loon's UV Clear Fly Finish-Flow.

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