Small Flies for the Swift River

With the Upper Swift now fully stocked, I tonight tied some midge mergers in sizes #28 to #32. I love the WD-40 fly and think it’s a killer fly for the Swift.



After a lot of frustration, I feel I’m now starting to get a hang for making them. I use tweezers to handle the small hooks, and I make sure to keep the hook eyes clear. I tie on the wood duck feathers first and whip finish behind the thorax rather than crowd the hook eye. I take out one hook at a time, as they’re easy to lose.

I think the Swift trout are fun to land, as they’re usually pretty big. But, as you know, they’re quite selective. I’ve found that pressured fish tend to be more susceptible to small flies.

I don’t know why. On the Swift, the midge hatches happen year round. Maybe the trout key in on that food. Or, maybe it’s because they don’t often see an emerger fly that small (e.g., the smallest WD-40 on a typical site is a size #22).

Regardless, it’s one of my favorite flies for the Swift, and it’s time to replenish the fly box.

A happy July 4th to all!


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2 thoughts on “Small Flies for the Swift River

  1. What tippet do you use with size 32 hooks?

    And to pick your brain for a minute (you know this river much better than I), do you think that overall, a size 32 fly will outperform, say, a 24? I know 22 and 24 are as low as some guys on the Swift go (and catch tons), but maybe trout have a harder time picking out the imperfections on smaller flies? I want to jump on the "size 30 and below" bandwagon, but if they don't outfish 20 range flies much, then it seems like sort of a pain tying them.


    1. I have tippet down to 9x, but that's a dicey proposition if the fish are near a log jam and I have to be a bit aggressive. I've never had 6x or 7x break on me, though.

      I just ordered some midge hooks with extra-large hook eyes, so I'm hoping I can fish a #30 sub-surface with 7x.

      I don't have enough data to say that #32 is best. I have a variety of sizes on hand and try them all during a tough day. I've caught Swift trout on emerger patterns up to #20, and also, plenty in the #28 and smaller. Small size was particularly key during the late fall and winter, when the only things hatching were midges.

      In the end, IMO, good presentation trumps all.

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