Best Flies for the Farmington and Swift? Midges

TL;DR: Small midges are some of the best flies. Where to buy them. Photos of some favorites.

Best Flies for the Farmington and Swift? Midges
If you fish tailwaters, you know that midges are a huge part of a trout’s diet. Many of my best Farmington River and Swift River flies are midges (links here and here). They’re not the only way to catch. But, I find that they consistently produce.

When nymphing, I like starting with size 20 midges. Here is a favorite.

If the fish aren’t taking them, I go down in size, all the way to a size 28. When throwing midge dries at slow spots, I have a bunch of CDC Midge Emergers in sizes 28 and 30.

Midges for the Farmington and Swift rivers

There are problems galore, however, with fishing really small midges. You have to:

  1. Find them or make them
  2. Thread tippet through a small eye
  3. Try to see takes when they’re on the water

Item #3 can be solved pretty easily: You can pair small midges with a dry and do the dry-dropper. Or, in faster and deeper water, you can nymph them with a larger anchor fly.

Item #2 is tough but doable. You really need the Gamakatsu C-12BM hook. It features a “big eye” hook and is barbless, too, which makes for very easy hooksets and removals.

Item #1 requires investing in fly-tying equipment and patience or finding someone who will sell such flies to you. Before I started tying flies, I couldn’t find the extra-small midges I wanted.

Well, the good news is that I found a vendor that sells midge nymphs in sizes 26 and 28 for about $1.50 each–and, on the Gamakatsu hooks. I don’t know the supplier and cannot vouch for them. But, check out’s Micro Midges.

And, if you’re looking for small midge dries, contact Dan Trela. In the past, Orvis Dedham has had some, too.

If you know of any other suppliers, please add a comment below. I am sure your fellow angler would love to know.

Midges really are some of the best flies for the Farmington and Swift. As they say, elephants eat peanuts.

Edit, 9/25/17:
Orvis has a great post and video on how to work with small hooks. Link here, FYI.


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12 thoughts on “Best Flies for the Farmington and Swift? Midges

    1. Yes, forgot to write that I DID try the GG with the tail. Size 24. Nothing! I couldn’t believe it! Adding now to the post.

  1. Do you fish just the one small midge, or is it used as a dropper? I think I finally have to give in and try something really small like a size 24. One nice trout rising in the same zone last four times out won’t hit anything tossed its way, and I have thrown everything under the sun to it. Not even a sniff from that trout. Yet I never seem to put it down after many casts to it, some not so good being it sometimes rises underneath a streamside branch that is hard to get a fly to. It is a nice one that I would like to connect with.

    Regards, Sam

      1. At the Swift, a zone not very popular with most fly anglers. For dries I was using parachute Adams, a couple of different Catskill style flies, and EHC. The brookies would take, but not the nice one against the bank. Sub surface variety included the pheasant tail and various midges, but only as small as size 18, so perhaps I need to go smaller. An ant would not attract this particular fish, but it did connect on a nice brown upstream a ways.

        1. Hi Sam, for me, a black #28 or #30 CDC Midge Emerger fished solo as a dry is a go-to fly, particularly if the water is slow. Doesn’t always work, but the pattern has duped them in the past.

          I use 6x tippet and Frog’s Fanny. I use a Harvey Slackline Dry Fly Leader that I’ve made, which one of the Swift super-anglers uses, too.

          I then position myself to see where the currents are, and, if possible, cast upstream of the fish in order to have it see first the fly and not any leader. Slack or parachute casts, if needed. A savvy fish in slow water will want to see the fly float for a while before taking it, and so, you want to maximize the drag-free drift. At times at the Y-Pool, for example, a rainbow will drift back while eye-balling the fly a few feet. The slightest drag causes the fish to swim away. I also grease my leader with Mucilin until a few inches away from the fly.

          Of course, sometimes a “shock” fly can trigger an instinctive strike. Some guys throw streamers for that reason. It’s a low-probability strategy, but worth trying if nothing else works and you’re about to move to a different spot, anyways. For fun one day, I threw a weighted Mop Fly at some skinny water. A fish took it on the first cast. Of course, after that, the other fish wouldn’t budge.

          Let me know if you have any other questions.

          For me, fishing the technical waters of the Swift, away from any riffles or broken water, is unlike any other fly fishing experience. The dry-fly tactics and flies used at other rivers usually have not worked for me at the Swift. It’s a unique fishery.

          1. I appreciate the suggestions on flies and strategies! This is definitely a slower water zone, and deep in spots too. There are some nice ones in there I can tell you, as I have duped a few over recent years. Very tough fishing that definitely improves some on cloudy days. Lost a very nice brown in June on a miserable rainy evening that seemed to put the fish off guard just a bit. I could not control this particular fish and it ran me into sub surface brush and broke me off. Smart rascal!

            This particular fish of late definitely uses that overhanging branch to its advantage, making it very hard to get a fly into. It had moved downstream a few feet of that branch last night, at least where it was hitting, but I bet it was still stationed underneath the branch and followed bugs down into its take zone. I bet my flies were being tossed well behind where it was sitting. Very challenging and very fun to try and figure out.

            Best, Sam

            1. Wow, that sounds like some awesome fishing! It’s great that you are sight-targeting a big fish over multiple visits. It’s very challenging, and I’ve yet to try it. Good luck!

  2. The current dry fly that has proven very effective for me on the Swift the past couple weeks is the Vermont Caddis in #14, 16, 18. Simple to tie and easy to see on the water. I tie them in both gray and olive. I’ve seen several fish check it out on one drift then take it on the next cast. Yes, sight fishing to rising/sipping fish.

    1. Gary, so great to hear from you! I hope you are well. I looked up the fly and people describe is as a Hare’s Ear + hackle. Certainly looks fishy to me!

      1. Didn’t have your new blog site so haven’t been able to read. If you haven’t fished the V-Caddis dry, tie some and float them. They work!

        1. Also, any of the old posts and the old URL automatically go to the new URL. If that’s not the case, let me know.

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