This month, our resident fly fishing expert, Bob Goble, takes us though the life cycle of that useful midge - the buzzer
If like me you have been longing for spring to arrive, turning the calendar over to March is very welcome. The trees start turning from that dark grey or brown hue to a life-giving green and longer day light hours and the clocks going forward later in the month, will put a spring in your step.
After their long, dormant, winter’s rest, branches reach out with buds bursting in new growth and bathed in the warming airing sunlight, flora and fauna doing the same. Daffodils abound, with their yellow flowers waving in the warm breeze, reed stems push up their green spiky stems to gather up the sunlight and you say to yourself “life is good again”.
If you intend to holiday in Wales this year and do a little fishing, I can recommend the Elan Valley near Rhayader. It is a most spectacular area for scenery, but then Wales is a beautiful country with breath-taking vistas from coast to country.
Here is a picture of the dam and spillway at Claerwen Reservoir, one of five lakes that spill into each other. Wales does have a lot of rain throughout the year and the spectacle of the water tumbling over into the gorges and out into another lake, then into the river Elan and finally into the river Wye is very special. Even if it hasn’t been raining and there is no water coming over the top it is still a wondrous place to be. Red kites abound and their shrill cries can be heard far and wide.
I could write a whole article about the many places worth a visit and the fishing, but I thought I would just share this little piece with you.
Back to the fishing… life beneath the water is also awakening. All manner of invertebrates are bursting forth - shrimps, lice, olives, March browns and the midges, or as we anglers call them, buzzers. The correct name for this order is Chironomidae and these little creatures are non-biting, unlike their cousin the biting midge which likes the stagnant ponds and some water butts. Buzzers live in all lakes and rivers and are a very important food source for fish, especially trout.
The life cycle of the buzzer is fairly straightforward. Mating begins in the air above the water, the female delivers her eggs onto the water, they fall down into the silty bottom, after a time the midge larvae hatch. They are worm-like in appearance, in various shades of brown, green and mostly red (the latter being known as a “bloodworm”). They swim with a lashing motion and there could be thousands, if not millions, squirming around on the silty bottom of lakes and rivers, a feast for all hungry fish.
When ready to pupate, they emerge with a tapered body and bulbous thorax, with wing cases of orange in colour and tufts of white breathing filaments on their heads. They will thrash their way to the surface, often falling back, only to try again.
Once on the surface, they quickly wriggle out from the shuck, to fly off and the whole cycle repeats itself. As it emerges from its shuck, the midge it is very vulnerable to predation not only from fish but birds, which feed on them avidly.
Once in the air they are of no use to fish but will be a meal for many birds and at the beginning of spring will see the first of the swifts and swallows that have flown all the way from Africa. You will spot these magical birds swooping and diving over the water picking off midges at high speed. They move north until the cooling of the season, then return all the way back to Africa.
Fishing with a fly based on the buzzer is fairly easy, as I have mentioned in previous columns. All that is required is an 8 to 9-foot fly rod with a 5 to 6 weight floating fly line and a tapered leader, to aid turnover, of 6 to 7Ibs breaking strain then your offering attached.
Cast out and give it time to sink. You might get a take as it falls through the water, so be ready. You can also use a countdown method of one to 20 seconds, then start your retrieve but very slowly or just let the wind fish it for you. Remember to keep in touch with the fly line, too much of a belly in your line and you could miss a take, so keep the slack to a minimum. Don’t forget buzzers are very slow movers.
Apart from fishing the midge, which is a more natural way to fish, you could also try your usual lures. The cat’s whisker, Viva and black and green are always good early bankers but this little favourite of mine (pictured) is called a cormorant. A very clever fly, it incorporates many of the properties of other flies - marabou wing tips for example - and its body mimics several creations, stacking the odds in your favour!
That’s all for now. Keep warm, be safe and don’t forget to wear glasses and a hat, but most of all have fun. Bob G.
Credit to The Pocket Guide to Matching the Hatch by Peter Lapsey for the image of the midge's lifecycle