The world is a different place when you gaze at life in a macro mode.
Cameron Mortenson knows this fact intimately. Cameron fishes for trout,
sometimes very big trout, with flies that start at size 20 and go down
from there. It's a rarified and specialized world. It's a world
where every detail bears equal significance; from the knot used to tie on the
fly to the materials used to construct the bug itself. Primarily fishing the six
patterns in the variety of colors pictured below, Cameron is able to fool tough
fish. By using miniature tippets and finely crafted fiberglass rods he
often pays his dues for membership in the famed 20/20 club. Lee Wulff would be proud!
"Midges will work on any river that has a
significant midge base during the day to day diet of the trout in that water. I
take at least one fully stocked midge box on any trip...just in case" says
Cameron. "Two years ago I learned that the game does go anywhere as a
couple friends and I took a spring trip to the Grey Reef section of the North
Platte River in Wyoming. Besides a few worm patterns, RS-2's and Krystal Flash
Midges fished deep took some amazing trout. The biggest surprise was that we
were fishing size 20 and 22 midges off of 3X tippet. That would be unheard of
back here on rivers in the Appalachia."
Cameron learned to fish small on the waters of northern Colorado nearly a decade
ago. He says he was surprised at first to see solid fish move from slack water
behind a rock to snatch up a tiny midge in the flow of the riffle water. "I
became a believer…FAST!" says Cameron. His favorite set-up is a double
midge nymph rig. "A grey CDC wing RS-2 and a black Krystal Flash Midge are at
the top of the rotation of tandem rigs I use."
The genesis of this profile started with some posts on the
Internet forum. Pictures of beautiful rainbow trout and tiny, tiny flies
prompted an invitation to join the Fly Fish Ohio team in a Fly Box Porn
installment. "Over the past year and a half I've rediscovered the joys of
fishing fiberglass and have added rods to my collection from six and a half to
eight foot in length." he confided. "For the narrow tree covered waters
that I fish in North Carolina, I've found that a seven foot five weight is the
perfect fly rod for me. I've also shortened up my leaders to about seven feet as
well. The short rod allows me to cast in places that an eight to nine foot rod
would be limited and I am not catching tree limbs overhead on missed hook sets.
The shorter leader has given me more control when roll or flip casting with just
a few feet of fly line past the rod tip. A lot of what I am doing is short line
high stick nymphing tandem midge rigs with a bit of weight to get the flies down
through shallow riffles and runs. The shorter leader lends to getting better
drifts and hook sets since there is less fly line and leader to contend with on
the trout’s take of the fly."
Just because the flies are microscopic doesn't mean the tackle is scaled back.
After all, the fish are still just as big! Cameron favors three to five
weight rods. He matches his gear to the fish and water, not the fly.
Says Cameron "Last spring I found myself under gunned trying to hook up with
sixteen plus inch trout in tight fast water with a fiberglass seven foot three
weight. After lunch I switched to a seven foot five weight rod...problem
When asked if he finds the fish to be truly selective to pattern at these small
sizes, Cameron is quick to answer that color and size are most important. Red
and black midges are his top producers, but occasionally something flashy in
green, gold, or silver can make a reluctant fish move. "I’ve found that
getting creative at the vise, even on these small flies, can yield some
interesting and effective midge patterns."
Cameron has some advice for those of you who are planning on getting serious
about the midge game. "Know this one thing," he says. "The advantage
is ALWAYS to the fish. When you are casting size 20 and smaller flies on light
tippet to large fish in skinny or structure filled water…you are at their will.
It is easy to get really frustrated when you regularly get busted off; the hook
comes unbuttoned or even straightens under the weight of a large fish on the
run. Realize this…it happens…and it will happen again. As you are sliding your
net under a twenty plus inch fish that took a size 22 midge and then fought a
spirited fight for the past five minutes…well…all the memories of a missed trout
will melt away and be forgotten."