Midges don´t have many friends, particularly up in Scotland, where the little devils devour everyone in sight and can make a hell of a nuisance of themselves. The real villian is one of the biting midges, a nasty little son of a bitch known as the highland biting midge, Culicoides impunctatus. As with mosquitos,it is the female who sucks blood, and for the same reason, to be able to produce a batch of eggs.

While midges like this do little more than annoy people or drive them away and encourage them to use foul language, midges in general are a mixed blessing for fishermen. Like mosquitos, their life cycles generally involve an aquatic larval stage, and they are very important in the diet of fish, particularly on still waters, and an imitation of the “buzzer” is a major weapon in the arsenal of fly fishermen. The hatching midges on the surface of a lake or reservoir can preoccupy trout and they can be so distracted by the emerging insects that they are difficult to tempt into taking an artificial fly differing much in size and form from what they have in front of them.

The “midge” group accommodates a pretty broad range of insects belonging to the order “Diptera.” Some are biters, some are non-biters but, being fully signed up members of the order Diptera, midges are entitled to consider themselves “true” flies unlike the mayflies, and caddis flies, the stone flies and the dragonflies, with which fly fishermen are familair. For the record, what makes a “true” fly is the possession of a single pair of flight wings wings and a pair of halteres drived from the rear wings.

From a fly fishing point of view it is the chironomid midges which are most important. These are non-biting midges. The larvae, which develop from the eggs, do not spend most of their time in and around the surface film like the larvae of mosquitos, but rather down on the bottom in or around the sediment. They eventually change into pupae which make the journey up through the water column to transpose into the winged insect at the surface. It s the pupae which fly fishermen often imitate with their “buzzers.”

The larvae of some species which have to survive in low oxygen environments have haemoglobin and as a result a bright red colour. These “bloodworms” are important sources of food for fish too.

My brother Sean suggested I might tie up a few bloodworm patterns to use on the local barbel and carp and that seems like a good idea. The colour and shape are not too hard to match but the vigorous swimming action of the real thing is impossible to imitate even using flexible or rubbery materials.

A blood sucking highland midge - public enemy number one in parts of Scotland

A blood sucking highland midge – public enemy number one in parts of Scotland

A selection of buzzers imitating the pupae of chironomids

A selection of buzzers imitating the pupae of chironomids