The pursuit of making flies look better and more realistic is never-ending. The fish probably don’t care nearly as much as we do, but being a perfectionist at times is the only way to keep growing.
Imitating chironomids isn’t necessarily hard, but making them exactly how you envision them in your mind is what makes it challenging. There are many materials that work great for imitating the segmentation on a chironomid pupa, but for the last few years I have been hard-pressed to find one better than spinning two strands of UTC 70 tying thread together to form a ribbing. I’ve received a number of messages and emails asking how to do this, so I figured it was time for this article to be written.
Twisted thread ribbings are just as simple as tying in a length of wire, flashabou or tinsel. If you are using one single colour of rib, cutting one long strand and doubling it up is quicker and easier than tying in two separate strands. That being said, sometimes examining the segmentation of a natural chironomid can sometimes give off the effect of two different colours in the rib. This is where UTC 70 thread really shines, as you can easily double two separate strands of different colours or shades without adding too much bulk to the fly.
For this tutorial, I’m tying on a #18 Dai-Riki 285 curved shank nymph hook. This is solely an example, now is the time to get creative with different body and ribbing colour combos.
Step 1: Attach thread behind bead. For this bug I’m tying with a 5/64 white bead. Since the white bead is a gill imitation in itself, there is no need to tie in a UNI-Stretch or antron yarn gill.
Step 2: Cut a piece of thread twice as long as you’d cut a piece of wire or flashabou. Simply double it around your body material, match the ends and wrap it back.
Step 3: Wrap your thread ribbing back and form a gentle taper up to the bead.
Step 4: Twist your two strands of thread tightly together before wrapping forward as the ribbing.
Tip: Hackle pliers come in extremely handy, especially when not using a rotary style vice, to keep the thread from coming apart while wrapping.
Step 5: Whip finish, cut thread, add thorax of your choice & repeat!
I learned this technique from my good friend Len Bevaart many moons ago. Thread ribbings make up for well over half of my chironomid patterns, and I think they provide the most realistic segmentations. Later this week, I’ll cover dual-tone thread ribbings.
Want to learn a little more about chironomid fishing? I’ll be teaching a series of “Intro to Chironomid Fishing” courses at Trout Waters Fly & Tackle on March 15th, as well as Michael & Young Fly Shop on Saturday, March 24th at both the Surrey and Vancouver locations. For more information click here!