Shop Orvis Today!

Copper Zebra Midge Pattern & Tying Instructions

Fly Tying Recipe: Copper Zebra Midge
Standard emerger hook (here a Dai-Riki #125), size 20.
Copper, 1/16-inch.
Light brown, 6/0.
Trailing shuck:
Copper Krystal Flash, one strand.
Copper Ultra Wire, small or extra small.
Wing bud:
Pearl Midge Diamond Braid.
Peacock-eye herl.
EZ Hackle Pliers, popsicle stick, dubbing wax.
Show / Hide Copper Zebra Midge Transcript

Video Transcript:

A good friend and fellow New Jersey fly fisherman Rick Alampi showed me this pattern a couple of months back and it's turned out to be one of my go-to midge patterns. He calls it a Copper Zebra Midge but, as you can see, it has a few more accessories than your standard Zebra Midge.

A Dai-Riki #125 Emerger hook in a size 20 is a great choice for this fly. With small hooks like this, I've found E-Z Hackle Pliers to be almost indispensable. Once you get a hold of the hook, it's much easier to manipulate than it is with just your fingers.

For the size 20, I like a 1/16" copper bead and, these too, are no treat to get a hold of and handle. Just getting them out of the package can be a chore. A magnet doesn't seem to work, so I'll put a light skim of dubbing wax on the end of a popsicle stick. You'll find the wax just sticky enough to hold onto the bead. Using the E-Z pliers, insert the point of the hook into the small hole in the bead and slide it onto the hook shank. You can then firmly secure the hook in your tying vise and push the bead up to just behind the eye.

On small flies, I lIke Danville's 6/0 Flymaster wax thread. Here, I'm using a light brown color. Get the thread started on the hook shank behind the bead and take wraps rearward before breaking or snipping the tag end off close.

Snip a single strand of copper crystal flash free from the hank. This single strand can be used to make numerous flies. Attach one end to the hook shank and take wraps of tying thread rearward to secure the flash to the top of the hook. Go down into the bend before returning your thread to the tie-in point.

For a rib, small or extra small copper Ultra wire works really well. Four to five inches is enough to make several flies. Secure one end of the wire to the top of the hook shank and take adjacent wraps of tying thread rearward to the start of the crystal flash. I'll leave my thread right there and begin making open spiral wraps up the hook shank with the copper wire. On small flies like this, I've found this technique to be easier than passing the wire behind the thread on each wrap.

With the wire wrapped, advance your tying thread forward in the spaces between the wire. Using the nozzle of your bobbin as a brace, you can then helicopter the wire off close. Take a few wraps rearward to secure it and position your tying thread just behind the hook point.

Now's a good time to snip the crystal flash off to form a trailing shuck about a hook shank in length.

For a wing bud, snip off a small length of pearl midge diamond braid. Again, this will make numerous flies. Secure one end of the braid to the top of the hook shank and take wraps rearward to just behind the hook point. Snip the braid off to form a wing bud about half a hook shank in length.

For the thorax, you'll find a herl from a peacock eye works much better than strung herl. With the eye, you can see there's both a colorful side and a dull stem side. You'll also notice the lower hurls on the eye have much longer fibers than the ones that make up the eye. For flies this small, I find the herls from the eye have about the right sized fibers.

Snip a herl or two from the eye. Notice how I snipped about where the copper color begins. Take just one herl and get it oriented so the stem side faces toward you and up, and secure it to the near side of the hook shank. Take wraps of tying thread all the way back to the base of the wing bud.

Now this is what you don't want, the stem ending up rearward of the fibers. Take off a wrap or two and make sure the herl orients like this, with the stem facing forward. This can be a little tricky but don't take "no" for an answer, get the stem oriented correctly. When you begin wrapping it, you'll notice the fibers cover up the stem from the previous wrap and this is exactly what you want. Also notice how the thread holds the herl back so it doesn't slide forward. Once you reach the bead, take two wraps of tying thread over top of the herl to secure it. You can then reach in and carefully snip the herl off close.

Do a 3 or 4 turn whip finish and seat it tightly. You can then snip or cut your tying thread free. I've been experimenting with different colors but still like copper the best. Thanks again Rick for a great pattern!