FLY OF THE MONTH- September- 2019


Balling Midges

Mick’s Full Stop

When the group of VFFA members visited Millbrook Lakes in August this year there was a smallish midge hatch happening just on dark. This got your editor interested in the flies to use during these hatches. My understanding is that by reputation trout are notoriously difficult to catch when there's a full-blown midge hatch on. But if they’re rising then we’ll be casting to them.

Jim Jackman, our guide at Millbrook, had obviously had plenty of experience fishing for trout in midge hatches. With his guidance I had set up my gear with a Milly Midge suspended about 20cm under a Balling Midge pattern. So what’s a Balling Midge all about?

In Freshwater Fishing magazine issue 54 Mick Hall wrote an article on strategies and patterns for midge feeders. He describes the balling midge phenomenon. Apparently, part of the mating program for midges involves a number of males joining in a bonding session. In doing so they form a small ball, which in turn is very popular with the trout. And flies to represent balling midges are quite simple to tie.

The first of these is called a Balling Midge by Mick, and he says that this fly was shown to him in the mid-1960s by Russell Dodds of the Red Tag Fly Fishers, and was used very successfully by Russell in the early (‘magic’) days of Lake Eucumbene. Mick then describes the smaller but very common midges that appear on Melbourne’s Yarra River on warm, still evenings. Mick’s pattern to tempt these Yarra trout is called the Full Stop. It is smaller than the Balling Midge pattern, but essentially the same in construction. For both patterns the body is tightly wound and trimmed cock hackle feathers.

Then some years ago a neighbour of mine, Rod Lee, showed me his fly box for fishing the Tasmanian Highland Lakes. He had a very similar pattern for these balling midges, but his flies were tied with spun deer hair for the body.

Materials for the Balling Midge:


Kamasan B401 fine wire (dry fly) hook in sizes 12 and 14. (For the Full Stop pattern use dry fly hooks in sizes 18 or 20. For Rod’s pattern for Tasmania perhaps sizes 14 or 16


Black 8/0.


Grizzle cock hackle. (For the Full Stop use black cock hackle, and for Rod’s pattern find some dark deer hair.)

Tying the Fly

  1. Put your hook in the vice and run the thread from just behind the eye down to the end of the shank and then back again.
  2. Take a stiff cock hackle (grizzle or black – depending on which fly you are tying), prepare it by stripping away the fibres at the base. Leave about 4 mm of stalk free of fibres and tie this length of clear stalk along the shank so that the hackle feather sticks out past the bend of the hook.
  3. Tie this clear stalk in by winding the thread back along the shank to just behind the eye.
  4. Now wind the hackle in tight turns along the shank towards the eye, thus building up the body.
  5. Trim off the waste hackle feather and use a few more turns of thread to make the hackle secure, then cut the thread.
  6. Now take your scissors and clip the hackle feathers all round to make a neat fat oval-shaped fly.
  7. In the case of Rod’s midge ball, you will need to tie in some fine deer hair along the shank, spinning the deer as you would when tying a Muddler Minnow or grasshopper head. Then again trim the deer hair at the end to produce the oval ball.