Recently, when fishing a small eastern Sierra stream, I re-learned a lesson: always have an ample supply of ant patterns in your fly box!!
During the morning hours on this particular early Fall day, I adorned my tippet with a pair of perky dry flies, since this stream was touted as a dry fly heaven. After about a half hour of drifting ever smaller and sparser patterns over visible large trout, I gave up and tied on my normal go-to nymphs, again tiny and sparse. That strategy worked for the rest of the morning. Around noon I noticed the fish beginning to dimple the surface here and there, and returned to dries, again without much success in getting these spooky thin-water trout to hammer my offerings.
In such times, I find it helpful to just sit and watch the fish work for awhile, in an effort to figure out what they are taking. I noticed that many of the rises were close to the bank, and the light bulb went on. Duh!!! “Grabbing ants”, I muttered to myself, as I grubbed around in my fly boxes for some of the little black jewels.
Dropping my tippet to 5X, and going to a single fly, I knotted on a Delta-winged Ant. My first cast, executed on my knees in a crouched position, brought a curious and cautious Rainbow to the surface, as it followed the fly for a few feet before sipping it down in the manner that trout normally take ants. From then on the action was fast, with the larger fish breaking my 5X like it was a thread of spider web.
In my delirious state I neglected to notice that I had only a few ants left in various patterns, until I lost my last Delta-winged specimen. Switching to 4X, I was able to spread the remainder of my ant patterns out over the rest of the day. Needless to say, I’ll not again be caught without a mess of winged-type ant patterns in various shades (although the black version seems to work best). So let’s tie up one of these very simple imitations.
1. Smash hook barb and cover back half of hook with layer of thread.
2. Dub an abdomen in the form of a small ball of dubbing; the abdomen will need to be a bit larger than the thorax, since that is how a real ant is built. The front of the abdomen should end at the mid point of the hook.
3. Take two blue dun hackles from your cape (use the larger ones that you won’t use to hackle dry flies); don’t strip the barbules from the stem. Mount one of them at a 45 degree angle in front of the abdomen, with the point of the hackle to the rear. Tie it on long, and pull it forward to the proper length, which should be such that it extends just beyond the hook bend, while pointed out at a 45 degree angle. Mount the second hackle point wing in the same manner.
4. Tie in the black hackle at the same point, and take 2 or 3 winds. It needs to be sparse.
5. Now dub the thorax, which is also a small ball of dubbing, made slightly but noticeably smaller than the abdomen. Whip finish a small head.
This pattern is not the easiest to see, although the dun wings do help. Try to concentrate on watching where the fly lands and carefully watch that area for a sipping rise. When setting the hook, particularly with the smaller sizes, gently raise the rod tip while pulling on the line in your other hand. It’s not easy to resist the instinctive urge to “rare back” and strike hard; but you need to develop the patience to be still and strike differently. You will end up breaking off fewer fish, and hooking and landing more of the larger specimens.
ya on the creek!!!
Copyright 1998 by Granite Bay Flycasters unless otherwise noted.