Fishing with ants is worth the effort
Almost a full month behind the time we normally fish these productive insects, the carpenter ants are out and the fish are eating them.
Because of the unusual weather this year, the ants are just now showing in good numbers. This past week anglers have had some great days fishing ant imitations. Tie some up and get out there.
Even when these ants are no longer present, for a short-time, fish will still take one just because they have been used to feeding on them. The carpenter ants are a real meal for the fish because of their large size. Most angler’s use a size #10 or #12 to imitate these bugs.
There are many different ant patterns on the market. There are the standard fur bodied ants. These are tied with a fur material and a hackle tied in conventional dry fly style (vertically) from a rooster neck to make it float.
Ants can be tied with hard bodies made of an acetate floss or balsa wood. These can be effective patterns as well.
Ants can also be tied with deer hair or foam. The deer hair pattern works well, particularly if the hackle is tied parachute style (horizontally). This makes an excellent representation of the ant from below.
Perhaps my favorite is the foam ant. For some reason this ant seems to outfish anything else I try. We feel it is because of the way the fly catches air bubbles. It looks very much like the real ant in this fashion. Place one in a glass of water and take a look at it.
Whatever your preference, when you have a windy day and the ants are out you can be sure that the fish will be looking for these morsels. Fish really seem to like ants. They must be like candy or ice-cream to us.
It seems that you can gauge the ant hatch by the amount of pollen that is in the air. There seems to be a direct correlation.
Having allergies, I have always noticed that the ants are found when the pine pollen is getting thick. You can see all of the yellow pollen rafting on the waters and concentrating when the wind blows. When this is first noted, start looking for the ants.
Fishing ants, particularly on the surface, can be exciting. The take is generally very positive when you are fishing with the carpenter ants. When fishing smaller ant patterns which can be equally productive during the rest of the season, the rise can be very slight, a sipping type of riseform.
During the peak of a carpenter ant hatch fish will be rising freely and you can cast to a specific fish. During these times, if you can see the fish and present your fly properly you cannot miss.
When the hatch is near the end, you may not see many fish rising.
We generally employ the “heave it and leave it” tactic at this point. Throwing your fly out into a likely feeding lane and leaving it will generally get you a strike. You need much more patience with this technique though.
Ants can also be fished subsurface with good success. Many local anglers will fish these subsurface to imitate the drowned ants. Ants are not swimmers, so they will sink fairly quickly.
Some subsurface patterns are tied with material that allows them to sink while other ant patterns can be used with the aid of a split shot. Either method seems to be equally productive.
Ants are an abundant food source for the trout. While the carpenter ant is exciting to fish because of their size and the way the fish react to them, the smaller ants are available to the trout the rest of the season.
Ants do not have to be large to take large fish.
I remember using a size #20 cinnamon ant in the fall to imitate the naturals, and hooking some very large fish.
Always have plenty of ant patterns with you. They are always a good fly for hungry trout anywhere.
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