What’s your favorite hatch? Sulphurs? Drakes? Tricos?
Mine’s the ant hatch — and I don’t mean the flying ones.
Every year I look forward to the end of Spring hatch season. In Pennsylvania, mayfly activity tapers off in June, and so do the crowds. The free-for-all is over. The high sun and low water shifts the trout into a more careful, cautious routine, yet they respond eagerly and (almost) predictably to a good ant pattern. It’s my favorite time of the year to fish a dry fly, and it lasts until some time in October.
I don’t post many fly patterns here on Troutbitten, probably because I don’t think they matter all that much. I’m solidly entrenched in the presentation-over-pattern camp. But I feel a strong urge to hedge that statement with “sometimes,” “although,” and “on occasion.” The fact is, I wouldn’t want my confidence patterns tied any other way. I have a small box of dries, a handful of nymphs and a couple of streamers, all of which have specific twists that make them mine.
The Perfect Ant is one of those patterns. Is it mine? No. It’s a Ralph Cutter pattern. Years ago, I found his article detailing this little gem. I tied and fished it exactly as described, then I adapted it to my waters and the ways I fish.
Cutter’s pattern calls for sparse hackle and no post; it’s designed to float very low in the surface. I soon realized that I needed to add more hackle and a visible post to have an effective fly for my system. With those additions, this ant took over my terrestrial box and kicked everybody else out.
Like so many great patterns, the way it fishes is probably more important than exactly what it looks like. This ant makes a nice little splat when you want it to; the deer hair shell adds flotation but also traps water in the abdomen, giving the fly some extra mass. On the next cast, you can let the parachute glide down to the surface without a ripple. It’s a versatile fly. It looks enough like an ant, beetle or some other yummy, land-born insects to cover those bases and catch fish.
Couple more things:
— Fumed silica powder (Frog’s Fanny) makes the ant ride too high. I want the body of this fly in the surface. I treat it with Rain-X at the vise, then some Aquel on the stream if needed.
— Many terrestrial patterns are too big or too flashy for my trout. Not this one.
— The black antron dubbing is excellent, and it may be one of the triggers for the pattern. As Cutter describes, antron traps tiny air bubbles and has a realistic sheen — just like an ant.
— I tie two versions: one with lots of hackle wraps for buoyancy in heavy water, and one with just a few hackle wraps for softer water (and more selective trout). One ant cannot do it all.
— Fish teeth may cut some of the deer hairs and splay them out to the sides. Those are extra ant legs. Roll with it.
— The white macrame yarn post sheds water and holds its shape. You can’t beat it for post material (and for yarn indicators). I get it by the foot at Carol’s Rugs. Tons of color choices there too, and cheap.
— The post and the hackle are in the middle of this fly, rather than tied as part of the head.
— I fish ants all over the river, not just next to the banks.
— The heavily-hackled version makes a great suspender. I often use it in tandem with a wet ant or a simple peacock herl wet fly. It’s a fun way to fish.
Hook: Standard dry fly. #10-18
Thread: Black. I like 8/0 Uni-Thread.
Shell: Black deer hair. Cut and comb out a small stack, then trim off the tips. Use the middle (hollow part) of the deer hair.
Abdomen: Black antron dubbing
Post: White Macrame Yarn. I strongly prefer parachute posts mounted the way I learned from this Charlie Craven tutorial. Craven’s method allows for greater control over the dimensions of the thorax and abdomen.
Hackle: Brown rooster hackle. 3-10 wraps (varied for desired buoyancy)
Head: Black antron dubbing
There ya go. To get a good look at how to tie a parachute ant, check out the tutorial links below.
Cutter’s Perfect Ant from Bill Carnazzo
Carnazzo ties Cutter’s Perfect Ant to form. Good demo of the deer hair shell back. Note that I add the white post and more hackle.
Charlie Craven ties a standard Parachute Ant
Craven’s ant uses the more traditional head location for the parachute post and hackle, and there is no deer hair shellback. Craven’s method for attaching the post material is excellent.
Ant season is the best.
What’s your favorite?
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N