Every serious fly fisher should carry a selection of ants in their fly box at the first sign of new leaves on trees and bushes. These tender leaves attract aphids that leave sweet droppings ants love to sip. Its also a signal that there will soon be a flying ant fall and trout go nuts over flying ants.
FLYING RED ANT DRY FLY PATTERNS. Hook size 18 16 14 12 10 - $US each
A Scientist studied the eating habits of rainbow, brown and Brook trout during the months of July/August and found that no other food dominated their menu so heavily as ants. The proportion in some of the trout was as much as 80%. Flying ants swarm at this time of the year. They 'rain' down on lakes and rivers by their billions and attract fish to the surface. At the beginning of a swarm when the ants fall rather sparsely, the fish are easy to catch. During the peak of the swarm the real ants are too numerous and a fish rarely takes an imitation by mistake, but the situation changes again towards the end of the swarm. For weeks after the fish are obsessed with this source of food and ant flies are remain one of the best flies to use. Even when there are no swarms have a look at over hanging trees. If ants are climbing up their trunks, exploring the leaves for food, some will fall. A floating ant fly might just tempt that hungry trout lurking in the shade. The English Fly Fishing Shop carries a range of black and red ant flies. Ants may be fished very simply, like freely drifting dry flies. As the fish find them easily enough, no special tricks are required.
It may seem strange that trout would prefer to eat land based insects over the many aquatic bugs available to them. You must remember that unlike hatching mayflies they are available to the fish virtually all year round. Trout have an entire season to learn what they look and taste like. They must be considered by the fish as an abundant dependable surface floating pray. Ant patterns will catch trout anywhere unlike mayfly patterns where you should try and match the hatch. Even when there are hatches on the water some time during the day there will be at least one lengthy period when few flies are hatching. This normally occurs in the afternoon. This is the time to get out an ant pattern. If you come across a picky feeder who will not take your mayfly pattern, do not abandon it without showing the fish an ant fly. Once when I was on vacation I arrived on a river completely unprepared for the large hatch of tiny Blue winged olives. I didn't have any dry fly small enough. I tried a few ant flies and managed to tempt a few of the feeders away from the mayfly feast.
Ah, the lowly ant. Ants have been a go to fly when the summer is in full swing. Late summer usually brings a hatch when they leave the nest to find new territory. Make sure you have both winged and wingless versions. I recall an evening hatch where another fisherman came out of the river shaking his head in disgust. There was an ant hatch going on and fish were everywhere. We spoke of his misfortune and I gave him some ants. That tuned a frown into a smile pretty quickly, it was definitely a match evening. - Walter Koda
On NW Colo streams an ant is often a good choice when there are no hatches but I still want to fish a dry. I will often fish a dry - dry pair of terrestrials with an ant as the dropper making it easier to see. I've tried the epoxy ant pattern as a dropper with limited results but I don't get worried when my dubbed ant rides under the surface. - Steve Loshbaugh - Fly Fishing Guide
I have used ants. in the late spring and summer, a cinnamon ant on clear creek can be deadly. there are tons of ant hills at certain spots on clear creek, with all these red ants. i use them usually with a double rig. an ant and whatever else is hatching in tandem. i also like the "transpar-ant" that is half red and half black, with a little ring of black hackle around the middle of the two colors. have also done it with a larger ant in the front, a foot or so of 6x mono, and then a smaller ant on the back. and let that smaller ant on the back get soaked so its a bit "drowned". i fished a private lake once, and the were just NAILING that transpar-ant. in fact, i dont remember much else working that day besides ants. in fact, that day the hot pattern was a size 18 purple ant. yes, purple. put that sucker on some 5 or 6x tippet, and hit the banks. also cool if u are throwing hoppers and beetles....drop some 6x mono off the back of a pmx or some other hopper, about a foot to 18 inches. put that transpar-ant or the cinnamon on there and hit it! terrestrials are underrated. - Kellie Keenan-Heatherly - Rocky Mountain Guide
Flying ants?...now ive seen fish go bonkers when these things are out...its hard not to catch a fish when they are on them...Jeffrey Kashuba, PE
FACEBOOK READER'S COMMENT
Dry line cast and twitch very slowly, a lot of places around the bottom end of Cumbria had great clouds of flying ants ,you could fish size ten through to sixteen and catch usually late evening. It's not as good now as it was twenty years ago this would happen for weeks on end now you lucky to get two or three days. - David Mayoh Cumbria UK
GOOGLE+ READER'S COMMENT
In my well spent youth, many months ago, we used them to catch vast quantities of grayling in Yougoslav (now Slovenia) rivers. Mainly in July and August. - Dietrich Bohnhorst, Ireland
I use ant flies all the time as a dropper on MN and WI spring creeks. Can also be a Trico "hatch buster" when trico fishing is tough with too many bugs. Usually a #18-20 black w/CDC wing is the ticket. My favorite though, is the 2-3 day hatch of "Honey Ants" in mid-August on Slough Creek, Henry's Fork and the Bighorn - By Greg Meyer
I discovered the ant on a day up Pebble Creek, after being fishless for an hour,one try and fish-on! Beetles are also a killer fly! I was lucky to be Guide in YNP, made so many friends! By James Savstrom