by Bob Banfelder
It is a fact that most fish are caught on or near the bottom of the water column, be it in the suds, a deep freshwater pool, a still pond, or a fast-moving stream. It's also a fact that Donna and I are all about catching fish for fun, virtually all to be carefully released to be fooled and foiled another day . . . and yes, a couple reserved for the dinner plate. So then why do we employ a rather seemingly less productive surface method of angling; namely, dry fly fishing? To be consistently productive, an angler must pretty much match-the-hatch at a particular time of year and place. For example, an early springtime Blue-winged Parachute in Utah, a summertime Elk Hair caddis in Wyoming, a fall Hopper in Montana. Colors, shades thereof, and size of the dry fly often enter into the picture. The initial issue is whether or not you
are out on the water when a hatch occurs. If a hatch likely happens in the evening and you're out there angling during the late morning, well, you'll miss the opportunity. What's the remedy for success in either sweet water or the suds?
Ant patterns are lethal. Winged ant patterns that float are positively deadly, sometimes overlooked by anglers—but not by trout. Brook, rainbow, and brown trout in our northeast neck of the woods and waters favor ants. Colorado cutthroats, hybrid cut-bows, as well as their cousins such as Artic grayling and Alaska salmon, fall for the winged ant fly patterns. You do not have to be as particular about the time of year, locale, color and shades thereof, or time of day—often times even size. Having a good assortment of ant and winged ants in your arsenal is the key to success. Pattern preference is therefore solved with a generic
winged ant. Ah, but what dry fly tying material lends itself well, if not universally, to the winged ant?
Some of you savvy anglers may be thinking, He's probably talking about the Chernobyl Ant
. Close, but no cigar A bit of background concerning that pattern:
The Chernobyl Ant was so named by a group fly fishermen from the Emmet Heath Camp of Green River [Utah], following the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occurred in the Ukraine in April of 1986. Humans and animals suffered the deadly effects of radiation, many resulting in mutations. Hence, the permutation of the foam dry fly Chernobyl Ant pattern was born, leading to adaptations thereof, such as the airborne Chernobyl Ant pattern. The Chernobyl Ant is not so much ant-like looking as is Mick Hall's later design and added appendages.
Wings working in conjunction with legs, constructed on a foam body, bring an imitation to life upon a still, watery surface or drifting in a swift current. The winged ant is at home in Tasmania to Tennessee. Whether depicting a winged ant, a hopper, or a stonefly, Chernobyl Ant imitations are certainly deadly dry fly patterns. As a matter of fact, ‘Tasmania to Tennessee' is not so much an attempt at alliteration as it is to drive home the infinite range of this insect imitation. Tasmania is where Mick Hall first saw giant stoneflies and brainstormed its conversion from the original Chernobyl Ant into Hall's Tassie [Tasmanian] Tarantula. In 1996, the fly won the coveted One Fly event at Jackson Hole. Mick's Mutant Club Sandwich better resembles the original Chernobyl Ant. Hall later went on to design his Winged Chernobyl Ant creation.
Neither is the Chernobyl Ant or Chernobyl Winged Ant a stranger to western waters. Fly fisherman in Montana kick-started the cutting tools that shaped the foam body, upon which a parade of both hybrid winged land and aquatic inhabitants imitated the mainstay diets of trout, small and large mouth bass, crappie, et cetera. Ants, winged ants, hoppers, and stoneflies make up a significant portion of that diet.
Personally, I like to tie and fly-fish with an ant pattern that looks like an ant, not a mutation thereof. My Winged Ant fly variation is relatively easy to tie and will prove deadly in either a turbulent brine or a still backwater. It will give you a great advantage on most any body of water throughout the world. Tied on a 1/0 hook for saltwater, down to manageable sizes for freshwater, it is an angler's dry fly dream. Next month, in Part Two, I'll present a step-by-step recipe. Meanwhile, round up these easy-to-obtain materials to target anything from big blues and striped bass to selective brook, rainbow, and brown trout. Hook
: Mustad-Octopus Beak 1/0 Thread
: Danville's Flat Waxed Nylon ~ black Body
: 2mm thick foam strip ~ 3/8" wide ~ cinnamonUnderbody
: Peacock Herl Legs
: Deer Hair ~ dyed black Wings
: Pair of Lady Amherst Pheasant tippet feathers [left and right] ~ white/black-rimmed from the neck; (approximately 10mm wide) Head Cement
: Hard-as-Hull Materials
Award-Winning Crime Thriller Novelist & Outdoors Writer
Member: Outdoor Writers Association of America
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Long Island Outdoor Communicators Network
Recent recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Who's Who in AmericaSeveral of My Crime Fiction Novels Incorporate The Great Outdoors
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The North American Hunting Smart Handbook: Bonus Feature: Hunting Africa's & Australia's Most Dangerous Game
The Essential Guide to Writing Well and Getting Published