Don's Fly Tying - The Black Ant Dry

[The Black Ant Dry]

Most Canadian lakes are still under ice cover in February so this is an ideal month for the fly tier to create patterns that may not be a general use fly, but, when certain infrequent conditions do occur that cause wild slashing strikes by seemingly every trout in the lake, to be without the correct fly imitation is indeed sheer agony! Such is the case with the black ant fly which we will investigate in this month's article. I recall fly fishing in late June on Opatcho Lake when I observed a gusty wind depositing something from nearby forests onto the water. It was not long before those beautiful Opatcho rainbow trout began to rise with gusto to snap up every insect that was blown into the water. I tied on a dry fly, a Tom Thumb as I recall, but the fish didn't give that fly a second look as they eagerly fed on the raining insect bonanza from the forest. On closer inspection, I saw that their targets were black flying ants that were emerging from snags and stumps by the thousands and many were blown onto the water surface thus creating a feeding frenzy of great proportions. But alas, to my sorrow, I didn't have any floater that remotely resembled a black flying ant so all that I could do that day was watch and wish that I had come to the lake more prepared. If you should be fortunate enough to be on a lake when a black ant emergence is in process and there is sufficient wind to blow many of them into the water, you simply must have the following pattern in your fly box to meet the wonderful challenge that you surely will experience!



The black ant is a simple fly to tie but the trick is to make sure that the fly will float well especially when there are intermittent wind gusts that ruffle the surface. A good solution is to spin the fly body using black dyed deer or elk hair, then trim to shape but a body made with dubbed seal hair or even black wool will suffice providing floatant material is applied when fishing the fly. I like to start by tying in two separate black hackle feathers with short fine fibers, one at the middle of the hook shank and the second at the hook eye. Note that if spinning hair or even dubbing on seal hair to form the fly body is a problem for you with the hackle feathers sticking up on the hook shank, you can tie them in after forming the fly body. Let's start the fly body with dubbed black seal hair. I like to make a 3 inch loop with my tying thread fixed near the hook bend and then insert the black seal hair, after rolling it into a thin longish strand to fit the loop top to bottom. I next attach an open screw hook fixed into a Q tip at the bottom of the loop and then twist the seal hair very tightly. Without releasing your grip on the Q tip, wind the loop of seal hair around the hook shank to form two ovals for the body, one behind and one ahead of the shank center and then tie off the dubbed seal hair loop at the hook eye. If you have chosen the right amount of hair for your dubbing loop, you will run out of material just as you reach the hook eye. The final step is to make a couple of turns with each hackle feather, one at the center and the second just before the hook eye. The advantage of using invisible thread is that you can easily tie off both hackle feathers without cutting and reattaching your thread, in other words, just run the invisible thread through the body ovals to reach the tie off points. The superior floating fly is made with spun hair by spinning 4 or 5 clumps of the black dyed hair throughout the length of the hook shank. You then trim the hair with scissors to form the two body ovals of the ant. I must admit that attaching the hackle after spinning the hair is much easier in this case and can easily be done if you use invisible mending thread. Again, the hair ant takes longer to tie but has the advantage of floating well without any additional floatant material having to be applied when fishing the fly. Whatever your preference for body material, the black ant fly is a must when those rare but prolific ant hatches do occur!

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