Fly Tying The Foam Black Ant
Tying The Foam Black Ant
Ants are a fairly popular fly for fly fishing. As a terrestrial insect, they are common and found worldwide. Tying this fly is simple. All it consists of is a strip of foam and a hackle feather. With a three segmented body and hackle feather for legs, it is an easy tie. It is extremely buoyant.
The accompanied video shows the steps in tying the fly. A few things of note:
- Start the abdomen far back on the bend of the hook. This allows for a fuller body.
- Using two millimeter thick foam, cut a long strip about four millimeters wide. Oddly enough, it is easier to work with a long foam strip as opposed to a short segment. You can fold the strip back out of the way when tying the hackle/legs.
- Secure the foam on the hook by first cutting a wedge-shaped taper at the end of the foam strip. The wedge makes it easier to secure the foam and gives a more natural looking, rounded abdomen.
- Use Uni Thread for tying the fly. I typically do not endorse specific brand material, but I have found this thread the least likely to cut the foam while tying. Gently make the first two or three wraps to compress the foam on the hook shank. From the third wrap on, clinch down on the foam with the thread to give more segmentation to the foam strip.
- When tying off the head of the ant, don't clinch down too hard. The foam will slip through the thread and you will lose the tie-off at the ant's head and hence ruin the fly. You actually want a fair amount of tag-end foam past the head of the fly so that the thread has material to secure when tying off. Sometimes I cut the tag end with scissors into a wedge to look like the ant's mandibles.
- Foam flies have a habit of allowing the foam to spin on the hook shank while casting. The foam black ant has three tied segments plus a hackle feather in the middle of the fly. This helps minimize spin. However, touch up the interface of the foam head/mandibles and hook with quick-set glue. This helps to prevent spinning. Sometimes, if there is not much foam material to tie-off on, I will glue the tread wraps as well.
- In the video I use a size 12 dry hook, but commonly tie this fly on a size 14 dry. You could even go down to a size 16 if you are daring.
Fishing The Foam Black Ant
I must confess, I fish this fly very little and rarely include it in my fly box. Part of why I rarely fish this fliy is due to the species of fish I target and aquatic environment that I am fishing. I typically target bluegills on lakes. Bluegills like some type of disturbance on the surface, especially if the water is murky. This fly allows for only marginal disturbance. This is due to the fact that ants don't naturally create a lot of disturbance on the surface - just a subtle twitch or two best replicates them. Even if you wanted to create a lot of disturbance, this fly has rounded surfaces so that it is difficult to create any kind of wake. Also consider, lakes typically do not foster wingless ants. Only on one occasion did this fly become a "hot" fly. While fishing a lake in a kayak in the Spring, I found myself in a swarm of termites. I noticed the fish rising at a fast pace. I found the black ant in a size 14, and while larger than the termites, it was consistently targeted. This lasted about a half hour when the swarm left. I have had some success drifting it on creeks in low water when the current is slower and water clearer.
I sell flies retail and this one is fairly popular with trout fishermen in the West. I imagine trout fishing meandering creeks with overhanging brush on a windy day could make this a favorable fly fished as a dead drift. Given its foam characteristic, it would remain floating regardless of the current and turbulence of the water.