When you think about which insect you've seen the most of in your life, the answer is probably; Ants (hopefully not mosquitoes)! There are ants on every landmass in the world (except for Antarctica) and there are lots of them, so why wouldn't trout like them?
There are many effective fly patterns for ants, but our favorite is the simple foam and hackle floating ant. It works on all kinds of trout and other fish species. We have caught more Cutthroat Trout on this fly pattern than any other pattern in the box.
What do they Imitate: Ants!
Ants are terrestrial, meaning they hatch on land (opposed to aquatic insects which hatch in the water, such as Mayflies and Caddis'). Ants, like other terrestrial insects (grasshoppers, beetles etc.) can be blown into the water by the wind, or simply fall into the water and get trapped in the surface film which causes them to flutter and drown.
There are many types of ants and different ways to tie them. This patterns seems versatile enough to imitate many of them, but adjusting the size and colour of materials can give you a few different selections inside your fly box.
How to fish them:
The foam on this pattern ensures it will float high on the water and stay afloat even through rough water. On a floating line and a 6-10 foot 3-5X leader, cast the ant upstream or across stream and mend the line to ensure a drag free drift. When ants are trapped in the surface film, they may wiggle or quiver as they try to escape. If you can imitate a slight twitch with your line during the swing across the current, you'll have success.
Ants will often drown and get pulled under the water. You can tie specific sunken ant patterns or you can also allow this fly pattern to get saturated or pulled under by the current for a subsurface hit.
How to tie them:
The best thing about this pattern is that it is simple.
Hook: Dry Fly Hook: size # 12-20
Thread: matched to colour of foam
Foam: 2mm Foam (black, tan, brown or another colour you want to try!)
Hackle: Dry Fly / Saddle Hackle - we like using Grizzly but lots of other colours can work
Optional sighter: Orange yarn or thin piece of foam