It was an early September afternoon that found me on the EB and confronted by a Bliss Pool that was loaded with rising fish. The "Hatch" was still going on when I entered the water and saw that the surface was covered with tiny slate gray sets of wings. "Olives??" was the first thought but when I noticed the culprit on my shirtsleeve I knew the answer: Ants, size 18-20, black, winged with that smokey grayish hue. I always have them, at least a few, and I cleaned up that late summer afternoon.
Ok, when does that happen? It happens when ant and termite colonies get too big and need to split up. Many will sprout wings and follow the queen to new places. This can happen in the spring (seems like it's always after a rain) or during the summer BUT the prime time for this activity here in New England is during the last two weeks of August and the First week of September. This is when I always see this activity whether it's on the EB, the Farmington, the Swift and so on. About 15 years ago I was on the phone talking to a guy in New Hampshire who was about 60 miles from me. He said the water was covered with ants. So was my river!!!
What to use?? Up until 10 years ago my ant patterns were dirt simple. Natural dubbing of the appropriate color in an hour glass shape and two BLUE DUN hackle point tips as the wings slanting backwards. It worked perfect if you had plenty of floatant. The main reason that this pattern is on the bench is because the hackle tips that I like or in short supply. They came from old Indian and Chinese necks that made perfect hackle point wings back when tiers actually did that.
Here's my 21st Century version:
Hour Glass body (try to keep it slim with the rear section slightly larger) of natural dubbing of the appropriate color.
Hackle - On black patterns I use a grizzly hackle that I dyed GRAY that is tied in at the "waist". On brown or red patterns I use a grizzly hackle that I dyed BROWN. That mottled hackle, either brown or gray just looks perfect.
Now, I will tie in a bit of gray CDC for the wing on my black patterns which will add to it's floating qualities and aid in visibility. For some quirky reason I don't add many wings to my brown versions, just the hackle.
NOTE: DON"T OVER HACKLE THESE FLIES!!! Ants lay flush to the surface and to achieve this and to help the float I use a size 20 hackle on a size 18 ant and a 22 on a 20.
Now for the question - Why are winged ants attracted to water? There can be thousands awash in a river during a swarm!!!
Summer evenings have been fishing well!!! Contact me for a session!!