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Ants and Fly Fishing

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Fly anglers are schooled at an early age, (well any age, I suppose, but early into their foray of fly fishing), about the big three, mayflies, caddis and stoneflies. I need to digress again, this is trout anglers, if you began fly fishing for other species, you were probably schooled about other things. But the importance of mayflies, caddis, and stoenflies are hit upon early and re-learned repeatedly. With good reason for sure. These insects are of huge importance to most trout habitats, and their hatches provide spectacular fishing. But they are not exclusive to trout's diets, and in some locales they make up a lesser portion than you might think.

Trout, like all fish, are opportunists, they feed on what is available. However, they do seem to have preferences for whatever reason. For example many observers have noticed trout's propensity for hitting beetles. Biologists tell us beetles are loaded with protein, therefore trout perhaps know what is good for them, or maybe they just like the taste. Like beetles trout also go wild for ants. In some locations the mating of carpenter ants takes place at the same time as more well-known mayfly hatches, yet the observant angler readily switches to the ant pattern because trout hit these much more readily. Perhaps it is because they are not water borne, but more than likely there are other reasons. Some have claimed it is because when ants or most likely to take flight is during the mating season, when they are filled with pheromones, and the smell attracts the fish.

Ant migrations occur when the winged adult begins its mating season, and hundred of thousands of these terrible fliers are out for there the taking. Each colony will produce a huge abundance of these specialized ant, knowing full well the vast majority will end up not fulfilling its prime obligation. Their ineptitude is the booty for trout and likewise trout anglers.

Weather also plays a huge part, especially in the mountains. Where warm winds swell up the mountains ant swarms get trapped, depositing countless millions of ants, to hungry waiting trout. These are the conditions of the famed 'ant falls' of the Rockies, Sierras, and Cascades. Most likely to occur on the first hot summer days.

On the Au Sable red ants take center stage in June, in British Columbia it is the big black Carpenter Ants that hit center stage in June. Followed by the red ants later in the summer. Each species and each locale follow slightly different protocol, but the result is the same, fish love ants so be prepared.

Many fly angler's will resort to ants when nothing else is happening. Chance ants must hit the water daily, and being chance feeders, trout will gobble them up. So in a sense ants are always in season, and they are a decent choice wherever you might be. Fish them close to the bank, as ants live there, look for likely ant habitat including rotting logs. Lakes and rivers bordered by old growth are prime locations to cast the ant. Beavers also leave primary ant habitat in their wake.

While most seasoned trout anglers learn the conditions that lead to their favorite mayfly hatch, they often over look the 'ant hatch' occurring right under their nose. Careful observation and an expansion of your knowledge will lead to expansion of arsenal to trick your wily prey.

About the author:

Cameron Larsen is a retired commericial fly tier and fly fishing guide. He now operates The Big Y Fly Company. http://www.bigyflyco.com/flyfishinghome.html He can be reached at info@bigyflyco.com. This article will appear in the Big Y Fly Fishing E-Zine at Http://www.bigyflyco.com/Bigyflyfishingezine.html

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