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If I should get seriously lost in a deep forest, I would rather do so in the company of a former neighbor. A survival expert, he would go for long hikes in the woods equipped with only knife, matches and a tin can – and probably never go astray. “Give me a clump of pine trees, an anthill and water to drink and I will do just fine,” he says. Not without skepticism, I listen to his statement. A decoction of pine needles might not be all that bad - but ants?




Still, I decided to try, and on an outing a couple of days later, I pinched an angry wood-ant between thumb and forefinger and put it in my mouth. Maybe my taste buds are not sharp enough, but I had definitely expected more. A slight acid sting on the tip of my tongue, that was all. I tried another one. After a dozen, I had got used to the slightly bitter taste of formic acid, but I would have to be extremely hungry to devour an entire anthill.




The unique bouquet of an ant is interesting to us fly-fishermen, since we suspect that fish regard ants not only as a food source, but also enjoy its special flavor. This may explain why a trout, even in the middle of a hatch of mayflies, readily stops to pick up an ant that happens to drift by. Grayling and trout love ants. Even if we do not know exactly why, we can live with that ignorance. After all, that is why we would rather go fishing than to a fish market. 




Unless it is too cold, ants are on the move twenty-four hours a day. Unconcerned, they trudge along through the streamside vegetation, quite unaware of the danger water presents. A heavy rain or sudden gusts of wind could cause them to lose their footing and in the next second, they are helplessly struggling on the water, an easy prey for a hungry fish. Sporadic rises at uneven intervals might mean that ants are on the menu.




There are around sixty species of ants in Sweden. Most of these, except “stackmyran”(Formica rufa) and “stockmyran”(Camponotus herculeanus), are of slight interest to a fly fisher. “Stockmyran”, the bigger of the two, needs a number 10-8 hook. Regardless of material used, a slim and well-spaced “waist” is important. The waist makes the imitation attractive and identifies it as something worth eating.




Dun-Pelles myra.

Per Persson,”Dun-Pelle”, was born in 1915 at Gravbränna near Föllinge, Sweden. Fly-fishing was his passion, and in his small workshop, he and his wife Karolina produced large numbers of flies, which were sold to local anglers and visiting guests. Per Persson died in 1985 but a few of his fly patterns, like “Prästen” and “Prästfrun” are still remembered. His ant-representation is actually a tail-and wingless Royal Coachman with a cropped, stiff hackle.




Fur ant.

This imitation is credited to a certain Bob McCafferty, who tied his first sample some time in the 1930’s. The construction of this fly is simple and it is likely that other fly tiers, independent of McCafferty, created similar flies at some time. The ideal material is FlyRite. Poly-yarn and seal fur increases its floating capacity, but is more difficult to handle. The body tends to become slightly fluffy around the edges, and you could cut away protruding fibers for a more distinct form.




Deer-hair ant.

The original,”The Calkaterra Black Ant” was first described in”Fly Fisherman Magazine” 1973. The man behind this pattern is Paul Calkaterra, fly fisher and fly tier of The Ozarks, USA. A somewhat delicate fly, it can be strengthened by using superglue and clear varnish. Lying low in the water, it gives a good illusion of an ant caught in the surface film. The Calkaterra keeps on catching fish even when fairly damaged. The straggling fibers seem to make it even more attractive. The fly is fairly easy to tie, providing you are not too particular about the exact position of the fibers.




McMurray ant

The story of the McMurray ant begins at Fishing Creek near Lamar, Pennsylvania. Ed Sutryn from McMurray had had a frustrating day. Few fish had risen to his flies, even though they were quite evident. Later he remembered seeing ants crawling on his clothes. Is that what the fish were after? At the spur of the moment, he designed an ant imitation from two rounded pieces of cork, held together by a nylon line tied to the hook shank. His innovation proved to be a success, especially since he replaced the brittle cork with balsa wood.





This ant pattern has been with me for many years. I probably saw a similar fly in an old magazine; I know nothing about its origin. Tying thread forms the body, which is later lacquered. Normally I use ordinary hackle as “legs” but like to vary. The imitations in the picture have legs of nylon fibers. It is a pronounced wet fly. The wax-like, glossy shell that encircles an ant’s body makes it almost unsinkable. Unaware of that fact, fish go for it with great enthusiasm.




Polycelon ant.

Lastly, another variant on the ant theme. The material is polycelon, granted to keep the fly on the surface in any kind of weather. The fly is practically weightless and gives a light impression on the surface, much like the real thing.




Fishing an ant representation is overall tranquil and relaxing, since you are not pressed for time like during a short hatch. Ants have a very special attraction to fish. You can take your time, choose the appropriate fly and plan your casts. If the fish rose to the last ant that floated by, it will probably go for the next one too. There is no hurry.

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