If you’ve been reading the posts from this year’s fly fishing road trip, you might have noticed how many of the fish we caught took ant patterns. In this week’s post, I thought I would highlight my favorite ant fly patterns.

Favorite Ant Fly Patterns | www.johnkreft.com

I’m always amazed how well ant fly patterns work. I’ve experienced how almost any fly can catch at least one fish, but to consistently hook fish with a fly is the true judge of a fly’s effectiveness. 

If you’re like me, you probably don’t fish terrestrial fly patterns very much. Why? I think I focus on matching-the-hatch and am always trying to determine which fly the fish is eating.

Madison River Rainbow Trout with Galloup's Ant Acid | www.johnkreft.com

Much of my fishing is to rising fish. I watch for noses poking out or dimples on the water indicating fish rises. To me this is the most exciting type of fishing.

Did I always do this? No. I used to fish with nymphs frequently because I fished at times there were no fish rising and I wanted to fish. And there’s nothing wrong fishing nymphs! In fact, it is probably a much more effective way to catch fish during the day…especially when insects aren’t hatching.

Now I am spoiled. I get to fish whenever I want and therefore I head to the river when, from experience, I expect insect hatches and fish rising.

So where do ants fit into this scheme?

Good question!

I’ve learned to fish ants when nothing else is happening. This usually coincides with fly fishing road trips to rivers in Montana.

Trout are opportunistic. If undisturbed by wading fly fishers, they will position themselves very close to shore and pick off whatever is floating into their field of view.

I’ve seen this on Soda Butte Creek and Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park, my home water of the Metolius, and most recently the Madison River.

And don’t forget about flying ants. They can be the only thing trout are keying on at times…big fish! But that’s a subject for another day.

My first ant fly pattern that worked consistently for me was Harrop’s CDC Ant. I found this fly pattern several years ago and successfully used it fishing the northeast corner of Yellowstone Park. It worked well in Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River.

Harrop’s CDC Ant

Harrop's CDC Ant - Cinnamon | www.johnkreft.com
Harrop's CDC Ant - Black | www.johnkreft.com

Like most new flies I find, I try fishing it in my favorite home waters and Harrop’s CDC Ant worked well there too.

As I prepared for our Madison River Valley fly fishing trip, I decided to tie up two new fly patterns. I had read in weekly Blue Ribbon Flies newsletter that ant fly patterns were working well on the Madison River. The ant fly pattern highlighted in the newsletter was Arrick’s Parachute Ant. So I tied up a few of these patterns.

Arrick’s Parachute Ant

Arrick's Parachute Ant | www.johnkreft.com

The other ant fly pattern I decided to tie was Galloup’s Ant Acid. We’ve stayed in cabins at Galloup’s Slide Inn when fishing the Madison River and I know Kelly’s flies work, but had never tried this fly. Well, I tied up several of these as well in preparation of our fly fishing road trip.

Galloup’s Ant Acid

Galloup's Ant Acid | www.johnkreft.com

Because Arrick’s Parachute Ant and Galloup’s Ant Acid were so effective on the Madison River, these flies now have a permanent spot in my fly box.

So get outside your preconceived box and try something new. You’ll be glad you did.

Enjoy…go fish!

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