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Here come the ants!

Judy Van Put
Posted 7/25/23

We’ve just enjoyed one of the best weather-weekends so far this year – picture perfect warm summer days with cool breezes, lower humidity and some blue skies – and slightly cooler …

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Here come the ants!


We’ve just enjoyed one of the best weather-weekends so far this year – picture perfect warm summer days with cool breezes, lower humidity and some blue skies – and slightly cooler evenings. Streams and rivers have been slowly receding all week and although stream flows are still above average, are very wadable and fishable, with dry-fly success returning. 

The Beaverkill at Cooks Falls registered 359 cubic feet per second, which was above the median average flow of 154 over 109 years of record-keeping. Water temperatures in the mornings and evenings have been favorable – staying just below 71 in the afternoons, which have helped fishing conditions leading into a warmer week ahead to end this stormy month of July. Be sure to carry along a water thermometer when fishing in the afternoons, and be prepared to head to the smaller, cooler tributaries or the tailwaters when temperatures reach into the 70s.

Hatches continue to be the summer mix of Caddis flies in various sizes and colors, small Blue-Winged Olives, Light Cahills and Sulphurs, as well as Isonychias especially in the afternoons. And, as a follow-up to last week, don’t forget to include the terrestrials. And this week we’ll concentrate on Ants.

Interestingly, one of the favorite flies used by former President Jimmy Carter was a Black Ant. Mr. Carter grew up fishing from the time he was a young child, and as he relates in his heartwarming book An Hour Before Daylight, Memories of a Rural Boyhood, “Throughout my young life, I was obsessed with hunting and fishing, and I was not alone. It was what my father, most of the men in town, families on the farm, and all of us boys wanted most when we were not working. We read, thought, talked, recalled past experiences, and made future plans, all about hunting and fishing. I had a fishing pole in my hands as early as I can remember, and would go hunting with Daddy long before I could have anything to shoot other than a BB gun.” 

He described fishing for many different species of fish, saying that each experience was different, whether for largemouth bass, chain pickerel, suckers and bluegills.  But when he was in the White House, he learned to cast, and practiced and perfected his fly-casting, ultimately becoming a fine fly-fisherman. 

In 1984 he and his wife, Rosalynn, made their historic trip to the Catskills to raise money for the construction of a Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum and fly-fish for trout in the Beaverkill as well as the upper Delaware River. It was his first trip to fish the river which, in 1978, President Carter preserved and protected more than 73 miles from Hancock to Sparrow Bush by signing the legislation establishing the upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River as part of the National Parks System. 

On that trip, he mentioned to his fishing guide, Ed Van Put, that the Black Ant was his second favorite fly – second only to the Adams – and that he tied it with deer hair.

Trout are attracted to ants, as tiny as they may be, when they are on the water. It’s a good idea to carry an assortment of colors – such as black and cinnamon ants, as the fish will sometimes be selective when targeting ants. And don’t forget about winged or flying ants – trout love flying ants – and if you’re lucky to be fishing when flying ants are in the air and on the water, no doubt you’ll be rewarded by raising and catching a few trout.

Here’s a pattern for a Flying Ant, as tied by Ed Van Put: 

Hook: size #18 94840

Thread: 8/0 black : make 2 sections like an ant’s body

Wings: 2 white hackle tips

Hackle: Pale Blue Dun


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