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Ants, my favourite patterns

August 21, 2017 2 min read

I am a great believer in keeping things simple when fly fishing & when fishing the dry fly most of my fish come to 4 very basic patterns; a variant of Jack Tucker’s CdC IOBO Humpy, a simple CdC Shuttlecock, Marjan Fratnick’s F Fly & a basic Elk Hair Caddis tied with no hackle.

Austrian Brook Trout taken on a Foam Ant

However there are some situations where these flies are not the ideal choice so I do have some more specialised flies in my box. On some New Zealand rivers during midsummer a size 18 or 20 Willow Grub can be an essential addition to the fly box. I wouldn’t be without some big Chernobyl Ants or Foam Beetles when fishing the high alpine streams of Austria & Italy. In late April/early May I wouldn’t be without a specific Hawthorn Fly pattern.

Then there is the occasional day in late summer, in the UK & elsewhere, when flying Ants emerge on mass. Also, on my local North Yorkshire Moors streams Wood Ants are prolific in the forests that border the upper reaches of many of the streams & on breezy days they frequently fall from the overhanging branches. Trout & grayling love Ants. Maybe it is the sour taste of formic acid that they love, but what ever it is the fish can become preoccupied with them when there is a good fall of Ants.

I have 2 favourite patterns. The first is Stuart Crofts’ F Ant, an F Fly variant that has a submerged body that helps to ‘anchor’ the fly into the surface helping to resist micro-drag whilst also making it appear vulnerable to the fish.

 Stuart Crofts’ F Ant

Stuart Crofts’ F Ant

Hook: size 20 to 16 Grub

Thread: Black 8/0

Body: Bug Bonded thread with a waist of red holographic tinsel

Wing & head: Natural Mallard CdC

My second pattern is a simple Foam Ant of my own devising.

Foam Ant 

Foam Ant

Hook: Size 24 to 20 Short Shank (Tiemco 2488)

Thread: Brown

Body: Brown 2mm thick sealed cell foam (trimmed to shape)

Hackle: Rusty Grizzle (trimmed top & bottom)

Wing: White Tiemco Aerowing or similar

This video is 1 of 94 casting tutorials explaining everything from basic set ups to master level casts

Fundamentals | Starting to Fly Cast

The basics of tackle
Language of casting
Sensory awareness


Fundamentals | Understanding Fly Tackle

Fly line weights, lengths & tapers
Rod lengths & weights
Leaders & tippet
Tackle to practise with


Fundamentals | Overhead Casting

How to hold a fly rod
Circles 8's & straights
Remove all slack
Plane of the Cast
Triangle Method
Overhead Cast
Stop & Drop
Retrieving the Line
High Back Cast
Breaking The Wrist
Shooting the line
Loop Shape
Slipping the Line
Stroke Length
The Forward Delivery
The Shelf
Drift Versus Breaking the Wrist
Backslash Forwardslash
Speed Ramp
Body Movement


Fundamentals | Double Haul

Intro to the Double Haul
Tackle for the Double Haul
Single Haul
Double Haul
Double Haul Fast Track
Cast Trajectory
Late Haul
Hauling Grip
Double Haul for Accuracy
Line Trays
Offset Alignment Guides


Fundamentals | Taking it to the Water

The Lift
Pick Up & Lay Down Cast
Roll cast
Energy of a Roll Cast


Advanced | Spey Casts

Intro to Spey Casting
Switch Cast
45 Degree Single Spey
Backhanded Cast
90 Degree Single Spey
90 Degree Snake Roll
45 Degree Snake Roll
90 Degree Double Spey
The Running Mouse
The Silent Spey
45 Degree Double Spey
45 Degree Snap T
90 Degree Snap T
45 Degree Circle Spey
90 Degree Circle Spey
Body Movement
Spey Cast Hauling
Beating Obstructions Spey


Advanced | Beating the Wind

Tail Wind
Head Wind
Side Wind


Master | Mends

Upstream Downstream Mends
Curve Mends
Reach Mends


Master | Pick Ups

Corkscrew Pick Up
Snap Pick Up
Roll Cast Pick Up
Double Spiral Pick Up
Snap Pick Up Variation
Aerial Spey
Cast Stringing


Master | Accessory Casts

Casting Big Flies
Feed Cast
Free Snag Cast
Snap Cast