If you have ever been simultaneously lucky enough and cursed enough to encounter a flying ant fall, the pattern I am featuring this month will make some sense. While not nearly so predictable as many other insect hatches, flying ant falls happen often during the summer months and can bring on some spectacular no-holds-barred feeding from the trout. If you are fortunate enough to have a box of imitative patterns in your pocket, the fishing can be spectacular too. The hardest part of fishing an ant fall is determining that there is one happening. Many times I have encountered rising fish with no visible insects on the water, and in most cases, when the wind was blowing a gale. Trying to determine just what they are feeding on is an exercise in frustration, as our angler minds are classically trained to think of emergers in situations like this. Every single ant fall I have encountered has been an epiphany for me, as I typically work my way through a litany of mayfly and midge emerger patterns before remembering that little box of ants I carry. Once I calm myself down enough to get one knotted to my tippet, the fishing has been, to an instance, fantastic, with some of the largest and usually pickiest fish I encounter falling easy prey to the right fly.
The Spant is my version of a spent flying ant pattern. I came up with this fly many years ago after encountering a flying ant fall on a high mountain lake. The ants were blown from the tall evergreens surrounding the lake, and the fish wasted no time in getting on them. I did not have anything suitable to match the ants at the time, so I made do with a few of my larger midge patterns. They worked okay, but after a little time at the vise, the Spant was born.
I started by tying up some traditional flying ant patterns but they have many problems. Number one on this list is; they don't float very well. The Spant has this covered with its buoyant wide-spread deer hair wings and broad hackle legs. The other problem with traditional ties is that they are so hard to see on the water. While the Spant doesn't show up like a beacon, it is much more visible than any of the other patterns I tried. The best part of the Spant is that it looks so realistic from the fishes view.
I try to keep a very prominent thin waist on the fly between the front of the hackle and the head section. A prominent tight ball dubbing at the rear of the fly helps to accurately imitate the abdomen (gaster) which is so apparent on the natural. I take special care to tie the wings sparsely so as to reflect the translucence of the naturals. I typically wrap a five turn hackle collar to create some surface area to help float the fly, but have occasionally thinned that down to three wraps on smaller flies. I have tied the Spant in black and rusty brown most commonly, given our larger sized mountain ant’s coloration, but all black or all rusty variations are certainly worth having in the fly box. My typical size range extends from monstrous size twelves down to diminutive 20’s.
Tie a few of my Spants up and stash them in your box. They have proven themselves on such varied waters as the South Platte, Henry's Fork and Depuy's Spring Creek. As I mentioned before, the Spant is a great pattern for high mountain lakes as well. Cruising fish seem particularly prone to eating an ant, regardless of whether or not there are good numbers of them on the water. A crime of opportunity awaits every ant along a high mountain shoreline and a hungry trout ends up being the culprit. I like to cast the Spant six to ten feet in front of a cruising fish and let the fly sit. If the fish seems like he doesn't see it, I will give the fly the slightest twitch...that's usually all it takes.
1. Begin by starting the tying thread just behind the midpoint on the shank. Wrap a thread base slightly down the bend and return the thread to the hook point.
2. Twist a tight, thin strand of dub- bing onto the thread and build an elongated ball to form the ant gaster at the bend of the hook. Make sure the front of the gaster ends behind the midpoint of the hook shank.
3. Cut, clean, and stack a small clump of fine deer hair. Measure the hair against the hook so it is a shank-length long.
4. Transfer the measured hair to your material hand and tie it down in front of the gaster with two tight wraps of twisted thread. Hold the tips of the hair to keep them from spinning while the butts flare.
5. Work the tying thread slightly forward through the butt ends of the deer hair, securing the wing in place. Clip the butt ends of the hair closely.
6. Turn the vise so you can see the top of the fly. Use your scissors tips to trim out the center of the hair wing, leaving two distinct and sparse bunches of hair.
7. Wrap a smooth thread base for- ward over the butt ends of the hair. Tie in a brown rooster neck feather and advance the thread forward to about the 75 percent point.
8. Wrap the rooster hackle forward to form a compact, vertical collar. Tie off the tip of the feather and trim it flush. Wrap the thread forward to the hook eye and then back again, stopping just short of the hackle collar.
9. Build a firm and noticeably smaller ball of black dubbing im- mediately behind the hook eye, and whip-finish. Trim the hackle flat across the bottom of the fly for a more flush-floating version. With a full hackle collar, the fly rides a bit higher and is easier to see.