If there’s one insect that a trout can always relate to it has to be the ant. Active from the time the frost is out of the ground in the spring of the year until the first cold temperatures of late fall, ants are a part of the trout’s diet. Think about it, the body profile of an ant is easy for a trout to identify. The late Edward Hewitt wrote once that he kept stomach samples from the trout he killed throughout the season and he found more ant body parts than anything else, so he presumed that, to a trout, an ant had to taste more bitter than other aquatic or land born insects.
Hewitt took it a step further and tasted all the insects that he thought a trout would eat. In the end, he said most insects were bland to his taste but the ants had a bitter taste so he assumed it was partly the taste that attracted the trout. Sorry, I am not going to this extreme, but I do agree that an ant pattern has saved my day more than once. The late Ken Miyata penned a great piece in Fly Fisherman titled Anting the Hatch. The story goes that Miyata was entrenched in a heavy mayfly hatch and thought he was matching the hatch but the trout consistently refused to take. So, in desperation, he tried an ant. It worked and while he didn’t catch every rising trout, he did put a few good fish in his net — all thanks to the ant.
Ants are most active during the heat of the day and with warm months of July and August ahead of us, it’s wise to always have a few ant patterns in your fly box. While black is the primary color, cinnamon is good second choice. If you’re lucky enough to experience a winged ant fall late in the season, it’s something you won’t forget. While never predictable, it can happen one day and then be gone, but I’ve witnessed hundreds of spent winged ants on the surface with every fish in the pool up feeding on them. One thing is for sure, during those times you need a pattern with wings to complete the silhouette for a true imitation.
On a final note, when I began to write this ant piece it brought Ken Miyata to mind with his great article on anting the hatch. Miyata, a Harvard grad, was a true trout bum who wrote to earn just enough money to buy gas to go fishing. He died an early death at the age of 32 fishing on my favorite western river, the Bighorn.
Check out the ants in our store.
Alaska and the Bighorn
We still have one room left in our Alaska departure to Intricate Bay Lodge on Lake Iliamna, Alaska, and a couple rooms left in our Bighorn departures. We've done both trips many times and have planned these departures for some of the best fishing of the season. If you've been thinking about either Montana or Alaska, this is your chance to join us for what is sure to be a couple of exceptional weeks of fishing!
We have a couple spots left on upcoming trips. July 22-29, we will be at Intricate Bay, Alaska, for trout, salmon, char, & grayling. Intricate Bay is a charming fly-out lodge on Lake Iliamna and perfectly located to get to the best of Alaska's fishing. Home rivers are the famous Copper and Gibraltar, and the Moraine, American, Kvichak, Talarik and many others are only minutes away. Great location, great time of year. Check out the itinerary and then come fish Alaska with us.
Bighorn River, Montana. We also have a couple spots available on our first week and one on the second week at the Bighorn River Lodge, August 19-26 & Aug. 26-Sept. 3. The Bighorn River has been our favorite for over 30 years and is consistent with good water, good hatches, and great fishing at this time of year. Timed for PMDs, caddis, hoppers, and tricos. Join us for an exciting week in Montana. There's no place like it in August! Beautiful lodge, beautiful river.
Lt. Cahill Quigley
The Light Cahill is a popular summertime fly. This pattern can be taken for a cripple, spinner, or maybe even a dun. And by changing the color of the materials used, it can be tied to imitate a whole host of mayfly species.
Fishing has been good despite the low water. The water is cold and the fish are healthy.
That's all for this week. If you get out to fish, don't forget your terrestrial box and your summer mayflies. We will be in Ireland next week, but we'll get out a blog in between the fishing and the wee drams at the pub!