Ant patterns are extremely popular terrestrial flies, perhaps the most popular of all, since they occur most everywhere there are trout by the trillions. There aren’t that many fly patterns yet, but there are certainly a lot of them. The last thing fly fishers need is another fly box in their vests, one stuffed with a plethora of ant patterns. I give my nod to the simple CDC ant.
I have gotten to the point that I like to tie my ants a bit more anatomically correct. Ants have three bumps: the larger gaster, and two smaller bums at their midsection and head. Certainly a lot of trout have been caught on the good old two bump ant with a hackle at the middle. I tied and used them for years, but I have had them refused more often by truly picky fish than the three bump version.
The CDC ant I tie has a couple of advantages. The first is versatility. Adding CDC puff wings allows this fly to perform as a winged ant when there are flights of flying ants on the water. The CDC winged ant catches selective trout very effectively when the naturals are not winged adults as well. This cuts the number of patterns you have to carry in half. The second advantage is visibility on the water. One important note: keep the CDC dry to keep it visible! A drying patch and some brush-on powdered floatant are necessary accessories for fishing CDC trout flies.
Just yesterday I was treated to some fine and far off fishing where my little CDC ant was the ticket. Trying to see and follow a standard ant at 60 feet or more is a guessing game, but that little tuft of CDC gives even older eyes a clear target. Seeing my fly clearly always helps with my timing, particularly when I know I’m casting to a big fish. Poor visibility tends to make me strike too quickly when my anticipation is high, then hesitate too long, over compensating the next time I think a trout has my fly.
Delicate fishing with small, low profile flies requires patience and precise timing. The trout will tend to rise slowly to small bugs in flat, clear water. When you see the take, pause half a breath, then lift gently and smoothly. We all need to control the little boy deep inside, to reign in our excitement a bit when fishing is at its best. If we didn’t let him come out sometimes, we wouldn’t be fishing in the first place.