Go To The Ant
'Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise.
Which have no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food
in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest.' [Proverbs 6:6-8]
By Neil M. Travis, Montana
Solomon, the author of this Biblical proverb, urges the lazy
person to take notice of the ant and become wise. While I am
not suggesting that anglers are sluggards I would urge them
to take notice of the humble ant, and in so doing become wise.
Ants belong to the order of Hymenoptera and the family Formicidae.
Hymenoptera include insects with veined wings and include wasps
and bees. The only ants that have wings are the queens and drones,
and then only for a short period of time when they breed. Ants are
a diverse group of insects with over 12,000 recognized species.
Ants are found almost everywhere, and the only places that lack
native ant species are Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, and the
Hawaiian Islands. Ants are so numerous that they constitute over
20% of the total terrestrial animal biomass. When all their
individual contributions are added up, they may constitute up
to 15 to 25% of the total terrestrial animal biomass.
Since ants are such a cosmopolitian species unless you are fishing
in Iceland there are likely to be ants somewhere nearby. Most ants
live in colonies that sometimes have thousands of individual ants.
Like Solomon suggested, ants are busy creatures and are constantly
scurrying about gathering food that they carry back to the communal
nest. Such activity often brings them near to the water, and a
slight wind may be enough to send them tumbling into the water.
In most temperate areas ants will be active during the warmer
months of the year making them a potential food source for fish
from early spring until late fall.
Ants are most readily available for trout when the queens and drones
[males] perform their mating ritual. Ants of a given species will
send out swarms of queens and drones within a set period each year.
The exact timing of these events is not as predicable as the hatches
of many aquatic insects so anglers need to be prepared whenever they
encounter a flight of these insects. Hot, calm days seem to be favored
swarming times, and I have never seen a mating flight take place on
a cool, overcast day.
Ants are terrestrial creatures, and although the queens and drones
have wings during this stage of their lives it is evident that God
never intended them to be great fliers. Flying is merely a way of
allowing ants to distribute themselves away from the parent colony,
and allow for crossbreeding to take place between adjacent colonies.
Once mating is accomplished the queen quickly falls to the ground,
sheds her wings, and starts searching for a suitable nest spot.
The males simply die after mating. Many of the participants, both
male and female, are eaten by a variety of other animals, and for
the fortunate angler some of those animals may be fish.
During heavy mating flights large numbers of flying ants may end
up on and in the water. Ants do not float very well, but are
usually trapped right in the surface film much like a mayfly
spinner. Since they have such a low profile anglers often do
not see them on the water, and are at a loss to explain why
the fish are rising.
When ants are mating is not the only time that they end up in
the water. Ants crawling on streamside vegetation are easily
swept into the water by wind or just carelessness. During the
warmer months ants are routinely found in the water, and trout
seem especially fond of these creatures. During the doldrums
of summer an ant pattern fished along the banks, over weed
beds, and along current seams will often produce some of the
best angling of the day. Ants fished wet, especially in riffles
and below riffle areas will often produce when nothing else will
draw a strike.
Ants are great insects to imitate. They are simple to tie, easy
to fish, and produce results.
Go to the ant and become wise. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona
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