Welcome to Not Quite Entomology

Welcome to Not Quite Entomology! This is a different approach to matching the hatch, or learning which insect the fish are really eating. The flies and methods to make it all work will be here as well. We hope this series will inspire you to go out, look on top of and under rocks, check the stream-side vegetation, really investigate your favorite water and learn which are your local trout's favorite foods!


By Ladyfisher

Old Rupe is "off his feet" for a while, and we will fill in for him the best we can. If you are knowledgeable about a particular insect or local hatch, please help us out - contact: LadyFisher. Don't worry about photos, we have good references.

Black Ant

It couldn't have been a picnic - there weren't any ants!

Not likely. Ants are widely distributed nearly everywhere. Like the bees we covered here last time, ants belong to the order Hymenoptera. And there are lots of them! No question, trout (and panfish) do eat them.

There is a theory, (is it a theory if it works?) of 'hatch breaking' using an ant pattern when there is a blanket or heavy hatch of other insects. Toss out a nice fur ant and watch what happens.

All ants are members of the family Formicidae which is the same family which wasps belong to. Supposedly ants evolved from wasps - an factor not overlooked by those who have encountered Harvester and fire ants.

For the fly fisherman's purposes the important ants are a subfamily with about 200 species. The ones fish are most likely to encounter are the carpenter ants, which excavate their nests in wood and are extremely common in vegetation along trout streams. Mostly these are large black or brownish in color, some reaching a half-inch in length. They are found floating or sunken in trout streams.

Colonies of ants swarm, having grown wings for their mating flights. These mating flights are synchronized with ants from many colonies in the air, and may stretch for 15 miles are more. Fishing during such a mating flight can be spectacular.

I've known folks who claim to have eaten ants. I'm normally a curious person, but either I'm not curious enough or haven't been that hungry. Those who have eaten them claim they taste like dill pickles - ants are loaded with formic acid (hence the name Formicidae for the order). I don't really need to know what an ant tastes like to tie one or use it.

Summer is prime ant time, and if you don't have an ant pattern or two in your fly box you might try the pattern in Fly of the Week, or the Black Fur Ant.

Harrison Steeves in his book Terrestrials talks about the reason fish seem to love ants claims the answer may be, "Certain pheromones are secreted when ants lay down a trail for other member of the colony to follow to a food source. Other pheromones tripper aggressive behavior for protective purposes, and still others regulated other activities, such as mating." Harrison suggests this very potent chemical even when diluted in water is what attracts fish. Not the taste of the insect - the smell!

On the other hand, fish eat what is available. If there are ants, the fish will eat them.

There may not always be a 'hatch' of mayflies, caddis or stones - but in summer and fall, they probably are ants! Add them to your arsenal. ~ DLB

Credits: Black Ant photo from Terrestrials by Harrison R. Steeves III and Ed Kock, published by Stackpole Books. We thank Harrison for use permission.

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