|.............................Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park
Ants - (Formicidae)
Ants, along with beetles, are probably the most abundant terrestrial insects in
Yellowstone National Park. They are practically helpless is so far
as their ability to keep out of the water. Colonies of wingless ants migrate or
move in lines that may very well end at a trout stream. These wingless ants tend
to fall off vegetation overhanging the water. Places where current runs against
banks where there is lots of vegetation such as bushes, shrubs, sage brush, weeds
and grass are typical places ants get into the water. Rains always wash a certain
number of them into a stream. Heavy rain will wash lots of them into the water.
Wingless ants float somewhat. On occasions you may spot them on the surface of the
water. Anywhere there is undercut banks in close proximity to overhanging
vegetation, there are most likely going to be ants in the water at one time or
Ants vary in size from a hook sizes 14 to a size 28 and even smaller. It just
becomes a matter of just how small of a fly you want to fish. You probably
couldn't fish one too small. Most of them would be closer to a hook size 20 than
The Camponotus genus of the Formicidae family has various species of ants
that are called Carpenter ants. The carpenter ants develop wings and actually
fly and land of the surface of the water occasionally. If they are not trapped by
the surface tension, they slowly sink. In the fast water streams they mostly sink.
These flights usually occur late in the afternoons during the spring and early
summer but I have seen them at other locations in the early fall. They normally
only last a couple of days in any one place and spread out for no more than a
week or two on most streams. When the flights are over, the carpenter ants
loose their wings. The discarded wings can be seen on boulders, logs, and the
bank or floating in the water.
The smaller streams seem to be the perfect habitat for the Carpenter ant. These
insects are fairly small, usually only about a size 18 to 24. Since they sink, you should
fish the carpenter ant imitations on the swing just like you would a mayfly nymph.
I wouldn't hold my breath waiting on a swam of flying ants. You will be lucky to
discover them once a year but then again, you may just happen to come across
several flying ant swarms. If you do you want to be prepared because the trout
will be certain to eat them.
You only need a few patterns of ants. Normally brown and black will
cover the body colors of the ants most commonly found in the park. You should
have both dry and wet versions. The hard-bodied ant is an effective underwater
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Copyright 2008 James Marsh