Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning novelist & outdoors writer. He has also penned a fishing handbook and a hunting handbook. He is currently working on a bowhunting book.

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March 09, 2018

Tying a Winged Ant for Absolute Angling Success ~ Part One

by Bob Banfelder

It is a fact that most fish are caught on or near the bottom of the water column, be it in the suds, a deep freshwater pool, a still pond, or a fast-moving stream. It's also a fact that Donna and I are all about catching fish for fun, virtually all to be carefully released to be fooled and foiled another day . . . and yes, a couple reserved for the dinner plate. So then why do we employ a rather seemingly less productive surface method of angling; namely, dry fly fishing? To be consistently productive, an angler must pretty much match-the-hatch at a particular time of year and place. For example, an early springtime Blue-winged Parachute in Utah, a summertime Elk Hair caddis in Wyoming, a fall Hopper in Montana. Colors, shades thereof, and size of the dry fly often enter into the picture. The initial issue is whether or not you are out on the water when a hatch occurs. If a hatch likely happens in the evening and you're out there angling during the late morning, well, you'll miss the opportunity. What's the remedy for success in either sweet water or the suds?

Ants!

Ant patterns are lethal. Winged ant patterns that float are positively deadly, sometimes overlooked by anglers—but not by trout. Brook, rainbow, and brown trout in our northeast neck of the woods and waters favor ants. Colorado cutthroats, hybrid cut-bows, as well as their cousins such as Artic grayling and Alaska salmon, fall for the winged ant fly patterns. You do not have to be as particular about the time of year, locale, color and shades thereof, or time of day—often times even size. Having a good assortment of ant and winged ants in your arsenal is the key to success. Pattern preference is therefore solved with a generic winged ant. Ah, but what dry fly tying material lends itself well, if not universally, to the winged ant?

Foam!

Some of you savvy anglers may be thinking, He's probably talking about the Chernobyl Ant. Close, but no cigar A bit of background concerning that pattern:

The Chernobyl Ant was so named by a group fly fishermen from the Emmet Heath Camp of Green River [Utah], following the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occurred in the Ukraine in April of 1986. Humans and animals suffered the deadly effects of radiation, many resulting in mutations. Hence, the permutation of the foam dry fly Chernobyl Ant pattern was born, leading to adaptations thereof, such as the airborne Chernobyl Ant pattern. The Chernobyl Ant is not so much ant-like looking as is Mick Hall's later design and added appendages.

Wings!

Wings working in conjunction with legs, constructed on a foam body, bring an imitation to life upon a still, watery surface or drifting in a swift current. The winged ant is at home in Tasmania to Tennessee. Whether depicting a winged ant, a hopper, or a stonefly, Chernobyl Ant imitations are certainly deadly dry fly patterns. As a matter of fact, ‘Tasmania to Tennessee' is not so much an attempt at alliteration as it is to drive home the infinite range of this insect imitation. Tasmania is where Mick Hall first saw giant stoneflies and brainstormed its conversion from the original Chernobyl Ant into Hall's Tassie [Tasmanian] Tarantula. In 1996, the fly won the coveted One Fly event at Jackson Hole. Mick's Mutant Club Sandwich better resembles the original Chernobyl Ant. Hall later went on to design his Winged Chernobyl Ant creation.

Neither is the Chernobyl Ant or Chernobyl Winged Ant a stranger to western waters. Fly fisherman in Montana kick-started the cutting tools that shaped the foam body, upon which a parade of both hybrid winged land and aquatic inhabitants imitated the mainstay diets of trout, small and large mouth bass, crappie, et cetera. Ants, winged ants, hoppers, and stoneflies make up a significant portion of that diet.

Personally, I like to tie and fly-fish with an ant pattern that looks like an ant, not a mutation thereof. My Winged Ant fly variation is relatively easy to tie and will prove deadly in either a turbulent brine or a still backwater. It will give you a great advantage on most any body of water throughout the world. Tied on a 1/0 hook for saltwater, down to manageable sizes for freshwater, it is an angler's dry fly dream. Next month, in Part Two, I'll present a step-by-step recipe. Meanwhile, round up these easy-to-obtain materials to target anything from big blues and striped bass to selective brook, rainbow, and brown trout.

Hook: Mustad-Octopus Beak 1/0
Thread: Danville's Flat Waxed Nylon ~ black
Body: 2mm thick foam strip ~ 3/8" wide ~ cinnamon
Underbody: Peacock Herl
Legs: Deer Hair ~ dyed black
Wings: Pair of Lady Amherst Pheasant tippet feathers [left and right] ~ white/black-rimmed from the neck; (approximately 10mm wide)
Head Cement: Hard-as-Hull




Materials



Profile


Underbody



Bob Banfelder
www.robertbanfelder.com

Award-Winning Crime Thriller Novelist & Outdoors Writer
Member: Outdoor Writers Association of America
New York State Outdoor Writers Association
Long Island Outdoor Communicators Network

Recent recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Who's Who in America

Several of My Crime Fiction Novels Incorporate The Great Outdoors

Top to Bottom:
Fiction:

The Richard Geist Trilogy


Dicky, Richard, and I
The Signing
The Triumvirate


The Justin Barnes Four-Book Series

The Author
The Teacher
Knots
The Good Samaritans

Trace Evidence

Battered


Nonfiction:

The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water

The North American Hunting Smart Handbook: Bonus Feature: Hunting Africa's & Australia's Most Dangerous Game

The Essential Guide to Writing Well and Getting Published

March 08, 2018

Aerial Acrobatics for Anglers

by Bob Banfelder

It was many moons ago when Donna and I started fishing the Peconic River, somewhere between the formally named Indian Island Clubhouse Restaurant and the Route 105 Bridge in Riverhead, Long Island, New York. Donna and I were working a medium action spinning outfit and a fly rod: she, with ten-pound test monofilament line, tossing a 3/4 oz. Kastmaster; me with a fast-sinking shooting head carrying a Clouser Minnow; a deadly fly on many species. We were hooking up like there was no tomorrow. But with what, we weren't quite sure initially, as both of us were pretty new to fishing the suds. Silvery-greenish airborne specters vaulted high into the misty atmosphere then vanished instantly, spitting hooks as we threw a series of sissy fits. At first, we both believed we were into a school of bunker. But bunker don't blast lures with a vengeance or at all. That much we knew for sure. Something was surely fishy. I figured those acrobats belonged to something in the herring family species.

Well, the catch of our day was certainly confusing at first, but we had a good excuse. We had only made the transition from freshwater fly-fishing (for brookies, browns and rainbow trout) to the brine the season before. During a fall outing, in the same spot, the two of us had inadvertently snagged scores of menhaden (a.k.a. bunker or mossbunker) with Kastmasters. We hooked them in the back, the tail, the belly. However, the following season, they—or so we thought—were the same fish as the season before, striking our lures with a vengeance: the Kastmaster and the Clouser Minnow, too. We soon learned that what we were hooking into were, indeed, hickory shad, not menhaden: wild, flying-out-of-the-water acrobatic show-offs. Fun! Fun! Fun! Like miniature tarpon, those torpedoes ascended and broke the surface straightaway. Donna duped several with the Kastmaster. I caught better than a dozen with the Clouser imitation. Still, we had lost many more than we actually landed. But why? Subsequent research revealed the answer. Like weakfish, hickory shad have thin, tissue paper-like mouths. They are to be played very gently—most carefully. And forget about trying to lift them out of the water by the leader.

I had broached the dubious shad/bunker subject with Mark Sedotti, a veteran fly caster who can send big fly patterns out to remarkable distances. At one of our Eastern Flyrodders monthly meetings (now defunct), Mark had been the evening's guest speaker. Later that evening, he told me all about shad and an old friend of his, Joe Brooks [former editor for Outdoor Life from 1968 to 1972, the year in which he passed away]. Mark and I discussed American shad, hickory shad, bunker, and other such species. Based on my story and details, the consensus referencing Mark and other club members was that the species in question was more than likely hickory shad.

A week or so later, back in our spot along the Peconic River, a surgical crescent cut created by a thirteen-and-a-quarter pound bluefish, which had attacked the quarry in question, having inhaled a chartreuse Clouser Minnow fly without conscience or fanfare, confirmed the species. Sure enough, the bodiless creature was the head of a hickory shad.

Off to Borders Bookstore (now defunct, too) for books covering chapter and verse concerning those aerial acrobats. Joe Brooks and Lefty Kreh cleared away the cobwebs often surrounding the enigma regarding those members of the herring family. Between Joe and Lefty, I had a pretty good idea how Donna and I can consistently land these celestial leapers, pledged to return all but a few to the waters for purposes of live-lining, for hickory shad do not make fine table fare as reported by those I spoke to and through the tomes of which I pored. Cookbooks included.

Succinctly, this is what I gleaned: American shad (Alosa sapidissima), which is prized for its roe and praised by a number of folks for its flesh, can be found along both sides of Long Island Sound, especially near the Connecticut River. Hickory shad (Pomolobus mediocris), however, sustain less desirable accolades, unless you are into pet food, fertilizer, chum, or live-lining as mentioned. According to James Peterson, award-winning cookbook writer, re Fish & Shellfish, the author feels that most people generally shy away from eating American shad because of all the tiny bones, yet he remains dauntless, emphatically stating that it is a delicious fish. Nowhere did I find anyone who condescends in accepting its cousin, ol' hickory, as acceptable cuisine.

Opinions and arguments set aside (especially from those who delight in creamed herring jammed into a jar), Donna and I can tell you firsthand that we had fantastic outings enjoying the aerial antics of those eighteen-inch anadromous acrobats.

For purposes of identification, note that hickory are smaller than their counterpart. Three and a half pounds tops, versus six to eight pounds; eighteen inches versus thirty inches, respectively. Also, the lower mandible of the hickory shad protrudes past the upper jaw while the mandibles of the American shad close evenly. This is the best way to distinguish the pair. Between menhaden and hickory shad, the picture may seem somewhat murky to the neophyte. So rather than get into confusing colors and questionable body markings, bunker simply will not take your lure nor give you an acrobatic show. Anglers will merely snag them—inadvertently or otherwise. In any event, you don't want hickory shad on the menu as the Catch of the Day or any day. And certainly not mossbunker, God forbid. But either of them acting as a magnet for the thirteen-plus pound bluefish or two thirty-two inch stripers we landed a week later, well, that's a lot like double-dipping and has certainly drawn us to the Peconic River, time and time again. You'll more than likely see Donna with her spinning outfit; me with my fly rod and a hickory shad pattern.


Donna's bunker snagged on a Kastmaster. Bob epoxies eyes on all Kastmasters.

Bob Banfelder
www.robertbanfelder.com

Award-Winning Crime Thriller Novelist & Outdoors Writer
Member: Outdoor Writers Association of America
New York State Outdoor Writers Association
Long Island Outdoor Communicators Network

Recent recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Who's Who in America


Several of My Crime Fiction Novels Incorporate The Great Outdoors

Top to Bottom:
Fiction:

The Richard Geist Trilogy


Dicky, Richard, and I
The Signing
The Triumvirate


The Justin Barnes Four-Book Series

The Author
The Teacher
Knots
The Good Samaritans

Trace Evidence

Battered


Nonfiction:

The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water

The North American Hunting Smart Handbook: Bonus Feature: Hunting Africa's & Australia's Most Dangerous Game

The Essential Guide to Writing Well and Getting Published




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