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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April 02, 2018
Tying a Winged Ant for Absolute Angling Success ~ Part Three: Deadly Dry-Fly Foam Recipe
by Bob BanfelderEmploying a Mustad-Octopus Beak 1/0 hook (generally used in saltwater fishing), we had used a single 2 mm foam strip for a wet-fly application. Today we'll need to tie in two strips of 3/8" wide foam (one atop the other) in order to create a dry-fly version. You will not need messy goops or gels, pastes or treated powders, desiccants or silicones, waxes or lighter wire hooks that tend to bend—or any other number of floatants. Think float ants in lieu of floatants as foam can float an army of artificial flies. Be creative, and you can produce a fly to do battle with a battalion of predator blues and bass in the brine. Be innovative, and you will design a fly of your own to engage the wariest and worthiest of sweet-water species rising to the occasion—namely, trout.
And, yes, even seemingly large hooks such as a 1/0, #1, or #2 floating a foam ant will entice brook, rainbow, brown, and lake trout, not to mention a plethora of panfish. The magic for buoyancy is mainly in the weight distribution between hook and foam. As mentioned earlier in Part Two, the 7.6 grain Mustad-Octopus Beak 1/0 hook, tied with a single strip of 2 mm, 3/8" wide foam (plus material such as thread, feather, hair and head cement), steadily took the winged ant down into the water column. The finished fly on a 1/0 weighed 10.4 grains. The dry-fly that we are about to tie on another 7.6 grain Mustad-Octopus Beak 1/0 hook, requiring a second 2 mm foam strip to keep it afloat, will weigh in at 13.0 grains. That's 2.6 grains heavier than the wet fly, yet the dry fly floats like a cork. It took that second strip of foam to give buoyancy and balance to the fly. Hold the fly down in a water column, release the fly, and it's going to float back up and stay up—and without any messy chemicals. A precision digital scale is a great aid in determining the perfect balancing point between hook and foam for what you want the fly to do in the water column. I use the scale shown below for both my fishing and hunting needs.
Superior Balance Arrow-2000 scale.
Here are the materials you will need.
Hook: Mustad-Octopus Beak 1/0
Thread: Danville's Flat Waxed Nylon ~ black
Body: Two 2 mm-thick foam strips ~ 3/8" wide ~ one gray, one cinnamon (6" lengths are easier with which to work).
Underbody: Peacock Herl
Legs: Deer Hair dyed black from bucktail or natural deer hair from the belly
Wings: Pair of Lady Amherst Pheasant tippet feathers [left and a right approximately 10 mm wide]
Head Cement: Hard-as-Hull or 2-part 5-minute epoxy
We will pretty much follow the same tying directions as yesterday, except we'll be using two strips of foam instead of one. When we come to creating the ant's head, we'll momentarily invert the gray and cinnamon foam strips. Ready?
Step 1: Wrap a thread base starting behind the eye of the hook to a point halfway around the bend. Come back up with the thread to the top of the bend, thread perpendicular to the hook's barb.
Step 2: Tie in the two strips of 3/8th-inch foam at the top of the bend (gray on top, cinnamon on the bottom), excess material facing toward the rear of the hook. Wrap the strips down securely to this mid-point section in the bend.
Step 3: Tie in a strand of peacock herl and wrap thread forward to the top of the bend. Wrap peacock herl to this point, being very careful not to apply to much tension or the delicate strand will break. Lock in the strand with secure thread wraps and trim.
Step 4: Bring the foam strips forward, just over the section of peacock herl. Wrap foam down securely. Cut off excess foam and secure with several tight, contiguous wraps until the foam ends are completely covered. Tie off. We have created the ant's abdomen.
Step 5: Now, we need two more pieces of foam to form the head of the ant. Only this time, you are going to momentarily invert the colors; cinnamon on top, gray on the bottom. Tie in the two strips ¼" behind the eye of the hook (excess material facing rearward), wrapping the foam strips down securely to a point where they practically join the first foam section; i.e. the abdomen. Bring the thread behind the two strips and continue wrapping to form a 1/16th" gap between abdomen and head.
Step 6: Within the gap, tie in one wing on one side of the body (two loose wraps then tighten); tie in the second wing on the other side of the body [both wings facing inboard and upright]; trim stems. Bring thread forward of the foam.
Step 7: Next, take a small bunch of deer hair (less than the thickness of a wooden matchstick (tips facing upward; i.e., butt ends down), placing it directly in front of the foam strips. Tie down the hairs securely atop the hook shank. Separate the deer hair evenly with your dubbing needle (bodkin). Gently pull the foam strips forward between the two clumps of hair to a point 1/8th" behind the eye of the hook, wrap securely then trim excess foam. Secure with several tight, contiguous wraps, working the thread to a point directly behind the eye of the hook. You'll note that the gray foam is now on top and cinnamon is on the bottom.
Inverting the order of the foam strips for tying in the head of the deadly winged dry-fly imitation.
Step 8: Gently bend and push down the two separated sections of deer hair along each side of the body to form the legs. Cut the hair evenly at a length equal to the distance between hook shank and point.
Step 9: Apply a dot of Hard-as-Hull head cement or a 2-part 5-minute epoxy to the thread head.
Winged dry-fly foam ant.
Utilizing foam as a body material, you are on your way to creating many deadly wet- and dry-fly patterns referencing ants, hoppers, stoneflies, et cetera—which, together, we'll be tying in the near future.
Award-Winning Crime Thriller Novelist & Outdoors Writer
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Recent recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Who's Who in America
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