I remember just starting out and learning how important it was to match the hatch and then looking at all of the gaudy terrestrial imitations in the fly shop bin. To me, an ant was supposed to be a ball in the front, a ball in the back, and hackle in the middle. However, as time went on I began to wonder exactly what the fish see down in the water and then that sparked the curiosity to look at what’s under a fly.
Galloup’s Ant Acid looks like an ant from under the water. Thanks to the deer hair and rubber legs, it’ll also float for a very long time making it ideal in faster water. Aside from the human and aquatic appeal, it’s just downright fun to tie.
A trick to any ant imitation is the segmentation of the body. I find it particularly helpful to begin my thread where I want the front of the segment to be. Then, I visualize the middle and the front. Later on, I’ll show you a little trick I use to get the middle segment right and that, in turn, leaves me just the right amount of room for the front, too. In this pattern, we start with the rearward body segment. I’ve experimented with segment size and I’ll start my segment right around the point of the hook so that’ll be where I start my thread, too. I don’t dub a real thick dubbing noodle but would rather add dubbing to my thread in small amounts. This makes for a really nice, tight body. I try to make my body segment on ants as large as I can without thread slipping off to either side. Once the rear segment is dubbed, I’ll advance my thread to just in front of it.
There is a number of materials to add flash which serves as an underwing. Kelly Galloup uses flat braid and so did I for this particular fly. You could also use six or eight strands of Krystal Flash or even some mylar. Whatever your choice, tie it in just ahead of the rear segment and using the bend of the hook as a guide, trim the excess off. A trick I’ve found particularly helpful is to use the front of the braid to measure out the size of my middle body segment. In the photo below, you’ll see just a very slight amount of gold braid tied to the hook shank. That’s because I wanted my middle segment approximately that long.
Using a contrasting-colored dubbing, dub a smaller middle body segment. This should be smaller than the rear and the upcoming front segment. End with the thread just ahead of middle segment. Cut a small amount of deer hair and give it a thorough cleaning before putting it into the stacker. Once the tips are aligned, hold it up to the fly to measure the length needed. The tips should extend just beyond the bend of the hook. Snip the excess off so you’re left with just a nice caddis-shaped head at the front of the fly (this will be covered up later). When tying the deer hair in, I make two loose wraps and then snug the thread by pulling the bobbin toward me while still holding on to the hair with my left hand. This results in a nice, tight caddis head.
Take your thread and make some wraps through the deer hair to capture all of the loose butts. There may be a few stragglers which can be trimmed close. This isn’t a big deal as it will be covered by dubbing in the next step.
Dub a nice round front segment that’s slightly smaller than the rear segment but larger than the middle. This segment should be right against the eye of the hook but end with your thread right behind the front ball.
Take your rubber legs and position them to each side of the body by securing them with two loose wraps. This ensures they can still be adjusted, if need be. Once you’re happy with their position, make one tighter wrap and then holding the front legs back, make one wrap in front. Being careful not to bind any of the four legs down, whip finish between the front legs and the front segment. It’s a handful to hold the front legs back while whip finishing but it can be done.
Trim the front legs shorter to your personal preference. Then, taking the rear legs together, pull them to the rear of the fly and snip them off using the bend of the hook as the guide. They’ll look like this from above if you do it correctly. Finally, snip off your tying thread close.
I tied this particular ant to imitate the big black carpenter ants found in Michigan. This was size 14 but color and hook size will be determined by your local terrestrials.
Thread: UTC 70, Dark Brown
Hook: MustadR50-94840 Sizes 10 through 16
Body Segments: Superfine Dry Fly Dubbing – Black and Mahogany
Underwing: Flat Diamond Braid, Gold
Wing: Deer Body Hair
Legs: Montana Fly Company Centipede Legs, White – Small