Nicholl’s A.T. – Aquatic Terrestrial

As early as April in many locations, ants, beetles, and other terrestrials come to life.  But they may go unnoticed until later in the summer when aquatic insect hatches become fewer and farther apart.  During those warm summer days when nothing else seems to be happening, terrestrials may be the ticket to entice a strike on the surface.

I like this particular pattern because it can be fished with success on it’s own.  But to change things up, I’ll also use it as the lead fly and tie a 12-20″ length of tippet to a small drowned ant-dropper for slower days.  Or during a tiny BWO or Trico hatch, this will serve as my lead fly/indicator.  It’s small enough to not be obtrusive but the yarn “hot spot” – for human eyes – can be a great indicator.


First, I’ll prepare the foam body of the fly.  I start with a rectangular piece of 2mm foam.  I’ve included my bench scissors as a reference to get started.  Then, I’ll take the scissors and cut tapered sides that extend approximately half the length of the foam.  Don’t go crazy with this as there is no right or wrong shape. Set that aside for the upcoming steps.

Begin the thread approximately 1/3 of the length of the shank behind the eye and tie in the foam – narrow part, first.  End with the thread at the back of the hook, just before the bend.

Dub a medium-sized dubbing noodle and build up a bulbous abdomen.  If you’re not sure about whether or not you have enough dubbing, fold the foam over to see if you’re satisfied with the proportions.


Once you feel as if there’s enough there, fold the foam over and make one loose wrap completely around the fly.

Cut two sections of rubber leg material and encircle them with two wraps of loose thread on top of the fly.  It looks funky, as in the photo, but they can be put in place with ease.  Taking both ends of the rubber legs, gently pull them to either side of the fly.  Once you’re happy with their position, make one tight wrap between each section.


To make the fly more visible on the surface, I include a z-yarn hot spot on top of the fly.  cut short enough, it’s completely non-visible to anything in the water.  I’ll double-over the yarn and make a wrap right down the center of it.  The thread should go in front of the legs, however.  With the yarn secure, trim off as much of the yarn as your eyesight will allow.


Now comes the thorax. Because of the size of this fly, it can be difficult to fit everything and precision is key.  I create a small dubbed ball before making a loose wrap over the foam, but it is not necessary.  It just looks a little more realistic from below, in my opinion.  Before making the final few tight wraps around the foam, pull the head of foam up and if you see the eye of the hook, there’s enough room to whip finish, if not, you’ll have to shorten the abdomen.


From below, you can see the head of the fly extends beyond the hook eye just as it would on a Gartside Gurgler.   Use a three or four turn whip finish under the foam but around the eye of the hook and cut your tying thread off, close and trim the legs to your liking. The final step is trimming the head.  Pull the foam so it just starts to stretch out.  Taking the bottom blade of the scissors, rest them on the eye of the hook.  Making sure you’re pulling square and your scissors are square, make a quick cut.  This results in a nice, rounded head.


Nicholl’s A.T.

Thread: UTC 70 – Olive

Hook: Daiichi 1280 (2X Long Dry Fly Hook) – Size 16

Abdomen and Thorax: Ice Dub – Peacock

Body: 2mm Black Foam

Legs: Fine Round Rubber Legs – Black

Hot Spot: Montana Fly Company Z-Yarn – Yellow


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