I can always count on my friend Bill Ninke to periodically introduce me to a great fly pattern or an interesting fly tying technique. When I bumped into Bill at a recent Trout Unlimited meeting, he slipped a small plastic box into my hand. He explained that he recently came across this site and suspected I was the author. The box he gave me contained a few flies that he thought I would be interested in trying. There were three different patterns. Two foam bodied flies and an interesting variation of Bully’s Bluegill Spider. I will eventually share all three flies with you, but I want to talk about the first one to catch my eye, The Los Alamos Ant.
I am a big fan of foam bodied flies for bass and panfish. They float like a cork, they are practically indestructible and are usually very easy to tie. Floatation (when discussing dry flies) and durability are crucial aspects to consider building into a fly designed for panfish. Unlike cold water species like trout, fly fishing for panfish can be fast and furious. When conditions are right, you may catch dozens and dozens of fish on the same fly if it can hold up to the challenge. This fly will find itself covered in slime repeatedly, and manhandled as it is taken out of fish mouths again and again. A well-designed foam fly is up to the task. With foam patterns, fish slime as no effect on the fly’s ability to keep its head above water and foam is extremely resilient and durable. It can withstand being yanked on, tugged on, gripped with forceps and otherwise abused as you remove it from the jaws of fish. Foam is also an ideal material for the fly tier. It is easy to manipulate and simple to apply to the shank of a hook. It is available in an unlimited amount of colors and if you can’t find the exact color you want, you can tint it with the permanent marker of your choosing.
Harrison Steeves III first described the Los Alamos Ant in his book “Tying Flies with Foam, Fur, and Feathers”. I’m confident the pattern was originally designed as a terrestrial/attractor pattern for trout, but many have discovered its effectiveness in warm water. I have just started fishing the pattern this spring, and it is on track to become an all time favorite.
The fly has all the features of an effective panfish pattern. Rubber legs provide movement, the foam provides flotation and durability, and finally, there is peacock herl - no other material screams eat me better than peacock herl. Despite everything this fly has going for it, my favorite feature is the little upright triangle of foam on the top of the fly. Tied in a contrasting color or coated with a little foam paint, it makes for a highly visible fly. Over the next few weeks, I will put up some of my variations of this fly as well as detailed tying instructions in the fly tying section.