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The August-September 2019: Available in both print and digital.
This Month in Fly Fisherman:
As shown Charlie Craven's story "Amy's Ant" in the August-September 2019 issue of Fly Fisherman.
Foamy drys seem to have taken over as the flies of choice for dry/dropper rigs these days, and guides love them for strike indicators as well as an occasional, surprising eat. Foam bugs are easily maintained, buoyant, and durable, and in most cases, are pretty easy to see on the water. What they generally lack, however, is actually getting eaten. Many of these pseudo-indicators are so heavily dressed for flotation that their realism and fish foolery suffer. Cue Jack Dennis, fly tying O.G. and the guy all of us now-getting-old guys learned to tie from. Dennis came up with his Amy’s Ant pattern around the year 2000, and took foam flies into a whole new realm.
Jack named this fly after his daughter Amy, and it’s the alliteration of her name coupled with its lineage that made him go with the “Ant” part of its surname. Amy’s Ant is anything but an actual ant imitation, but does a stellar job of crossing over for a hopper, cicada, and stonefly all while being tough, durable, and exceedingly buoyant.
Amy’s Ant isn’t a “guide fly” as it requires a solid set of tying skills and particular care with proportions and thread control. Combining foam, Krystal Chenille, a bit of trimmed down hackle, a pile of lively rubber legs, and some elk hair topping a flashy underwing, Amy’s Ant is beautifully generic enough to cross over for a variety of dietary staples in the trout world.
The trimmed hackle palmered through the shiny Krystal Chenille body sets this fly low on the surface, while the double-layer foam overbody allows for a bit of color variegation as well as a built-in life preserver to keep it on top even after repeated assaults. The elk-hair wing sits at just the right angle to make the fly super visible even in choppy water, and assures the fly lands upright every time. The shape of the foam head helps to spread out the hair a bit to imitate the fluttering wings of a bug in trouble.
A splash of multicolored flash as an underwing, and two sets of long rubber legs complete the fly and add fish attracting-
sparkle and movement.
My friend Pat Dorsey loves this pattern as much or more than I do. Dorsey is a guide, and a field editor for Fly Fisherman, and has guided more days than your favorite three guides put together. His home water is the South Platte here in Colorado, and it’s famous for its picky, small-fly-oriented denizens. Dorsey regularly crushes these snooty fish with a #8 olive Amy’s Ant, much to the chagrin of those throwing size 22 micro emergers.
Typically the Amy’s Ant is fished on a stout 0X to 3X leader, most often with a beadhead dropper like a Two Bit Hooker or Pat’s Rubber Legs riding along underneath. Fished close to the bank as a single fly, Amy’s Ant fools some of the pickiest fish into making that mistake we all hope for. It’s a versatile summertime dry that imitates a plethora of insects, and acts as a simple attractor when needed.
As I sat down to write this article, I messaged Jack Dennis, who replied with a fairly complicated storyline regarding this fly, and its inception at the hands of his wife and then soon-to-be Vice President Dick Cheney. It seems the two were paired up as a team in the Jackson Hole One Fly event, and they conspired to get Jack to design a fly for them. Jack mashed up his original Amy’s Stone pattern with a Chernobyl Ant and a couple other Western patterns he had taken a liking to, and the result is what you see here.
The Dennis/Cheney team came in fourth using this fly, but the first- as well as last-place teams used it as well! Cheney was later interviewed during a fishing segment for an outdoor television show. When asked what his favorite fly was, he named Amy’s Ant.
Dennis immediately imagined the money rolling in from such a high-profile endorsement, and was excited to see the broadcast, but that just happened to be the week of 9/11, and the episode was never shown. Despite all that, Amy’s Ant became hugely popular and is Dennis’s most popular and best-selling pattern. That’s endorsement enough.
*Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and is the author of two books: Charlie’s Fly Box (Stackpole Books, 2011) and Tying Nymphs: Essential Flies and Techniques for the Top Patterns (Stackpole Books/Headwater Books, 2016).
For complete tying instructions, please refer to the Fly Tier's Bench column in the August-September 2019 issue of Fly Fisherman.