Lemon Pledge: Flying Ants

Yesterday was a sunny, warm, and dry fall day, a rarity this year.  I had just finished watching my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers cruise to an easy win against the Tennessee Titans without getting Ben Roethlisberger killed (another rarity this fall), and I decided that the best way to top-off that victory was to spend the last hours of sunlight fishing.   I had worked a streamer three quarters of the way through the pool in front of my house when Ruthann began yelling.  She was across the street from me, in our front yard, cleaning up the remnants of our garden--decaying tomato, pepper, and bean plants--preparing for the long winter ahead.

She said, "You have to see this.  There are flying ants everywhere."  I looked at the flat pool in front of me.  The trout were not rising.  Trout love flying ants.  If they weren't eating them then how many could there really be 40 yards behind me?  But I decided to get out of the creek and take a look.  I have a book due in February, and a nice flying ant shot would fit the text.  And, truth be told, I hadn't moved a single fish with my streamer, so what the hell.  But what was taking place in my yard was unlike anything I had ever witnessed.


I've had a chance to fish some great flying ant swarms.  Once, on the Upper Delaware's Mainstem, it seemed like every trout in the river rose to them.  There were thousands, and the fish sucked them off the surface by the mouth-full.  I have fished ant swarms as late as November on the Delaware's Lower East Branch.   But if Penns Creek's trout tried to take on this swarm, they may have been eaten.  There were millions of ants, so many that you could hear them move--crunching sounds from their mouths and clicks from innumerable pairs of wings.


It wasn't a surprise that the ants were there.  Charlie Meck taught me, years ago, that you can expect to see Eastern U.S. fly ants begin their flights within three days of August 25.  After August 25, they can show up anytime, out of the blue, until the first or second frost.  And when it comes to eastern bugs, Charlie is seldom wrong.  I had witnessed Charlie's prediction come true year after year, probably about 95% of the time.  And today was a perfect day for flying ants.  They really seem to move on dry, warm days.

I grabbed my camera and began shooting.  Immediately, I was covered with ants.  Ants were in my shirt.  Ants were on my waders.  Ants were flying into my eyes.  And yes, ants had crawled down my waders, and I now had ants in my pants; they were everywhere.  My neighbors came over to see what was taking place.  This was, as they say in New York's Catskill Mountains, "Big Doings."

It was about this time that I began noticing the smell.  As we walked around the yard, we were stepping on, and crushing, hundreds of ants.  You couldn't miss them if you tried.  But when you smashed one, it gave off a strange smell.   I know this sounds a little weird, but they smelled like lemon Pledge furniture polish.

Ruthann, and my neighbors, looked at me a little strangely when I first mentioned it.  But I'm used to that.  After all, I'm commonly known as the weird bug guy in my neighborhood.  But soon, they smelled it too.   The permeating lemon smell must have cleared my mind.  I thought, "the trout!".  I had forgotten to look at the water again during my photo frenzy.  The trout must be going crazy!  I ran with my rod to the water's edge, and feverishly peered over the bank, excited to see the gluttony that was surely taking place.  But there was nothing to see.  One fish popped on a caddis, and that was it.  I walked back to the yard, but the ants were mostly gone.  It was like they were never there; like a lemon Pledge hallucination.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Bahamas - Bonefish

Bahamas - Bonefish

Conway casts for his personal best bonefish while fishing the Grand Bahama islands.

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

Casting Backhand in Tight Quarters

A backhand cast is when you use your backcast to deliver the fly.

Black Beauty

Black Beauty

Master fly tier Charlie Craven discuss the tools and materials needed to tie the Black Beauty.

 Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

Getting Started In Fly Fishing

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are eating to select the best carp flies! Flies

The 15 Best Carp Flies

Jay Zimmerman - September 27, 2016

As you explore your home water, keep in mind what they are eating to select the best carp...

American River California United States

American River California

MIchael Wier - March 23, 2017

American River California

Best Panfish Flies Flies

Best Panfish Flies

Skip Morris

Best Panfish Flies

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top models on the market today. Gear

Top Drift Boats of 2019

John Fedorka - April 02, 2019

Drift boats help you search through miles of river quickly and effectively. Here's the top...

See More Trending Articles

More Flies

Tying flies on tubes is easy and deadly! Flies

Tying Flies On Tubes

Rick Kustich - July 24, 2015

Tying flies on tubes is easy and deadly!

 The BC Hopper A highly visible and buoyant strike indicator. Photo: Charlie Meyers and John Flies

BC Hopper - Copper - Dropper

Charlie Meyers and John Barr - August 30, 2016

The BC Hopper A highly visible and buoyant strike indicator. Photo: Charlie Meyers and John

This five-minute tie imitates one of the most common baitfish in trout streams across the country. Sculpin Fly Pattern Flies

Sculpin Fly Pattern

Chuck Stranahan - February 01, 2015

This five-minute tie imitates one of the most common baitfish in trout streams across the...

 The three best one-day floats on the upper Columbia are from Brilliant to Genelle, Genelle to Gyro Flies

B.C.'s Best Dry-Fly Fishing

Ross Purnell, Editor - January 01, 2016

The three best one-day floats on the upper Columbia are from Brilliant to Genelle, Genelle to...

See More Flies

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.