August 19, 2020
By Charlie Craven
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).
Tying the Amy's Ant
- Hook: #6-12 Tiemco 5262 or 5263.
- Thread: Brown or tan 3/0 Monocord.
- Underbody: 2mm tan Fly Foam.
- Overbody: 2mm Tan, Rust, or purple Fly Foam.
- Legs: Medium brown round rubber legs.
- Hackle: Brown rooster neck or saddle, trimmed short.
- Body: Olive Krystal Chenille.
- Underwing: Rainbow Krystal Flash.
- Overwing: Cow or yearling elk hair.
- Thorax: Bronze Arizona Synthetic Peacock dubbing.
- Start the thread behind the eye and wrap a thread base back to the bend. Cut a strip of tan foam slightly narrower than the hook gap, and clip the corners. Tie in the cut end of the foam at the bend of the hook with the rounded end extending just past the bend. Use three or four tight wraps to anchor the foam in place, and make sure they are one on top of the other.
- Cut a strip of darker foam that is just about as wide as the hook gap. Rust is shown here, but you can use any color, including purple. Notch the end into a V-shape. Tie the second strip of foam down on top of the first piece in the same manner. The tips of the foam pieces should overlap as shown.
- Tie in a single strand of brown rubber leg material in the thread notch on the near side of the hook, then tie in another strand of rubber leg on the far side of the hook in that same notch.
- Fold the darker foam strip as well as all the rubber legs back over the bend of the hook and use a scrap piece of lead wire to bind these parts to the vise collar temporarily.
- Move the thread forward to the hook eye. Pull the tan foam forward and bind it down flat on the hook right behind the hook eye with several tight turns of thread. Spiral the thread back to the bend of the hook over the tan foam. Tie in a brown rooster hackle feather by its butt end at the bend.
- Move the thread forward to just past the halfway point. Tie in olive Krystal Chenille and wrap back over it to the bend of the hook. Return the thread to where you tied in the chenille, then wrap the chenille forward in even turns to the thread, tie off, and clip the excess.
- Palmer the brown hackle forward with four or five turns to the end of the chenille and tie it off. Trim the tip of the hackle feather off flush, and then trim the remaining hackle fibers down into short bristles all the way around the hook.
- Release the lead wire holding the foam and rubber legs. Fold the top foam forward over the chenille body and tie it down firmly at the front edge of the body. Wrap forward over the top foam all the way up to the hook eye. Make sure the foam strip is centered on the top of the hook when you’re done.
- Lay in a clump of multicolored flash and tie it in at the center of its length. Fold the front ends back over the body of the fly and anchor them in place with a couple tight turns of thread.
- Cut, clean, and stack a generous clump of elk hair. Measure this clump against the shank so it extends from the front edge of the body to the end of the foam beyond the bend.
- Make two taut wraps of thread over the hair at the front of the body and tighten them by pulling the thread toward you. Do not let go of the tips of the hair as you do this. Continue wrapping forward through the hair to anchor it firmly in place. Clip the butt ends of the elk hair as close to the shank as you can.
- Dub the thorax from the back of the hook eye back to the front edge of the body, ending with the thread hanging at the base of the wing. Pull the top foam back over the top of the fly and anchor it in place with a couple tight turns of thread.
- Tie in a single strand of rubber leg on each side of the thorax in the foam crease. Trim the legs so they are about a shank length long.
- Trim the foam on top of the fly into a point and trim the tan foam into a short lip over the eye of the hook. Whip-finish the thread in the crease between the head and the body. Make three tight turns with the whip-finisher and clip the thread.