Beginner’s Fly Tying: Ant Pattern

View our instructional video for tying this fly. This video includes several chapter markers so you can easily jump to the section you wish to view — visit our YouTube channel to easily jump to the chapter of your choice. Written instructions for this fly are presented below.

Over the past year, our PVFF Beginner’s Fly Tying sessions have covered a wide variety of fish food forms; mayfly, stonefly and caddisfly nymphs, as well as the emergent forms of these flies, worms, fish eggs, minnows, leeches, midges and gnats and large terrestrials (i.e. cicadas). Throughout these monthly fly tying sessions, our tiers have also learned how to employ a diversity of tying materials (i.e. feathers, dubbing, foam, chenille, yarn, rubber) in the construction of the tail, wings, abdomen, thorax, legs, and antennae of an “artificial fly”.

As homeowners you probably have noticed during the hot summer months there is a preponderance of ants and ‘other bugs’ present around your house. In fact, ants and other terrestrials (e.g. hoppers, crickets, fireflies), are common also around fresh water ponds, streams and rivers. And on breezy or windy days these ‘terrestrial’ insects end up being fish food. One of my favorite (and successful) patterns which I go to on a ‘hot’ day is an ant.

The fly pattern which I chose for the August session is an ant pattern. Not just any ant, but rather a para-ant. The term para-ant derives from the fact that this fly is tied in a parachute style of fly tying. That is, the hackle feather is attached and tied (around the “post”) in a fashion such that the hackle fibers lie parallel to the hook shank and water surface. Thus, the hackle not only allows the fly to gently ‘parachute’ to the water surface, but then it suspends the fly on the water surface; giving the fish an opportunity to see the entire silhouette of the fly from head-to-tail.  Learning to tie flies in the “parachute” style is yet another skill which the Beginner fly-tier can use to create a diversity of very effective fly patterns.  Sign up here no later than Aug. 9. We will mail you the hooks and materials needed to tie this month’s flies. All instructions for tying these patterns will be available online by Aug. 11.

Print Instructions are below.

Tying a Para-Ant

Overview: Artificial flies which imitate terrestrial insects such as an ant are terrific go-to patterns for summertime fishing whether it be for trout, panfish or other species of fresh water fish. The Para-Ant pattern is one of the best imitations of an ant struggling in the surface-film of a stream, river, pond or lake.


  • Dry fly or caddisfly hook – sizes 10-16
  • Thread – black 6/0 or 120 denier
  • Thorax and abdomen – fine, black dubbing (preferably beaver). Use dark red for red ant.
  • Post – antron yarn or equivalent. (I find that chartreuse or orange post easier to see than white).
  • Parachute wing – grizzly neck hackle, sized to match hook size

Tying Steps

  • After pinching down the hook barb, start thread wraps slightly behind the hook eye and wrap a single layer of thread toward the rear of the hook stopping slightly in front of, and above the hook barb.
  • Apply a thin, tight layer of dubbing to the thread and wrap slightly forward and then back and forth to create a bump of dubbing at the rear end of the hook. (This dubbing bump represents the abdomen of the fly and the bump should look like a stubby football-shaped abdomen).
  • Make several thread wraps forward from the dubbed abdomen and then stop approximately ¼ of the hook shank to the rear of the hook eye. Wrap a 2” piece of antron yarn around the tying thread and then lift the yarn piece up and secure it on the top of the hook shank with several thread wraps. With each wrap draw down with the thread such that the antron is sitting firmly on the top of the hook shank with the two loose ends of antron pointing up.
  • Next make thread wraps in front and behind the antron yarn (post) which creates a small taper in front and behind the post supporting the post in an upright position.
  • Next make thread wraps up the post ~1/8” and back down. The thread bobbin should then be hanging directly below the antron post. (At this point you might consider applying a very small drop of quick dry cement (e.g. Zap-a-Gap) to the base of the post).
  • After trimming away several barbs at the butt end of a (hook size-matched) neck hackle, secure it to the base of the of the antron post on the near side of the hook. (The concave side of the hackle should be facing toward the tier). Make several thread wraps up and around the hackle-stem and antron post and back down. (The thread should again be hanging directly below the post).
  • Lightly dub the thread again and make multiple X wraps around the hook in-front-of and behind the post to create the thorax of the fly. This dubbing bump also slightly covers the butt of the hackle, the tip of which pointing up along the post. Make 1 additional thread wrap around the post such that the thread is behind and on the far side of the post.  
  • Remove hook from the vise, turn it 90 degrees so that the post is pointing to the right, and retighten the hook in the vise.
  • Gently pull down on the hackle stem, to ‘break the stiffness in the hackle stem’ and begin wrapping the hackle feather around the antron post (counter-clockwise to the stem) with subsequent wraps down the post and beneath the previous wrap of hackle. (Make 4-5 wraps of hackle around the post). Then hold the tip of the hackle low and to the left side of the hook while wrapping the thread around the base of the post underneath the last hackle wraps. Whip-finish the thread wraps at this point and cut off remaining hackle tip.
  • For tiers not skilled in using a half-hitch tool. Remove the hook again from the vise and secure it  in the original position in the vise. Then the hackle fibers which are facing forward can be gently pulled back and thread wraps made forward to the eye, being secured with half-hitches and both hackle tip and thread cut off, completing the fly.

By Don Fine