You hear a lot about the flying ant hatch on the Madison River…fishing guides
like to keep quiet about it…like it’s a dirty little secret…or a rumor…or
a ghost. “The ants are out…shhh”…meanwhile there’s a bazillion ants flying
all around Main St, at the gas station, the grocery store parking lot and Madison Meadows Golf Course…even Stevie Wonder could see them .
It happens late summer…on any still, hot day late in the afternoon they will fly…but you have to be lucky to hit it on the river.
Through the years, I have hit the hatch at Ruby Cliffs, Indian Ck.,
Shewmaker Ditch, The Cottonwoods, The Snag Hole and below Varney. One of the
best days I ever had on the ant hatch was in the Channels section of the river
Sept. 11, 2007 when we caught 15 nice trout in an hour before the wind came up.
What’s the deal with these ants that take to the air? One writer calls it
“The day on which queen ants emerge from their nests to begin their nuptial
flight.” And thousands of horny little male ants chase them around like crazed
teenagers! Once again, it all comes down to sex! The ants we have here…the ones
the trout REALLY like…have the larger amber or honey brown bodies with
transparent wings. I have used a size 16 Royal Wulff or cut down Royal Trude,
but my all time favorite fly for the flying ant hatch is a size 16 Yellow Humpy
(Goofus Bug). Go into any fly shop and you will find zillions of ant patterns
made out of everything from foam to gauze to bailing twine to rubber bands,
popcorn or bubble gum… take your pick.
Why do the fish love the ants? Two words…FORMIC ACID. The ants have it and
the trout know it. Formic acid is potent stuff…kind of a mixture of Viagra,
LSD, Geritol, and Peyote all rolled into one…WHAT TROUT IN IT’S RIGHT MIND
WOULDN’T WANT SOME OF THAT?
If you could bottle this stuff you would make millions.
Just as quickly as it comes on, the flying ant hatch fades. The insects fly,
mate, fall to the ground or water…the males die and the females disperse. If
you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time on the Madison
River late August or early September you could be right in the middle of it!