Saturday, August 13, 2016

Red Ants Pants

What does this have to do with the Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulfur Springs, MT? Nothing. But I was getting to the FAS in Cascade two days ago and these things were flying all over the place and fish were absolutely crushing them so I thought about the festival and wondered how closely this flying ant hatch and the festival coincided. It's about two weeks off. The festival was at the end of July. Of course, these little guys are completely unpredictable and I've only seen a hatch like that a couple of times in my ten years of guiding but when you do, it's pretty sick.
It was seven years ago when I saw the first really good one. I was guiding with Mike Kuhnert and I have to be honest, was getting my ass kicked in the morning. Yeah, we were catching fish but every time I looked at Mike's boat, his clients were hooked up. It was pretty ridiculous. I figured in order to give us an excuse as to why we weren't catching as many fish, I'd put my clients on hoppers and try to pull something huge. At least then they could brag about a two-footer while their buddies were pounding the cookie-cutters.
We did get some nice fish to come up and landed a couple. Some were on the hoppers and some on an ant dropper. We decided to do lunch at the Craig FAS and discussed the afternoon plan. Both boats decided they wanted to throw the hopper/dropper just to see if we could coax a few pigs to the surface. We didn't see the ants right away.
We didn't get a hundred yards from our lunch spot and we knew something crazy was up. Anytime the ant hit the water even ten feet off the boat it was getting crushed. It didn't matter if it was drifting or swinging; it was going to get eaten. We took out about 3 miles downstream and about 4 hours later and literally had over a hundred eats on the ants. It was insane. (We didn't land a hundred fish...)
So now seeing these ants at the take-out in Cascade, I was a little bummed because our day was done just as it was getting good. As I went an got my truck, more and more fish started coming up across the entire river. I backed my truck in and was about to load the boat but I couldn't stand it anymore.
"You guys want to put a little more time into this?" I asked. "You might not ever see anything like this again."
"I came to fish," Jim said.
So we parked the truck and I rowed them back up stream a little bit and got them out on a riffle to throw ants for a while. We put about another hour or so into what was already a pretty long day but we did get some on dries and it was definitely worth the effort. It was short lived though, as the ants disappeared and the fish started getting back to being their weary stubborn selves.  
Flying ant hatches are totally unpredictable but if you get into them, it's pretty awesome. As a guide, you just hope you have folks in the boat that can get it done when it does happen. However, if you have beginners, it's also a great way to introduce them to a discipline that can be incredibly technical at times but pretty doable in these types of situations. Be careful though. It's easy to get spoiled.
Keep 'em where they live...

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