Tied by Gordon Mankins
Hook: Mustad 94838 (extra short shank, 1x fine, size
Thread: Black 6/0 or 8/0
Hackle: Black dry fly
An interest we all share is looking for new materials to use in tying flies. I really
think the 'Puff' type material has a place in the tyer's box. 'Puff' refers to any
commercial product that is designed to be applied to fabric and then subsequently expanded
by the use of heat. It comes in assorted colors - I use them straight from the container
or mix my own colors as needed. 'Puff' is available at hobby and some variety stores.
After 'Puff' has completely dried, it can be expanded with indirect heat - I prefer an
oven at 400F for 15 seconds - or just as ut has dried (unexpanded) to give you a natural
feel and look.
Since I have been using 'Puff', I have found numerous ways to incorporate it into fly
patterns, from a tiny Baetis to a big hopper. This ant is a nice pattern for a beginner to
tie as well as being a quick one for the more advanced tyer.
1. Prepare 'Puff'-on-a-string ahead of time by tying a series of half-knots pulled snug
but by no means tight. Use 30# Dacron backing. Space half-knots as you desire for the size
ant you are tying. I space half-knots 7/32nds apart for a size 16, Mustad 94838 hook.
2. Apply 'Puff' as desired on and around each half-knot. Hang the finished string up to
dry completely - ie. at least 24 hours.
3. Prepare the hackle feather, sizing the pennaceous portion to be 1-1/2 the length of
the gap. Trim off the excess plumaceous portion and clip a few barbs from each side of the
4. Tie in the thread at the center of the hook shank. Center 'Puff'-on-a-string
segments on top of the hook shank as shown and hold them in place while wrapping thread
around both the hook shank and the string section that connects two sections. Continue
wrapping thread to the rear portion of the string section.
5. Tie in the hackle feather by the butt of the rachis with the shiny side toward the
hook eye. Run the thread to the front portion of the string section. Close wrap the hackle
feather forward three or more times. Lock it down with the waiting thread. Trim the excess
hackle feather and wrap the thread forward under the front segment three or four close
wraps. Whip finish.
6. Expand the 'Puff' on the finished fly in the oven. (I prefer 400F oven for 15
seconds.) Coat the segments with a thin mixture of head cement to give the ant a glossy
7. Option: Pre-expand 'Puff'-on-a-string before tying onto the hook.
I fish ant patterns mostly in the summer months when ants are most numerous and often
fall or are blown into the water. I cast ant patterns close to the stream banks where
trout position themselves to feed on any ant that hiys the water, and in lakes where
flying ants sometimes can cayse quite a surface bite. Look closely, those 'gulpers' may be
feeding on flying ants and not on midge clusters.