Classic Video: How to Tie the Chernobyl Ant

I often head up on my favorite native-brookie stream at lunchtime and have a blast dropping a Chernobyl Ant into pockets and pools. The trout are usually eager, hammering the fly even when it is too big to fit in their mouths, and I marvel for the thousandth time that a pattern that resembles a pool toy can be so effective.

The first time I saw a Chernobyl Ant, I couldn’t really believe that a trout would eat such a thing. As an East Coaster, I had been raised on more lifelike terrestrials, such as Dave’s Hoppers and Letort Crickets. But my Western friends assured me that it would work, and boy, did it. I’ve since caught all kinds of trout, as well as warmwater fish on this foam beast. I now even use the pattern on my favorite brook-trout streams in the Green Mountains.

The Chernobyl went through a few stages on the way to becoming the pattern shown here. Most people credit Utah guide Mark Forslund for starting the process in the 1980s when he first tied a Mormon-cricket imitation called the Black Mamba, which featured a closed-cell-foam body and hackle legs. Fellow Green River guide Allen Woolley replaced the hackle with rubber legs, and the modern Chernobyl Ant was born. The pattern gained wide notoriety after it was used to win the Jackson Hole One Fly tournament in the 1990s.

In this typically great video from Tightline Productions, Tim Flagler walks you through his method for tying this revered pattern, and he has a few tricks up his sleeve. I really like the chenille underbody and his method from creating lifelike segmentation from the fish’s point of view. And you’ll love the way he handles the foam and the rubber legs.

          Chernobyl Ant
          Hook: 3X-long nymph hook (here a Dai-Riki #710), sizes 6-12.
          Thread: Brown, 6/0 or 140-denier.
          Foam base: Red chenille.
          Underbody: Tan craft foam.
          Rear legs: Round rubber legs of your choice.
          Overbody: Black craft foam.
          Hot spots: Orange craft foam.
          Front legs: Round rubber legs of your choice.
          Adhesive: Sally Hansen Hard As Nails or head cement.
          Note: You can tie this pattern in any color combinations you’d like.

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