Hook: Daiichi 2220 #6-#10
Thread: MFC, 6/0 or UTC 140, Black
Under-body: Orange 3MM or 2MM Sheet Foam
Over-body: Black 3MM or 2MM Sheet Foam
Legs: Barred Round Rubber Legs-Hot Orange or White Rubber Hackle
Indicator Posts: Orange 2MM Foam
Tying Notes: This version’s colour scheme is suggestive of the large Pternonarcys stoneflies or salmon flies. Vary the leg, under-body and over-body colors to suggest golden stones and grasshoppers. Gaudy attractor colors also work well.
Cruising though the dry fly bins in most fly shops reveals some bizarre looking patterns, Amy’s Ant, the Club Sandwich and the Fat Albert to name a few. Large, unique and unorthodox, these patterns share two common denominators. They float like corks and utilize large quantities of foam. In recent years foam bodied dry flies have exploded in popularity. This explosion can be traced back to one particular fly designed for the Green River in Utah, the Chernobyl Ant.
As its name would suggest the Chernobyl Ant resembles a huge mutant ant that trout can’t resist. Simple to construct, the Chernobyl’s long gangly rubber legs and dual layer contrasting foam body screams to be crushed and drowned as it bounces and bobs downstream. From my research the Chernobyl Ant was originally a black bodied fly known in some circles as the Black Mamba. Most versions now feature two colors of foam. Black and orange to suggest large salmon-flies, brown and yellow for golden stones and yellow and tan for hoppers.
Depending upon pattern size and river conditions two hook gape wide slices of 3MM or 2MM closed cell sheet foam is a Chernobyl standard. A straight edge and utility knife provides the most consistent results for cutting the foam strips. Specialized foam cutters can also be used to create size specific foam bodies. I use 3MM foam for #6 and larger Chernobyls, 2MM foam for #8 or smaller. If you are in doubt use thicker foam as it can be thinned by carefully stretching and stroking the foam strip.
Securing foam requires firm thread pressure. Use strong tying thread such as 3/0 to avoid accidental breakage. Cover the shank with thread creating a sound base so the foam doesn’t roll around the shank. Apply thread pressure using a tight, tighter, tightest philosophy so the wraps constrict around the foam strip locking it in place. Pinching and narrowing the foam at the tie in point also helps. Add 6-8 additional wraps at the tie in points. Buoyancy will not be affected. A collection of wide thread wraps at the front and rear tie in areas of the body also helps splay the legs.
There are a number of ways to tie a Chernobyl. I begin by tying in the under-body foam just back from the hook eye. Once the initial tie in is complete wind the thread backwards to the bend using open wraps to segment the body. Secure the over-body, rear set of legs and indicator post at the rear of the hook. Lift the over-body and rear legs out of the way and wind the thread forward to the under-body’s initial tie in point travelling through and further securing the initial body segments. Looking from below the under-body foam should completely envelope the hook shank. To complete the fly secure the over-body, front legs and indicator post in place just behind the hook eye.
Chernobyl Ants ride low and can be difficult to track. Most versions include small foam indicator posts tied in at the front and rear tie down points on the fly. I use thin 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide slivers of 2MM foam for my indicator posts. High visibility indicator posts can be the same color or alternate colors such as hot orange and yellow providing two sighting points. Either color may be more visible depending upon light and water conditions.
The original pattern featured black or white round rubber hackle legs. Mottled or barred legs are now common. I use these legs most often. Mottling your own legs is easy. Place a light colored length of rubber hackle in the jaws of the vise. Pull and twist the leg tight until it wants to double back or furl onto itself. Take a permanent marker and make one single pass down the extended length of the twisted leg material and you have one barred leg. Do not make multiple passes as the leg will not mottle properly.
Rubber hackle stretches when pulled. Take this into account when trimming. If you trim stretched rubber hackle the net result will be short stubby lifeless legs. Gather and support the legs but do not stretch when trimming. Keep your Chernobyl legs about body length as lanky legs are important. Long legs jiggle and bounce providing superior action.
Although a straight forward pattern to tie it pays to use disciplined approach. Incorporating production techniques to prepare and tie in the foam and legs improves your speed, pattern quality and consistency. Once you get rolling it doesn’t take long to produce a succulent handful of Chernobyl Ants.
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