The Chernobyl Ant is a great terrestrial pattern to learn to tie. It’s a pattern that can be fished in many different ways. Use it on its own, tie it in a dry and dropper rig, or skate and pop it over the water’s surface. The Chernobyl is a fish magnet.
I first came across the Chernobyl Ant when fishing a secluded high-altitude river in Lesotho. I made use of small Parachute Adams, but due to the deep troughs and fast-moving water of the river, the fish didn’t respond.
A friend passed me one of his self-tied Chernobyl Ants. After inspecting it, with some doubts, I decided to put it on. On the first cast, a fish shot up from the depths and hit the fly. Throughout the week, the Chernobyl pulled fish up. It amazed me how far they would swim for this fly.
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- Difficulty Level: Moderate
- Tying Time: 5 minutes
- Materials: Hook, thread, chenille (optional), closed-cell foam, rubber legs
- Hook Size: 8 – 12
What Is a Chernobyl Ant?
The Chernobyl Ant was developed in the early 1990s on Utah’s Green River. It was originally designed to imitate the large black crickets found in the area.
Since then, many variations have been developed, but for the most part, the Chernobyl resembles a large terrestrial insect.
How to Fish a Chernobyl Ant?
The Chernobyl Ant is tied using a considerable amount of foam. The foam gives the fly incredible buoyancy which makes it possible to fish it in many different situations. Here’s a couple of my favorite Chernobyl Ant fishing methods:
Single Dry Fly
The Chernobyl Ant is a great dry fly on its own. Especially when fish are zoned in on terrestrials falling from overhanging trees or streamside vegetation.
Cast this fly up close to banks deliberately allowing the fly to make an audible “plonk”. Fish respond to this sound and will often cover a considerable distance to inspect and eat the fly.
Hopper and Dropper
The hopper and dropper is the same as a dry and dropper rig. The top fly is usually a terrestrial imitation, in this case, the Chernobyl Ant. Due to the good buoyancy of the Chernobyl, you can use it in conjunction with relatively heavy nymphs.
The combo is fished as you would do with any dry and dropper rig. Cast upstream and allow to dead drift through likely fish-holding water. The Chernobyl will allow you to make use of this method in rough water.
The Chernobyl can also be cast across a stream or river and allowed to skate over the water’s surface. Whether it’s imitating a small mouse, a large stonefly, or an injured minnow, I’m not sure. I just know it entices incredible reactions from Bass and Trout.
Materials You’ll Need to Tie a Chernobyl Ant
You will need the following materials to tie a Chernobyl Ant:
A long shank light nymph or dry fly hook will work. The Chernobyl Ant is tied in sizes from 8 – 12, but you can definitely tie smaller versions for small streams. The following hooks are good options:
A slightly thicker thread should be selected when working with foam. Thin thread, even when flattened, has the tendency to cut the foam. A thicker thread will prevent this. On Chernobyl Ants I recommend 140 Denier. I even make use of 210 Denier on large flies (as in the step-by-step guide).
Match the color of the thread to the color of the underbody. Some of my favorite threads for this purpose are:
- Danville’s Fly Master Plus 140 or 210 Denier
- UTC Ultra Thread 140 or 210 Denier
- SemperflI Nanosilk 100 Denier
The chenille is tied on top of the hook shank and creates a foundation for the first foam sheet to be tied on. Without the addition of the chenille, the foam tends to spin around the shank. The chenille can also be used to add a small hotspot on the butt of the fly.
Recommended Assorted Chenille & Flashabou:
→ Croch Fly Tying Materials Kit
I make use of a 2mm foam that I bought from our local craft shop. You can play around with the colors of foam used. Some of my favorite colors to have at hand for Chernobyl Ants include:
Recommended Foam Sheets:
→ Houseables Crafts Foam Sheets
Barred rubber legs are tied in between the underbody and the top foam layer. You can use medium legs on large flies and the fine version on small flies.
Recommended Fly Tying Legs:
→ Xfishman Silicon Rubber Legs 12-24 Colors
The hotspot, or sighter, is tied on the top of the fly to aid sighting in low light conditions.
This optional extra is great when you’re guiding clients. I make use of the following materials:
- Antron yarn
- Poly yarn
- Bright colored foam
→ 8 Colors/Floating Yarn Bundle
The exposed thread in the underbody’s segments is sealed after the fly is completed. You can make use of any of the following:
- UV resin
- Head cement
- Nail varnish
Tools Needed to Tie a Chernobyl Ant
You’ll need the following tools to tie a Chernobyl Ant:
Let's Get Started!
How To Tie a Chernobyl Ant
The following section will take you through the steps to tie a Chernobyl Ant. The specific materials I am using are listed in the recipe below for your reference.
Chernobyl Ant Recipe
- Hook: Mouche 8443 size 8
- Thread: Danville’s 210D Flatwaxed tan
- Chenille: Red ultra-chenille
- Base foam: Hobby shop foam sheet in tan
- Top foam: Hoppy shop foam sheet in black
- Legs: Brown and orange barred rubber legs
- Hotspot: Fluorescent pink Antron yarn
- Resin: Sally Hansen Hard as Nails
Step 1: Place The Hook in The Vise
Place the chosen hook between the jaws of the vise. The hook shank must be level and the hook point and barb exposed.
Secure the hook by locking the cam lever. Test to make sure that the hook is seated properly to prevent problems later on during the tie.
Step 2: Attach The Thread To The Hook
Hold the end of the thread in your left hand and place the thread over the hook about ¼-inch behind the hook eye. Wrap forward 5 times then run the thread over itself to lock it in place.
Cut off the excess tag end. Move the thread forward and leave a small gap between the thread and the eye of the hook.
Step 3: Tie in The Chenille
Cut a 2-inch section of chenille and place it on top of the hook.
Tie it in where you left the thread. Cut off any forward-facing excess.
Step 4: Cover The Hook Shank With Thread
Keep the chenille tight by pulling rearwards. Run the thread backward to secure the chenille on top of the hook shank.
Stop when you reach the start of the bend. Run the thread forward to where you tied in the chenille.
Step 5: Cut Off The Chenille
Cut the chenille off leaving a ¼-inch protruding behind the fly. The amount you leave protruding will depend on the size of fly you use, but basically it should look like this photo.
Once you’re happy with the length of the chenille, you can move on to the next step in this tutorial.
Step 6: Cut Off a Section of Tan Foam
Take the thin tan foam sheet that you found at the hobby store and cut a 2-inch length of foam the same width as the gape of the hook.
You can hold the foam up to the gape in the hook to measure it and get it right.
Step 7: Tie in The Tan Foam
Place the foam on top of the hook shank with about ¼ inch extending over the front of the hook.
Pinch the foam in place and secure with thread, allowing the foam to fold around the shank.
Step 8: Form The Segmented Body
The body is divided into 5 – 6 segments. Move the thread backward to the next segment by loosely following a diagonal line to its position. This “jump” should be made right on top of the body to hide it away when the top foam layer is added.
Once you have reached the correct location, make two wraps to form the segment. Proceed all the way until you reach the bend of the hook. You should have 5 or 6 segments.
Step 9: Tie in The Rear Legs
Cut a long piece of barred rubber legs and fold it in half. Place the mid-point on top of the shank, with the loop created facing forward.
Secure with 2 or 3 wraps. Then position the legs so they are mirrored on either side of the hook.
Step 10: Cut a Section Of Black Foam
Now take the section of black foam sheet and cut it the same way that you cut the tan section in step 6 of this tutorial.
Again, the foam should be the same width as the gape in the hook and slightly longer than the hook itself.
Step 11: Tie in The Black Foam
Place the black foam on top of the tan body by sliding it through the loop created by the rubber legs. Tie in at the bend of the hook.
Step 12: Tie in The Hotspot
Cut a 1-inch section of Antron yarn. Tie the mid-point of this section in on top of the black foam.
Once secure, pull the Antron tight and cut to length.
Step 13: Advance The Thread Forward
Fold the rubber legs and black foam backward. Advance the thread forward the same way that you created the segmented body.
Make sure that the diagonal “jumps” are made on top of the foam. Stop the thread at the original tying in point of the foam.
Step 14: Tie in The Front Legs
Tie in the second set of rubber legs at this point in the same way as described in step 9, above.
Don’t worry if they aren’t exactly even as you can trim them to size when you’re done tying the rest of the fly.
Step 15: Secure The Black Foam
Fold the black foam over the body and pull the front end through the loop created by the front legs.
Secure with thread at the same place as the original tying in point of the tan foam.
Step 16: Tie In Another Hotspot
Tie in an Antron hotspot in the same way as described in step 12, above.
Once the yarn is secured to the hook, cut it to the same length as the first hotspot, about a quarter of an inch above the fly.
Step 17: Whip Finish The Fly
Step 18: Trim The Legs & Body
Trim the rubber legs so that they are equal in length. Cut the tan and black foam so that the front and back are the same lengths.
Then cut a taper into them. I like to taper the butt end of the fly a lot more than the front to give it a more buggy look.
Step 19: Seal The Body
Flip the fly around and seal the exposed thread with your favorite sealant. I am using Hard as Nails in this tutorial, but you can use whatever resin you like and super glue works fine as well.
Sealing the fly in this way will give it a lot more durability and ensure that it lasts a long time, even when being fished a lot.
The Chernobyl Ant
Now You Know
How To Tie a Chernobyl Ant
This guide showed you guys the basic steps of the Chernobyl Ant. As the development and refinement of the fly were pushed by curiosity, I encourage you to play around with the pattern. Add wings, different legs, antennae, and markings to imitate the hoppers and crickets found in your area.
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