It’s hard to go wrong with a Chernobyl Ant and it doesn’t matter if you’re fishing for trout, bass or blue gill, or whether you’re using it as a primary fly or the hopper part of a hopper-dropper rig. These things just plain get the job done. And don’t even begin to think they only work out west.
We’re going to tie one on a Dai-Riki #710 nymph hook in a size 8 but they can easily be tied down to a 12 if you like.
It’s a good idea to use heavier 140 Denier thread so it won’t cut the foam like thinner threads will. The brown complements the foam colors we’re going to use.
Start your thread on the hook shank leaving some space behind the eye and take wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag.
Although not essential, a length of chenille bound to the top of the hook shank, with tight wraps of tying thread, will help to keep the foam from wanting to roll around. Snip it off even with the bend of the hook to leave a small red hot spot on the finished fly. Position your tying thread an eye-length space behind the eye.
Cut 2 strips of plain old craft foam, one tan and one black, to a hook gap in width. I use a paper cutter to do this, but scissors will work just fine. Place the tan strip on top of the hook shank so 1/4” extends past the eye. Fold the strip around the chenille and the hook, and take a couple of somewhat loose collecting wraps and then pull down tight.
To segment the fly's underbody, move your thread rearward at a diagonal, but don’t do it like this. Instead, wrap so the diagonal lands on top of the foam so only a full circular wrap will appear on the underside of the fly. Keep making segments in a similar manner as you progress down the shank toward the bend. I like to make each segment just slightly smaller than the previous, but it really isn’t necessary. 4-5 segments generally looks pretty good. You can now snip the excess foam off, leaving roughly the same amount of material as you did in the front.
Snip 2 strands of your favorite rubber leg material free from the hank. Fold one of those strands in half to form a loop. Lay the midpoint of the folded over segment on top of the foam at the back end of the fly, and secure it with a few wraps of tying thread.
Pick up the strip of black foam and measure it to the same length as the tan foam. At that point, snip the foam off square. Slip the segment through the rubber leg loop and align its back edge with the back edge of the tan foam. Take first a loose wrap of tying thread, followed by progressively tighter wraps to secure it.
To make the fly more visible, I’ve used a hole punch to cut out small circles of orange craft foam. Pick up one of the circles and lay it on top of the black foam. Run your tying thread across the middle of the circle and then pull down and take another wrap or 2 to secure it. Pull both the foam and the rubber legs back and make the same segmenting wraps as before, around the tan foam, but this time, working your way up the shank to the front edge of the first foam segment.
Get hold of the 2nd piece of rubber leg and fold it in half. Bind it to the top of the hook shank, as you did the first. Pull the black foam forward so its front edge is aligned with the front edge of the tan foam, and the rubber leg loop is sandwiched in between. Take a few turns of tying thread to pin the black foam down.
Pick up another circle of orange foam and fasten it in the same manner as before. Pull all the materials back to expose the eye and take a few wraps immediately behind it. You can then do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free.
Get all the materials even and aligned on top of the hook shank and then snip the midpoints of both rubber leg loops. Give each of the 4 segments a pull to get them oriented and seated correctly behind the thread wraps.
For final trimming, it's easier to remove the fly from the vise. First trim both ends off square and even. Then round off the corners. I find snipping perpendicular rather than parallel to the foam works well. Use a combination of snipping and pulling to even up the legs.
A liberal coating of head cement or, in this case, Hard as Nails, applied to the back and front wraps helps to lock everything in place. Notice here the nice clean segments on the underside of the fly.
These are kind of the standard colors for a Chernobyl Ant but many other combinations of light and dark foam and different colored rubber legs will also work, so don’t have a meltdown if you don’t have all the exact materials.