The following recipe for a foam/latex ant is adapted from one developed by Jeff Clark and first published on FLYFISH@, the flyfishing listserv on the Internet.
Hook: Mustad 94859 or any fine wire dry fly hook, #14-20
Note: For this technique you want to select a hook that is one size smaller than you would for an equivalent fur ant, e.g. for a #14 size body you use a #16 hook.
Thread: Same color as the ant body
Head/Abdomen: Rainey's or other float foam, trimmed to shape and covered with colored liquid latex
Legs: Hackle, deer hair, mono, or rubber legging material in color to match body
1. Tie an overhand knot into one end of a 1' to 2' piece of heavy thread or
mono and thread it into a needle from the opposite end so that you have a
single strand of thread held in place on the needle by the knot on the end.
Trim off the excess thread beyond the knot.
2. Cut pieces of foam for the head and abdomen of the ants in the size and shape that you need for your flies. You are going to be making a number of ant bodies at once to speed up the tying process. If you want all of your ants to be one size then cut all the foam pieces the same size or you can make different size ant bodies all at the same time. You are cutting one piece of foam for the head and another larger one for the abdomen. The two pieces together should be about the length of the hook shank. The two pieces should be roughly rounded on the sides. Don't worry if they look rough, chunky and angular, the latex will take care of that later.
3. Use the needle to thread an ant head onto your length of thread and slide the foam to near the end of the thread. Then thread an abdomen onto the thread leaving about 1/2" space between it and the head. Repeat this until you have all of the heads and abdomen lined up on the thread with about 1/2" space between them.
4. Secure the needle in your vise or stick it into something that will hold it securely and then tie the other end of the thread to something else solid so that the thread is held taunt and is over the top of a surface that you don't mind dripping liquid latex onto.
5. Apply a drop of Cyanoacrylate glue to the thread just beyond the first head and then slide the head over the glue. Apply another drop of CA glue about 1/2 hook shank length behind that head and then slide the abodomen behind it to a point about 1/4 hook shank length behind the head. You should end up with an ant body that is about full hook length with about 1/4 hook shank length between the head and abdomen. Continue this process until you have all of the heads and abdomen assembled on the thread into full ant bodies with spaces of thread between each body. CA glue is available at model hobby stores that specialize in model airplanes, cars, boats, etc. At these stores you will be able to find it in a variety of consistencies: thin, medium and thick. The medium consistency works best for this technique. Thin consistency such as Super Glue or Krazy Glue tends to soak into the thread too much and thick consistency such as Zap-A-Gap tends to bead up as you slide the ant bodies around creating glops of glue on the end of the bodies rather than securing them firmly to the thread.
6. Now you are ready to work with the liquid latex. Liquid latex is available at most hobby/craft stores and at stores that carry theatrical make-up. Brands such as Rub-R-Mold, for example, are sold for making miniature scenery for model train set ups. You are also going to need some permanent markers and/or acrylic paint. The permanent markers can be used to color the liquid latex after it dries. The acrylic paint can also be used to paint the liquid latex after it dries or can be mixed with the latex to create a body that has the color throughout. Mixing the acrylic paint with the latex also speeds up the finishing time since you only have to wait for one drying process.
7. Apply the liquid latex or latex mixed with acrylic paint to the ant bodies with a fine artist's brush. The idea is to cover the foam chunks with a layer of liquid latex creating a smooth rounded body. This is where you cover all of the dings, edges, etc. that were created in cutting the foam chunks. With a little bit of practice you will soon be creating smooth, shiny and highly realistic looking ant bodies. Apply the liquid latex to all of the foam bodies on the thread and let them all dry. After the bodies have completely dried color them with permanent markers or acrylic paint if necessary.
8. Cut off one complete ant body from the thread (head and abdomen plus the space in between)just behind the rear of the abdomen leaving a little thread at the front end of the head. Place the hook in your vise and start your tying thread just behind the eye of the hook.
9. Position the head of the ant body just behind the eye of the hook and take a couple of wraps of thread over the thread sticking out of the front of the head. Whip finish to secure in place. Cut off your tying thread. Trim the excess thread sticking out over the eye of the hook. Apply a little CA glue to the whip finish to secure it firmly in place and let the glue dry.
10. Restart your tying thread over the thread just in front of the abdomen and around both that thread and the hook. Take a couple of wraps to secure it in place and whip finish. Cut off your tying thread. Apply a little CA glue to the whip finish to secure it firmly in place and let the glue dry.
11. An alternate method of securing the ant body to the hook is to carefully work the hook through both the head and abdomen of the ant body before securing the hook in the vise. Then take a couple of wraps of thread in front of the head, whip finish and trim. Take a couple of wraps of thread just in front of the abodmen, whip finish and trim. A little CA glue then applied in both places and just behind the back of the abdomen where the hook comes out will firmly anchor the whole thing in place. Note that if you use this method the hook should exit from the abdomen not at the end of the abdomen, but just slightly (1/4 hook shank length) in front of the end on the underside of the abdomen. If you have trouble getting the hook through the ant body with this method try reducing the amount of CA glue that you were using to secure the bodies to the thread in the body construction part of the technique. This method of securing the body to the hook results in a more durable ant, but is a bit more difficult than the first method.
12. Restart the thread just behind the head of the ant and add a couple of turns of hackle, 3 strands of deer hair, or other legging material. Whip finish and trim thread and deer hair or legging material. It is usually not a good idea to use CA glue to secure these in place as it will tend to stiffen up the legs unless applied VERY carefully. Head cement is usually better for this part of the process.
The end product is a foam/latex ant that is highly realistic, extremely durable and can be easily produced in large quantities. The latex/foam body also results in a body that is very realistic in feel to the fish and can increase your hookup rate.