Guest Blogger: Joe Dellaria
In my previous post, I covered the creation of a Strike Indicator Fly. I began developing a beetle pattern as a modification of the Strike Indicator Fly. That is the topic of this article.
It started innocently enough. I caught a couple of decent trout that I kept for dinner in mid-August. While cleaning the fish, I inspected the contents of the stomachs. To my surprise, both fish were stuffed with green beetles. Being the quick guy I am, I did the math and swiftly deduced that a fly looking like these beetles might catch a lot of trout.
I was already sorting through how to perfect the Strike Indicator Fly. A couple small changes (using green deer hair, remove the tail, and adding legs) converted the Strike Indicator Fly into the first generation beetle pattern. Now, it was time for the fun part – to test and see whether it worked.
Having remembered where I caught the trout, I returned to the same spot. Looking around I spotted a low hanging tree at the head of the pool. Ah, the likely source of beetles. So I cast upstream of the tree and let the fly float under it. Not really knowing what to expect, I was relaxed and completely unprepared for what happened. About a foot downstream of the tree, the water exploded. After nearly wetting my pants involuntarily, I instinctively raised the rod and set the hook. As it turned out, this was a savvy 17” brown. He headed straight for the logjam across the pool. Fortunately, I was able to turn her and landed the fish.
Whew, my heart was racing. I checked the tippet to discover two nicks. I cut back the leader and added a section of 3X tippet. That turned out to be an excellent strategic choice. The next two hours was non-stop action. I landed 17 trout! Like the first trout, many knew where the nearest snag was. I eventually cut the leader back and added a section of 2X tippet. No problem, the fish still took the fly with total abandon.
It turns out that where the fly sits in the film dramatically influences its effectiveness. Too low and there are significantly fewer takes. Too high and the fish have trouble getting the fly down. Just right and you get many effortless takes. I tried different thicknesses of foam for the over body, having no foam over body, and varying thicknesses of deer hair. This led to the final pattern described below.
All this design refinement is fine, but, if I were you, I would ask only one question “Does the darn thing work?” To that, I can give a single resounding answer, “Yes, almost like dynamite!”
The real proof of the flies came when I happened to arrive at the stream early the morning on the last day of the season. A person was just ducking under the first tree to go upstream. I called to him wanting to know where he wanted to fish so I would not disturb him. To my amazement, I found it was Ken, a person I had taught how to fly fish. We decided to fish together. He got a funny look on his face as I pulled out a beetle and tied it on. He queried, “That thing work?” I replied, “Here give one a try.” When we got to the first hole, I shared where I had seen a nice fish recently. He made one cast and nailed a 15” brown. Needless to say, he was convinced.
Fishing the "Killer" Beetle Fly Pattern
This fly can work throughout the season, but it excels from mid-August until the last day of September, the end of our trout season. It is especially effective on windy days. It makes sense, as beetles are just another type of terrestrial. Like hopper season, the beetle starts working best around August and works until the first couple of hard frosts. The fly seems to work best in hot weather just like hoppers. When there is a cold night, the fly produces more fish later in the day when it is warmer.
I like to use a two-fly set up just like a hopper and dropper. Two particularly productive droppers are an unweighted #10 girdle bug or a #14 hi-vis flying ant. Last year I had one of my most successful afternoons of fishing with the beetle/ant combo. It was particularly satisfying when I caught an 18 ½ inch brown on the beetle. Earlier in the season, I pulled a BWO out of its open mouth when I got too excited and tried setting the hook prematurely. With the beetle, setting the hook was a piece of cake. The fish often hit it so hard they set the hook!
Don’t be afraid to up your tippet to 3X or 2X. The fish never seem to mind and it gives you a better chance at turning fish before they reach a snag and when they do get into one you have a pretty good chance of pulling them out (this is equally true of trees!). The fly rides high in the film for quite a while. Slowly it gets harder to see as it sits deeper in the film. When this happens, squeeze as much water out as you can and coat the fly generously with your favorite floatant. I have been able to use one fly for several hours and 15 or more fish and still rejuvenate it using this method.
Tying the "Killer" Beetle Fly Pattern
|Hook||#10 Mustad 94840||Equivalent hooks: Daiichi 1170 or 1180, Tiemco 100|
|Thread||Black UTC Ultra 280 or 140||Fish don’t seem to mind contrasting thread. It saves me time by not changing thread for each deer hair color (As long as the fish don’t care, which they don’t, I don’t care). If you are fashion conscious, feel free to match the thread and deer hair color.|
|Body||spun deer hair||Green or black|
|Over Body||2 mm foam||Green or black|
|Hi-Vis Strip||2x2 mm foam strip||yellow or red seem to improve visibility most|
|Legs for beetles only||Fine, black flexible rubber leg material||I usually use black, fine, round, rubber legs, but find that small or medium Sili-legs and the like work well too. Be adventurous, try different colors!|
I like to tie this on a larger hook, but only use ½-2/3 of the hook shank. This provides a wider gap and stronger hook. It still floats well despite the extra hook weight.
Step 1. Wrap the hook shank with thread from the eye until the thread is even with the hook point. Figure A. Tying a beetle is like tying the Strike Indicator Fly. Skip installing a tail (Steps 1A-C) and follow steps 2-7 of the Strike Indicator Fly method. That’s where we will pick it up. Figure B. Now the deer hair has been shaped and the tying thread is reattached near the eye of the hook. I usually do a whip finish to secure the reattached thread.
Step 2. Move your bobbin about ¼” back from the head of the deer hair and make 3-4 wraps through the deer hair. This creates the bed where the legs will be tied in. Place the first leg on the top of the fly and make a light wrap. Slowly tighten until the legs begin to form a V as they wedge between the deer hair sides. Adjust the legs to their final position on the side away from you, tighten the thread, and make 2-3 wraps. Add a drop of head cement in the middle of the V. Follow the same sequence with the second leg but place it on the side nearest you.