by Levi Opsatnic.
With the summer solstice behind us, I figured it an appropriate time to dive into one of the type of flies that will catch fish throughout the entire summer season and into fall. These are terrestrial insects, bugs that live on the land such as ants, grasshoppers, inch worms, beetles, and crickets; however, today, we’re talking about beetles.
Like most terrestrial flies, beetles come in all shapes, colors, and sizes and are a fly that you just can’t have enough of. Generally speaking, the more beetles you have the better prepared you will be on all streams. The fly that I’ll be showing you is one that trout seem to love, and I believe that the dramatic plopping noise that it creates when it hits the water has a lot to do with it. And even better, after tying a few, this fly is extremely easy to tie and only consists of one material outside of the thread and hook: elk hair.
Hook: Mustad 94840 sizes 8-18 (though, in the case of this fly just about any hook will work as the elk hair is extremely buoyant.
Thread: Black 6/0 Uni-Thread.
Body: Dyed black elk hair.
Head: Dyed black elk hair.
- Begin your fly by wrapping a black thread underbody that extends right before the bend of the hook.
- By the tips, tie in a bunch of elk hair that is about the width of a pencil, and then advance your thread about two thirds of the way up the shank. If you are unsure of the exact measuring, err on the side of leaving more space than less as the head of this beetle will make the upper third of this fly. In this stage of the fly it is very important to make sure that the elk hair wraps entirely around the hook shank and is not just tied in on the top of the hook as that will leave for a fly that doesn’t have the correct body.
- Now pull your entire bundle of elk hair forward to the point where your thread is and tie the hair off. You can now advance your thread to the point right behind the hook eye. Make sure that your elk hair wraps around the entire body of your fly to create a nice plump abdomen on your beetle. This can be tricky, but I have found that making sure your hair encircles your entire hook and taking the fly out of your vice to pull the hair forward can usually make this process less painful.
- Just as you did with the body of your fly, pull your elk hair forward to the eye of the hook and tie it off. The same as the body, you want to assure that your hair wraps around the entirety of the hook shank to create a nice round head. Once you have tied your head off wrap your thread back to where you tied your body off. It’s okay if your fly looks extremely messy at this point as we will clean all of those wayward hairs up in the next few steps.
- Grasp the entire bundle of stray hairs that are directly behind your eye and pull them back over your head. Once again, make sure that your hair wraps around your entire head to make everything neat. This step creates a head that is both larger than the body (what you want on a beetle) and uniform in appearance. Not to mention, this head really helps to create that “plop” noise I was speaking of earlier.
- You can now tie your thread off and trim it. Whip finishing definitely works better in this case, but a well-executed series of half hitches will also work fine.
- Trim away the stray elk hairs. I do this by first getting rid of the hairs extending upward and downward and then pulling the fibers to the left and right to form legs. If necessary, trim the leg hairs to size. Your fly should look something like the picture below after you have trimmed away the elk hair.
Here’s a bottom view of the finished fly. Pay specific attention to the fact that my hair wraps around to create a clean looking abdomen.
Terrestrial flies make for great searching patterns when you don’t see many fish rising. Usually you can drum the fish up using this fly, so don’t be shocked if you see a trout swim a few feet to violently attack your beetle. I’d recommend trying to throw this fly underneath trees, around logs, or anywhere else you think a beetle may hang out until it falls into the water. Trout know these places and are notorious for taking a specific lie around areas dense with wood and foliage in hopes of some land insects coming their way, so fishing these areas can often prove fruitful. Also, given the serious floating qualities of this fly, you can fish it as an indicator with a nymph underneath to really increase your chances of catching fish. You will quickly find that nothing beats the excitement that is caused when a large trout slurps this fly off the surface, on what you may have thought to be a dull day on the water; let’s just hope that you’re ready to take the strike.
For more information on flyfishing, check out Joe Humphreys Fly Fishing Books and Videos at Appoutdoors.com!