Fly of the Month: The Beetle

Summer Beetles

by Pat Neuner, Wapsi Product Development Manager

One of my favorite things is streamside conversations with other anglers to discuss what is working and what isn’t.  Often, they will open up their fly box and either show you what they have caught fish on or open it up and ask if any of the flies they have in their box are worth using today.  Either scenario provides an opportunity to peer into their fly box and to survey their fly assortment.  In most boxes, you will see the standard Woolly Bugger, Hares Ear nymph, or Adams dry fly but occasionally you’ll see some very interesting creations.  One thing that I do not see in many anglers fly boxes these days are simple terrestrial patterns such as ants and beetles.  Yes, you will see them in Virginia and Pennsylvania angler’s fly boxes, but I rarely if ever see one in someone’s fly box on tailwater fisheries like we have in Arkansas – and although you will see hoppers or large Chernobyl ant’s in some western anglers fly boxes I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen an ant or a beetle in their box.  This is a shame because trout eat these small terrestrials for several months of the year and they are frequently available to the trout.  Have we (fly anglers) forgotten how deadly these flies can be?

Some of my best fly-fishing memories have been fishing beetles to bank hugging brown trout.  I have caught fish all over the world on beetle imitations – and at times the fish took them with such reckless abandon that you would swear the trout had never seen a fly before.  I remember one day on a famed western spring creek when the fish were just stupid for beetles.  All that was necessary that day was to cast the beetle behind the fish and make it land with a hard splat on the water.  No sooner the beetle landed on the surface the fish would turn completely around in the current and smash the beetle as it drifted away from them. I can’t tell you how many thousands of brook trout I’ve caught on beetles – they are one of my favorite flies on small streams.

One of the things I like most about beetles is how fast and easy they are to tie.  Most of the beetles I tie are nothing more than a little foam and maybe some dubbing or peacock herl for a body.  I don’t go to any special effort to make them just slap some materials on a hook and “I’m good.”  You can “get fancy” if you like and try to make a realistic looking fly, but for my money,    the simple foam beetle is the way to go.

Most of the time I fish a floating imitation, but one of my secret tricks is to fish a sinking imitation.  I reserve the use of this fly for undercuts along the bank and/or under low lying limbs.  A heavy tungsten bead and soft absorbent body made of Furry Foam help the fly sink deep into these underwater trout lairs.  Originally when I tied this fly I used other materials but the addition of Furry Foam makes for a softer fly that fish tend to hold onto longer.  I believe the soft material also holds scent because the fly seems to work best after you catch a fish and it absorbs the scent of the fish, etc.   I like Furry Foam for crawfish and sculpin patterns for the exact same reason.

If you haven’t tried a beetle in some I encourage you to tie up a few and try them again.  It’s a good chance that your local trout haven’t seen them in some time and it just might become one of your secret flies on your trout stream.

Here are two simple beetle patterns that I like to fish and a top, side, and bottom view of each:










Floating Foam Beetle

Hook: Lightning Strike DF1 size 12-16

Thread: UTC 70 Denier, Black

Shellback:  2mm Wapsi Thin Fly Foam, Black

Legs:  Wapsi Sili Legs, Nymph, Black

Body:  SLF Prism Dubbing, Peacock

Indicator:  1mm Wapsi Thin Fly Foam, White










Chewy Dbl. Tungsten Beetle

Hook:  Lightning Strike NW1 size 12-16

Thread:  UTC 70 Denier, Black

Bead:  Tungsten Bomb Bead (2) (one bead buried under dubbing)

Shellback: Furry Foam, Black

Legs:  Wapsi Sili Legs, Nymph, Black

Body:  SLF Prism Dubbing, Peacock