Every serious fly fisher should carry some beetle patterns in their fly box. It may seem strange that trout would prefer to eat land based insects over the many aquatic bugs available to them.
BEETLE FLY PATTERNS. Hook size 12- $US each
You must remember that unlike hatching mayflies they are available to the fish virtually all year round. Trout have an entire season to learn what they look and taste like. They must be considered by the fish as an abundant dependable surface floating pray. Ant patterns will catch trout anywhere unlike mayfly patterns where you should try and match the hatch. Even when there are hatches on the water some time during the day there will be at least one lengthy period when few flies are hatching. This normally occurs in the afternoon. This is the time to get out a beetle pattern.
If you come across a picky feeder who will not take your mayfly pattern, do not abandon it without showing the fish a beetle fly. Once when I was on vacation I arrived on a river completely unprepared for the large hatch of tiny black gnats. I didn't have any dry fly small enough. I cast a black beetle and managed to tempt a few of the feeders away from the mayfly feast
BIG WATER FISHING WITH A BEETLE FLY
I was loch fishing in Scotland one summer when there was a caddis hatch on. I tied on my caddis flies and started casting. Nothing even went to investigate my flies. I changed to different caddis patterns and used different tactics. Still no takes. I could not understand what I was doing wrong. I could see movement under the water. Why were they not taking my flies?
I took a break and had a cup of coffee from my thermos flask whilst I pondered this predicament. I unwrapped one of my sandwiches whilst sitting on a log. A beetle landed upside down on the top slice of bread of my dinner. It had not flown there. The last gust of wind had blown it from a nearby bush
It suddenly dawned on me that the trout were going crazy on terrestrial’s like beetles, ants and hoppers blown in to the water. Even though they were surrounded by more natural aquatic insect life on which they could feast. There must be more calories in a beetle than a small caddis fly. This is why they were trying to eat as many beetles as they could find.
I was fishing the lee side of the loch. The wind was coming down the mountain side, over my head and into the water. There were farmer’s fields around the edge of the loch and small trees and bushes. It was not a force nine gale. The wind was not constant. It would suddenly blow in short gusts that were strong enough to rip unsuspected insects off branches, leaves and twigs. The poor insects would be transported over the water and when the wind lost its energy they would be dropped onto the surface where they drowned and became fish food.
I tied on a black beetle and cast close to the edge. I let the wind dead drift it out over the area of water I had seen all the fish movement. On average every third cast produced a hook up. Using a beetle fly transformed the day into a most productive one. It is not always the most obvious food source that the fish are eating. You have to uses your eyes and intuition to make the best out of your fishing day.
A beetle fly pattern can be a very useful upland lake, reservoir and loch fly pattern at any time of the year. As a general attractor it has a lot going for it, but as I have just shown it is particularly useful on windy days when terrestrials are blown onto the water. Tree lined banks can provide a ready supply of all types of beetles. Like leafhoppers and shield bugs. On upland waters surrounded by moorland you will find the wind will deposit heather beetles and heather flies onto the surface. If there is a lot of agricultural land nearby the wind can transport soldier beetles, thunder flies and a huge variety of other black beetles to their watery grave.
You can fish the beetle fly on a floating line, as part of a team of three, on the top. When fishing a loch or lake bank the typical method is to stay mobile, casting and moving along, after each cast .This allows you to cover plenty of water and present your flies to as many fish as possible. It is a very effective way to fish this type of water and produces results. You can only do this if there are only a few other fly fishermen about.
This cast and step method is often called "Odging". I have no idea why or where the term came from. It also works well when fishing from a drifting boat cast over the front when you are near the bank. I have found to get the best out of this fly it needs movement. This means wind, some waves and working the fly in the surface. It is just this type of water and weather conditions that bring trout closer to the surface. The waves reduce the threat from fish eating birds as their vision is reduced. The turbulence of the water oxygenates the upper two feet which makes it more invigorating for the trout.
GOOGLE+ READER'S COMMENT
Absolutely a must have in the fly box....#14s through to #10. Expect a savage take; especially just as you are lifting off.....let bit hang for a second longer. - Eunan Quinn
In Wisconsin and Michigan, I often turn to ants and beetles in the summer when nothing else seems to be working. You can fish em like hoppers, ie cast on or into the bank as if they have just fallen in. - By Chaz Shaw
GOOGLE+ READER'S COMMENT
When there is a glut of fish food floating on the surface during a hatch of mayfly or caddis and even during a prolific fall of spent spinners how do you make your dry fly imitation stand out so it is taken by the feeding trout? Again and again I have tried to figure out this problem then one day whilst having a frustrating days fishing I went against the rules. I did not match the hatch. Instead I tied on a black foam beetle. It totally changed my luck. I believe the trout considered this water candy. It represented a bigger more substantial meal than the emerging duns or spent spinners on offer. I fished it dead drift over the feeding zone and gave it a small tweak as it got near to imitate the beetle trying to break free of the water surface film. It proved to be irresistible time and time again. – Russell Harrison
FACEBOOK READER'S COMMENT
When there are no fish showing on the water surface I use a floating foam beetle as searching pattern near the bankside. – Mike Browne