Al Campbell, Field Editor

May 31st, 2004

Too Simple Black Beetle

By Al Campbell

Far too often we think about trout fishing as a matter of matching an aquatic hatch and nothing else. However, there are many instances where the trout are feeding on other insects, even when an aquatic insect hatch is occurring. It is very easy to fall into this trap, and far too often, we miss the best fishing of the day because we were in too much of a hurry to start fishing to pay attention to what was going on in the water.

Warmwater fishermen are well aware of the productivity of beetles and other non-aquatic insects as they pertain to flyfishing. They know that fish will feed heavily on any insect that is abundantly on and in the water. In fact, some of their best fishing days come from those hatches and the fish that feed heavily on them.

About five years ago I asked the (then) editor of a popular fly tying magazine what his favorite trout fly was. I was expecting to hear something like an Adams or Elk Hair Caddis, but he said it was a simple foam beetle. He said fish would feed on that beetle whether there was a hatch or not, and often his catches were better on the beetle than on a fly designed to match the hatch of the day. His theory was that beetles were always falling in the water, while aquatic insects only hatch at certain times of the day. It was interesting enough to stick in my mind.

So here we are again, looking for a simple fly that takes only a very few materials to tie, and that is an effective fish catcher. While I was thinking about what to tie next, that conversation popped into my mind. Of course, why not tie a black beetle? It is hard to get much simpler, and very hard to get more effective on a variety of fish. It will work for anything from bluegills to trout to carp. And, it floats like the floatation foam it is made of.

Too Simple Black Beetle Materials List:

  • Hook - Any standard dry fly hook, even cheap ones will do. I'm using a size 16 Mustad 94840 dry fly hook.

  • Tail - None.

  • Body - Black closed cell craft foam.

  • Legs - Pheasant tail fibers, clipped.

  • Thread - 6/0 - Black.

Tying steps TS Black Beetle:

    1. Start the thread.

    2. Secure a thin (1/4 to 1/8 inch wide) strip of black craft foam to the hook.

    3. Secure a small group of pheasant tail fibers to the hook using figure 8 wraps. Trim the fibers to length on both sides of the hook.

    4. Pull the foam over the back and legs and secure it with a few thread wraps behind the hook eye.

    5. Trim the foam at the hook eye, whip finish, and cement the head.

    6. From the top, your beetle should look like this.

It just doesn't get much more simple than that. You can modify this fly by tying it in larger sizes and different colors. Need a lady bug? They do make nail polish for that task. It is a simple fly that simply catches fish. Who could ask for anything more? ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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