Bob Boese, Louisiana

October 13th, 2008

Easy Beetle Patterns
By Bob Boese, Louisiana

Generic flies are simple-to-tie patterns that a novice tyer can make, which require less than four dressing components… and which catch fish. Like most fly fishermen, you may have fished beetle patterns but aren't all that familiar with real beetles. That's not the beetles' fault. Beetles are practically everywhere. They are the largest order of insects; they can be terrestrial or aquatic, predators or scavengers, carnivores, omnivores or plant eating (phytophagous). Practically everything is beetle food. They account for about 20% of all living organisms on earth and so far scientists have identified over 350,000 varieties). Both the largest insect (Titanus giganteus at 12.0 - 20.0 cm –the size of your hand–yuck!) and smallest (Nanosella fungi – 0.035 mm) are beetles. Their "shell" is actually a forewing hardened into a protective covering that encloses delicate flying wings which are folded underneath it when not in use. Most people have a love/fear relationship with beetles, some are cute and we are glad for the their assistance protecting plants (e.g. the "lady bug") but others are simply repulsive. Most beetles are harmless to humans (like the June Bug), though some will bite or have spurs. And fish love them.

Beetles tend to be warm weather creatures and starting in May/June they appear in the south. Most anglers won't notice beetles unless they disturb some while tromping through underbrush to access a pond or stream, but beetles will be there, usually in bushes and trees close to the water. Many varieties move at night and fall from overhanging branches into the water. Early mornings are a beetle buffet for fish who aren't that particular about repulsive appearances. All that matters is that it's food-ish. How many year old bream do you think have actually ever seen a beetle before they eat one?

The first beetle flies were probably created by the earliest fishermen from animal hair. While that option is still available, most modern patterns use closed cell foam (aka "fun foam") because it's easier to work with and generally more durable. Because of the incredible variety of beetles, there is little restriction on shape, size and color of the beetle fly pattern. In general, the generic fly should be oval-ish and black, rust or olive, with a hackle or chenille underbody and rubber/silicone legs that angle down. Bright foam strips, dots or layers can be added to the upper body to increase visibility and flotation, but the underside (which the fish see) should be rather plain. However, there are many bright colored beetles and reds, yellows, greens and orange will all take fish.

The best beetle patterns are generic and do not represent a specific variety. For warm waters it is generally a good idea to start with and black or rust colors in sizes 8-12. For cold water streams (yes, trout eat them too) a size 10-16 can be used in lieu of a strike indicator. Beetles are six legged creatures, but fish probably don't count. Some patterns (not the one below) choose to use only chenille or hackle underbodies with no legs, but legged patterns seem to catch more fish.

Fishing the fly: Beetles generally don't fall into the middle of a water body, and fish will expect them to be near the bank, especially by overhangs. Find a likely looking fall-in area and concentrate there. The fly should be delivered onto the water with a very slight "plop" and roll casting is excellent for providing the correct landing force to the fly. Strikes normally come right after the fly is delivered. If not, a few small finger strips to animate the fly are all that should be used (strip-pause-strip-pause) and then lift the fly from the water as if it flew away before delivery again (which can be to the exact same location).


    Hook: Dai-Riki 070 (or equivalent) Size 12-18.

    Thread: Flat waxed nylon in a color to match foam .

    Body: Fun Foam.

    Underbody: Chenille.

    Legs: Round rubber or silicone skirting

1. Wrap entire shaft of hook with thread to provide base for other materials.

2. Cut a rectangular strip of foam approximately 1.5 times the width of the hook gap (equal to for larger hooks). Trim one end to a point.

3. Tie in point of foam at middle of the shaft. Make sure the tie-in tacks down all of the angled portion of the point so that only rectangular area is left.

4. Bring thread to the hook shaft above the bend.

5. Tie in chenille. Wrap chenille forward or to 1/4" behind eye.

6. Tie in three strands of rubber leg material or silicone skirting material by doing the following:

a. Lay legs on top of and parallel to hook shank.

b. Make two snug but not tight threadwraps over the center of the legs.

c. Turn the legs 90 degrees.

d. Using 3 figure 8 wraps tack down the legs which should now face perpendicular to the shank.

e. Pull back the two rear most legs and make a wrap of thread in front of them.

f. Pull back the four rear most legs and make a wrap in front of them.

7. Move the thread to the space 1/4 inch behind the hook eye.

8. Pull the foam tightly over the chenille and tack down with thread wraps behind the hook eye and whip finish.

9. Trim the excess foam.

10. (optional) Cut out a dot of highly visible foam with a standard hole punch. Super glue this to the top of the beetle shell.

10. Coat the entire top of the beetle and thread wraps by hook eye with Hard As Nails.


Foam beetles can disappear in the surface film. Extra foam dots can be added to the back of the beetle with super glue or zap-a-gap to allow the fisherman to see it better. The dots don't discourage the fish.

~ Bob

About Bob:

Robert Lamar Boese has fly fished for five decades. He is an environmental negotiator, attorney and educator who has provided environmental legal services for more than thirty-three years including active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Justice. He is a well known fly tyer with several unique patterns to his credit. He has developed and authored federal and state regulatory programs encompassing a broad spectrum of environmental disciplines, has litigated environmental matters at all levels of the federal and state court systems, and is a qualified expert for testimony in environmental law. He has authored over 60 published text chapters, comments or articles on environmental matters, is a member of the Colorado, District of Columbia and Louisiana Bar Associations, and is a certified mediator. In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Boese has been a high school teacher, an associate professor of Environmental Law and Public Health, has authored numerous fiction and sports publications, and is a softball coach and nationally certified volleyball referee. He is the president of the Acadiana Fly Rodders in Lafayette, Louisiana and editor of Acadiana on the Fly. He has been married for thirty years and is the father of two fly fishing girls (25 and 21). For additional information contact: Boese Environmental Law, 103 Riviera Court, Broussard, LA 70518 or call 337.856.7890 or email

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