Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fly Profiles - The Foam (Japanese) Beetle

First off, why do fly fishermen spend so much time using Latin names for mayfly, caddisfly, stonefly, and true flies but not for ants, beetles, grasshoppers, and other terrestrials (insects that spend their entire life on dry land and inadvertently end up in the water)? Just a thought.

Beetles are big and clunky. They are poor fliers and often end up in the water. Thanks to someone who introduced them to North America, the Japanese ones are now a favorite of summer trout. They are full of protein and fish will not pass up the chance to eat one.

 Ok,  on to the blog post. I had never fished a foam beetle or a terrestrial until I got a job at Orvis in Tysons Corner Virginia. There was this perfectly round, little, and grey foam beetle sold in the shop. It was found hidden away in the terrestrial drawer. Six prickly legs stuck out from the fly that looked like a swollen tick. The store had about a dozen or so of the flies and they were never re-orderd once sold out.

During the winter of 2000 I met a fly tier named Bill Skilton at the Maryland Fly Fishing Show. He was a celebrity tier and he had a bunch of these beetle s on display. I watched him tie the simple fly. He stated he made the foam and leg material. I watched in awe as he took just a few scraps of material and crafted such an impressionistic looking fly. I spent a long time talking to Bill and watching him. If you have read past posts you know how much a fan I remain of Bills work. Here is one of his stretchy foam beetles:

I spent the summer of 2000 fishing the Yellow Breeches in Pennsylvania. I was single and had my weekends to myself and gas was cheap enough to drive several hours to fish. I would drive my car up there and fish an entire Saturday or Sunday. I fished the shorelines and along structure with the flies I got from Bill and the flies I started to tie myself to look like his. I had great success.I was able to purchase a lot of his materials at the Yellow Breeches shop.

Over the next year or so  Bill came down to the shop to tie on Orvis Days. I wanted to get Bill's custom materials sold int he shop but it never happened. I started to figure out my own method of replicating Bill's pattern. I came up with my own foam (available on my site) and use saltwater krystal flash for legs. These ones look more like Bills elongated beetles vs the round tick one. I've never been able to get mine to look like his. He uses a specific Daiichi hook and his own foam too, thats why. Its a trade secret.

Anyway, Tom and I had a phenomenal time using foam beetles on Mossy Creek in July of 2001. We fished the hell out of the stream. We got there at dusk the night before and go to the stream just after sunrise the next morning. I threw Skilton inspired flies up against the bank, along fallen trees, and out in the open. We caught brown trout after brown trout. We even had the idea to take a bunch of Japanese beetles from the sycamore trees, shake them up, and toss them in. We listened as the naturals floated down and into the tree canopy section above the foot bridge. Sip, Sip, Sip. The fish were eating them like crazy. We chummed up a trout along a cut bank and threw in a foam beetle behind it and caught a trout. It was phenomenal. Epic.

It would be nice to be able to get out to Mossy and the 'Breeches more often. But that doesn't happen as often as I'd like. I do get out to Colorado every so often. In 2005 I spent the summer in Breckenridge. I had some of my foam with me and tied a bunch of beetles for the guys in the shop. They shrugged them off. Their loss. I started to fish the different stretches of the South Platte River from Tomahawk to Hartsel, 69 Ranch, the "Dream Stream", and Elevenmile.

The beetle produced a lot of fish. Nothing huge but still fish on the end of my line. Here is my version of his beetle:

I have been having a lot of trouble finding the saltwater krystal flash to use for the legs (remember from the podcasts, beetles tuck their legs behind them when they land in the water). I had purchased a whole bunch of different colors at World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada Florida when THW and I were down there for Tom's wedding in 2009. With my luck the store put the tying material in a brown paper bag. THW though the bag in the back seat was lunch leftovers and threw them out! So I have a current stock of 2 packs to last me till I get down there next.

I can't praise Bill enough for introducing me to this pattern. It floats high, is easy to see, doesn't sink (like a deer hair beetle) and is easy to tie. If you are looking for an easy beetle pattern to use give me a shout and I can send you some. Be sure to mention the blog post and I'll give you a dozen for the price of 6.

Here are some pics from that trip to Mossy:


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