I learned about the Beetle Bug pattern through a magazine article.
It was developed by Bob Borden, and the article spoke of great success he had with it. The fly has a red dubbed body, and I knew red was a good cutthroat color. I tied up a few and was very eager to give the pattern a try. I caught a few fish with it but nothing like the article said it would.
I then saw another Beetle Bug pattern developed by Dave Hughes. The only difference in this pattern was a hackle palmered over the body. Remembering the lack of success I had with the first Beetle Bug, I opted not to try this new one. Hughes called his variation a Beetle Bug Palmer.
The first time I actually saw the fly was in British Columbia, Canada. I was sitting on a log in the shade of a tree along the Elk River wondering what fly pattern I should use next.
A fellow fly fisherman walked up to me and asked how fishing was. I told him I had caught a few but thought I would go back to my trailer and take a nap.
He pulled out a dented, scraped and scratched fly box from his vest and offered me a Beetle Bug Palmer. The fly was smaller that I had seen before, but he said this was his go-to fly on the Elk.
I went back to camp and got out my tying bag. I whipped up half a dozen size No. 14 Beetle Bug Palmers. I still did not have a great deal of hope for the fly, but I was going to take that local fly fisherman’s word and give the fly a try.
The next day I tied the new Beetle Bug Palmer on my tippet and started casting. I caught fish in the same runs that had skunked me the day before.
“Wow. This fly really does work,” I thought.
I should not have doubted Hughes when he talked abut using the fly and the success he had with it.
Since then I have used the Beetle Bug Palmer in many streams in Idaho, Washington and Montana. No, I have not had the same success with it as I did that first day on the Elk, but I have caught enough fish that I keep some in my fly box.
I have given several Beetle Bug palmers away to other fly fishermen. I often wonder if they have had the same luck with the fly that I have.
With the white wing, the fly is very easy to see as it floats in the current. The fly is quite easy to tie with material that is readily available. I strongly suggest you tie up a few Beetle Bug Palmer flies and see if you have the same success my friend in Canada and I had.
When I tie a fly, I have three goals in mind. I want to keep the fly simple. I want the materials to be practical. But most of all I want the fly to be durable.
Give the Beetle Bug Palmer a try. I am sure you will find it works.
“The trout do not rise in the cemetery, so you better do your fishing while you are still able.”
— Sparse Grey Hackle
Beetle Bug Palmer
Hook — Dry fly hook. I like Daiichi No.1180 size No. 14.
Threadk — Black 8/0. I like Uni Thread.
Wing — White calf body hair. Split wing.
Tail — Moose body fibers.
Body — Red dubbing.
Hackle — Brown palmered over the body.
Hackle — Brown hackle behind the wing and also in front.
Pinch the barb and dress the hook shank with tying thread. Tie in the calf body hair to form the wing. Split the clump of hair forming the two wings. Wrap the tying thread around the base of each wing post. Tie in the moose fiber tail, keeping it about the same length as the hook shank. Tie in the brown hackle to be palmered over the body. Dub the body. Keep it on the sparse side. Palmer the hackle over the body. Tie in the second hackle and make approximately three turns behind the wing. Take the hackle to the front of the wing and again make approximately three turns. Build a small, neat head. Whip finish and apply head cement.