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Beetle bait for trout fishing

2 min read
Brown beetle

Prime brown beetle time – November, early December. Photo: John McNab

Fly fishing is more often than not about thinking like the fish. It is about giving what they want, and in the case of trout, it is brown beetles.

These bugs hatch in November and December, and while gardeners may curse them for stripping fruit trees, deep in the waters, trout love them.

Many years ago in Hawke’s Bay on the Tukituki River during the brown beetle hatch of early summer, I found fish rising just downstream of a willow tree that hung over a pool.

I tried with Blue Dun and Greenwell Glory dry flies but met with no luck. I went home fishless.

A couple of nights later, though, on a fluke, I hooked a rainbow of about four pounds but it was a solitary success.

Back at home when I examined its gullet and stomach, I noticed it was full of brown beetles.

The Blue Dun type dry fly had failed to imitate the trout’s preference. I needed something chunky that was shaped like a beetle, so I tied up a bulky Coch-Y-Bondhu.

Next evening, it worked a treat and I landed three fine rainbow trout.

In early summer, any chubby-bodied fly will usually work to catch trout. 

Some American fly patterns are good, too. One is the Humpy with its fat body and beetle-type wing. Being made of deer hair, it floats well, too.

Here is a little tip if you are fishing in half-darkness: position yourself by a pool looking towards the west where the sun has set. The afterglow will be reflected on the water and enable you to see rising trout as they feed on beetles.

Cast just above – about a metre – of the rises of a trout. Wait a few seconds as it drifts down towards the where he fish is. Of course, you cannot see your fly but you can guess when it has earned the fish. If it rises, pause for a few seconds, and tighten by lifting your rod.

You must pause in fishing a dry fly to let the trout take the fly and turn down. Otherwise, you will not hook it. Naturally, if you are using a dry fly, you should use a floating line.

The brown beetle hatch is usually only a few weeks in duration, mainly in November but sometimes, depending on the season, into December. It needs to be a warm evening for beetles to hatch but on a balmy still evening, beetles will be audibly buzzing in trees such as willows.

Ideally, a stream or pool needs willow trees overhanging and grassy banks for a prolific brown beetle hatch and some big trout.

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