Step-By-Step Beetles Instruction

My favorite fly is a Beetle. When all else fails that's what I tie  on. I have fished when there was not a bug in sight and caught fish on a  Beetle. I fished Beetles and caught fish on size 10 hooks when everyone  else was using size 20s. Beetles fish in any temperature water. They  don't hatch in streams. When the trout were upside down taking Nymphs,  you guessed it, they still took a Beetle.

I've tied them with  deer hair, conventional dubbing bodies, chenille, chamois leather,  plastic lacing, floss, and about everything else you can imagine. But  when it got around to thinking up another design, I started to  experiment in the area of Realism. Since most of them I had used before  were black, that part was easy, so with a little experimentation I came  up with a pattern using Mono for legs and black dubbing for the body.  And a piece of formed artificial fingernail cut to size, glued to the  dubbed body, and finished with black nail polish.

Although it was  a good pattern, it begged for changes, so I modified it by reshaping  the hard back. I molded the finger nail piece with the nozzle of a hot  glue gun. I found if you were careful, you could make almost any rounded  shape that more closely resembled a Beetles back. Heat was the answer.

I  could take a fingernail and change it to almost any shape I desired.  But I wasn't happy with having to Crazy Glue everything together. It  needed another change. While using the hot glue gun on another project I  made some droplets on a drop cloth while laying up some wood and  temporarily gluing the boards together. After completing the project, I  was cleaning up and noticed the droplets on the drop cloth, and as I was  trying to pry them off the surface, a couple of them resembled a Beetle  body. I thought then, if I could practice a little, maybe I could get  some good results turning out Beetle bodies with hot glue. And sure  enough, the observation paid off.

I started out by buying some  open weave material from the fabric store. I wanted to put the hot glue  on the material so it would adhere to that. Then when it set I could  trim around the shape and save the forward threads to tie in or tie down  on the hook. What a find. It has some downsides to it but nothing close  to the advantages. So here are the results of that find.

First I  cut cardboard or matt board into strips 2 inches wide by 8 inches long.  Then I cut a fabric strip the same shape as the cardboard. Then I tack  the fabric strip to either end with hot glue.

Next,  I reproduce the body shape I want to use on the specific pattern I've  chosen. If you need a picture is a reference, use it. If you need to  draw an outline to follow, or a start and end line for your hot glue  application, do it. Stay with one pattern, your results will be more  productive. Make as many patterns as your strip will hold and still give  you a little room for your cutting out process.

When  the glue is set take your pencil and mark next to the ones you think  will work best for you. Look for evenness, no bubbles, and straight  lines. In other words, look for the best results. Bear in mind, this  product is cheap. You can throw everything in the wastebasket and still  not be out much in cost. Use the high-temp hot glue and the small glue  gun. It performs better.

Cut  out your best bodies which you have marked, cutting them out one at a  time. But at least you'll know which ones to use. Trim the edges of your  fabric as close to the body shape as you can, and save the forward  strands for tie in. Next place your hook in the vice and lay-a-rap from  the headspace to the bend.

Now here's some more things to  consider. You want to bend the hook? I do in the case of longer body  Beetles. I bend it at the body – thorax junction. For this illustration  I'm using a bent hook for clarification. On short bodies or pill type  bodies you don't need to use a bent hook.

Start  your rear legs tie in. You will want to tie in two sets, and spaced  under the body. If you need to look at your model for positions, do so.  At first you will be all thumbs, I guarantee it. So use a reference. I'm  using .0009 black Mono from a stranded rope, just one strand. Now tie  in your body. Since I'm tying on a bent hook, notice how my body drapes  backward on the rear of the hook. Now tie in the forward leg strand and  proceed to the headspace with your thread.

Next,  tie in your foam strip which will be your head and thorax material. I  tie it in facing forward to provide an underbody for the head. It's  about 3/16 inch square. Now bring the foam back, tie in a head and your  antennae. I use a smaller size of monofilament for the antennae .0007,  tie these in one on each side of the head. (If you have seen other  instructions you know the Mono I am referring to here is truck rope that  can be purchased from the hardware store.)

Now  wrap the thread back over the foam strip and in between the forward leg  strip and back to the body and trim the excess foam piece. Finish and  trim your thread. You're done tying at this point. Now it's finish time!  I choose a thorax or pronatum cap to match my model. It can be dome  shape, cone shape, barrel shaped, this is where my hot glue gun and  artificial fingernails get their work out. If it's dome shape, I still  have to cut out the final outline shape. You can do this by eye, or make  a mockup of paper, or thinner plastic until you feel you are satisfied  with the size and look. I'm going to use a dome shaped head piece I  formed using the nozzle of the hot glue gun on a blank artificial finger  nail and I am going to Crazy Glue the piece directly down on the foam  thorax underbody of the fly. I also glue the body to hold it in  position.

Use  a strong pair of scissors to cut the thorax piece out. It will destroy a  good fine pair of scissors almost immediately so I use a small Fiskers  scissor.  They are strong and cheap. Next I tweak the legs into position  giving them a permanent set or tweak using a tool fashioned from a set  of store-bought tweezers. This tool makes a permanent crease in the Mono  but does not completely sever it. Some tyers use heat. I've tried but  it just didn't work for me, and this creaser does. But you must coat the  legs with paint or acrylic to seal them after they are creased. This  maintains the set.

Your  rear legs, mid-legs, and forelegs all are the first creased close to  the body. Start on the front legs first and on the right side. Next the  mid-leg. You have a slight space down from the body, then a right angle,  a space (in proportion to your model) and another right angle. Then a  hook or claw.

Next your rear leg. Except that is at a slight  rearward pattern, and a break in section 3 with the change in direction.  As I add the finish coatings to the legs you will see what is happening  more clearly. Turn the fly around and repeat on the left side.

For  finishing, I start with the legs first. Make a small paint pool with  your acrylic. I use black. I use just common acrylic paint found in  small plastic containers at any craft store. It's water-soluble, fast  drying, flat in sheen, odorless, and nonflammable. It is however, not  completely waterproof. That's why I finish it with a clear satin acrylic  (non-yellowing) finish as the final topping. I usually try to set up an  assembly line process when I'm doing Beetles so I can paint and finish  several, maybe 12 at one time. This speeds up the process. I even  underscore the body with the blade of my X-Acto knife to give the  appearance of body segmentation. The surface is somewhat soft even when  it is dried.

 With  a toothpick or bodkin, I dip the tip in and run the paint over the  entire positioned legs. Then I come back and add more paint to parts 1, 2  and 3. I continue with this until I have put sufficient paint on them  to show a decided difference in the leg structure where there is a  definite structural and proportional change. It usually takes four or  five coats on the upper portion 2 or 3. The paint dries quickly. Coat  the second portion and then a taper to one coat. Your eye will tell you.  You can always strip them and start over re-positioning the legs. Look  at your model or picture, as this will keep you straight.

For  the head and body, I use a brush, but before I do, I turn the bug over  and float more material on the underside using a matchstick to really  pile the paint on. I normally paint in eyes and position antennae and/or  add paint to them also. You can also decide what additional color you  should add if any. If you are creative you can dry brush it, or give it  some color markings. You can get the back a stipple texture or combed  look. The choices are endless. Just experiment along the way. At the  end, I spray paint satin clear acrylic. I use three coats for both  sides. This waterproofs the bug and seals the loop of the hook at the  head.

I  may have overlooked something. It seems I always do. But I have given  you a pretty good overview of my techniques and materials. All you need  is practice. Start somewhat small it first then build up. I favor  Blister Beetles and Flower Beetles, and Longhorn Beetles as these are  out and about and more mobile. I also think they are more buggy to the  fish.

Buy yourself a reference book, Beetles by Charles White.  It's an softback and a great source for reference. Do some serious  trials, I think you will like the results.