There is a little green beetle that is on our wattle trees all summer
long; it is a metallic green with a hint of antique gold in colour. It
doesn’t do much; just seems to sit on the leaves, feeds on whatever and
generally minds its own business. What a great way to spend your day.
It belongs to the Order: Coleoptera, Family: Scarabaeidae and spends most of its life as a grub in the ground feeding on the roots of trees and rotting vegetation.
With the spring rains the ground softens and we see the emergence of many
different types of beetles. We have a lot of them, something like 28,000
species here in Australia. With all that good tucker around no wonder our
trout like them.
These little green wattle beetles are widespread; they range from Queensland all the way down to Tasmania. We can see them on our wattle trees from about October and right through summer.
What brought this little critter to mind and to do a Fly Talk on it was during a project that encompassed photographing a major collection of trout flies tied by that great Tasmanian fly tier, the late Max Christensen. The collection belongs to my old friend, Mr Tom Edwards, Esq. Amongst the collection I came across a little green beetle that was tied by Max. It was simply called his Tinsel Beetle. The tie is as follows.
TINSEL BEETLE - As designed by Max
Hook: Partridge TDH Dry Fly
Body: Peacock Herl
Electra: Green tinsel, possibly “Lurex”, about an 8th of an inch wide or around 3mm
Notes: Max Christensen often used metallic wrappers from candy bars in his earlier flies but during the late fifties and early sixties a product called “Lurex” came on the market; it was used in the knitting game. To the fly tier it was the first of the plastic type tinsels to come on the market. Unfortunately it is no longer available.
My first trout on a fly was caught on a Dry Red Tag up in the Kiewa River but it was to be a few years before I learnt the true value of fishing beetle patterns. My mentor, the late Lindsay Haslem, was a bit of a master when it came to fishing a wet beetle. His favourite was a little Coch-y-Bondhu beetle variation that featured a claret throat hackle.
He would fish it in tandem with his brown nymph. Sometimes, especially
on windy days, he would fish this rig with the nymph on the bottom and the
beetle about 20cm above the nymph. On other occasions he would reverse
this combination. He would fish it with a short line with rarely more
than three or four metres of fly line on the water and would watch intensely
that point where the leader entered the water. As soon as there was any
indication of a take, which was normally a drawdown of the tippet where it
entered the water, you would have to strike and strike quickly. He would
say, “You have to give it 110% concentration or you won’t catch ‘em”.
His favourite water was Jackson’s Creek. He would fish this water regularly throughout the season and typical of many of our streams, its banks were thickly overgrown with ti-tree, wattle and whatever, so casting was tough and short line casting was the only way to go. Lindsay would always fish upstream letting the fly drift as naturally as possible and without drag. He would also say, ”If it drags, forget it”.
Lindsay Haslem was a true master of this style of fishing. I once witnessed him take his bag of trout on the Murrumbidgee River just down from Bolero out of Adaminaby. All of his fish were close to the kilo mark and all were caught on his Cocky Special. On another occasion he again took his bag fishing the gorge on the Eucumbene River and two of those fish went over three kilo. He loved that Cocky Special.
Hassa’s Cocky Special - As designed by Lindsay Haslem
Hook: Partridge TDH Dry Fly
Tag: Gold Tinsel or, if you have any, Gold Lurex
Body: Green Peacock Herl
Throat Hackle: Dyed Claret cock hackle fibres
Notes: As an option a little lead wire can be added under the body if you plan to use it as your lead fly. Lindsay would also say that it is something about that gold tag they like. Today we would call it a ‘trigger point’.
The metallic green peacock herl was and still is a great medium to match our little green Wattle Beetle. A version that I often use is tied a little differently to Hassa’s, being that I fish it higher in the water column, especially in faster waters around my home, such as the Rubicon or Acheron River. This is achieved by adding a little foam to the fly. I normally stick a sheet of green shell back to a slice of 2mm sheet foam, then I cut a piece around 3 or 4mm wide and 3cm long to make the wing case on the back of our little beetle.
Mick’s Wattle Beetle - as designed by Mick Hall
The pattern is as follows:
Hook: Partridge TDH Dry Fly
Size: 16 to 14
Thread: 8/0 black
Body: Peacock herl four strands twisted together and wrapped to form the body
Tag: Gold tinsel as an option
Electra: Foam covered with green shell back and the side stained with black marking pen.
Notes: After winding on your first layer of tying thread, add a touch of Super Glue to the top line of your thread. Then tie in your wing case the Super Glue will stop the foam moving around, which is a common fault with foam bodies or wing cases.
Fishing the Wattle Beetle is a bit like fishing a normal dry fly except that this fly sits very low in the surface film and you will experience takes that leave a boil in the water. It is best fished drifting this pattern over deep water close to banks with overhanging trees, bushes.
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