Beetles – Brown, Green and Black

Beetles. The two small beetles are size 12 and the larger foam versions are tied on size 8 hooks. Flies tied by Allan Burgess.
Beetles. The two small beetles are size 12 and the larger foam versions are tied on size 8 hooks. Flies tied by Allan Burgess.

By Martin Langlands

Beetles form an important part of the trout’s diet, from late spring all the way to autumn. They are very easy prey when they become trapped in the surface film of still or flowing water. Once they fall onto or are windswept onto water, they are unable to take off – hence an easy meal for trout.

The beetles most important to South Island anglers are Brown Beetles, Green Beetles (sometimes called Manuka Beetles) and to a lesser extent, a variety of black beetles. An understanding of all these beetles will help fly fishers partake in some supreme dry fly action.

Brown Beetles

The Brown Beetle is the adult phase of the grass grub, a well-known pest to pastoral farmers. These beetles start to hatch in late October and continue to do so throughout November, December and January. They often hatch on warm evenings with a preference for calm northwest weather. On such evenings you can hear the buzzing sound as they take to the air from the soil. Many fall upon the water and a frenzy of rising trout feed about half an hour before sunset and one hour after dark. This is the best time to fish.

These beetles are most common around pastoral waters, some in the high country, but mostly in low lands. On such waters, it is best to fish slow flowing streams or smooth pools of larger rivers.

Fishing dry fly Brown beetle pattern upstream with a natural drift is most effective using such patterns as Coch-Y-Bondhu, or my preference is imitations tied using floating foam in sizes 12 and 10.

Green Beetles

These metallic green coloured beetles are mainly to be found in high country areas throughout the South Island, and whilst trout do feed on these in rivers, it is the high country lakes where most activity takes place. They hatch late November to February during calm periods when the temperature is warm.

Green Beetle hatches are an exciting time for the trout angler. As the heat builds up they fly from manuka and other vegetation, often falling on the water.

Here rainbow and Brown Trout can be seen rising to eat any beetle in their path. Such activity often results in anglers themselves becoming frenzied and casting all over the water, however, the best approach is to cast a dry beetle imitation into the area where trout are feeding and simply leave the fly still. With luck, a trout should take.

Love's Lure
Love’s Lure trout dry fly.
Coch-y-bondhu trout fly.
Coch-y-bondhu trout dry fly.

The more you cast, you run the risk of spooking the fish. The best traditional patterns are Love’s Lure and Coch-Y-Bondhu, in sizes 12 and 10.

Modern-day materials, such as floating foam patterns work well as they sit in the water, very life-like and float all-day

Black Beetles

There is a diverse range of these beetles, ranging from small to very large. They are keenly sought after by backcountry trout in lakes and rivers.

They are common in the summer months, and I find large foam imitations very effective in sizes 8 and 10 for fast water rivers and choppy lake conditions. Being black, they have an impressive profile and also double as a Cicada imitation.

I believe fishing beetles to be the most exciting form of fishing. The first opportunity for South Island anglers is late November brown beetle hatches. Be ready!


Guided NZ fly fishing and fly fishing lessons in the South Island of New Zealand with professional fly fishing guide, Martin Langlands – Troutlands

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