There are many beetles that are called Soldier Beetle as a quick Google search will reveal. They do vary hugely, what this fly imitates is what I commonly see on and around the water. I don’t know the exact Latin name for this specific insect; nor do I care. Imitative fly fishing is not about knowing Latin names for every insect, but looking at what the trout are feeding on and tying something that looks enough like it to fool a fish. These do fool fish late in the summer when the naturals are about.
Flotation is critical with these patterns, much of the foam is compressed in the tying so
they are not as buoyant as they may seem. That in some ways is good; the naturals are not that buoyant, floating low in the surface. For that reason I have settled on a very light hook, a Barbless Buzzer hook, from Lawrence Finney at Finney’s Flies, in a size 16.
The selection of the foam is also important. “Foamtastic” or “Foamies” from craft stores will not float when compressed. Foam is a very dense material, much denser than water! What makes it buoyant is the air trapped within it. Generally the craft store foam sheets contain too much of the foam material and not enough of the air. The foam you need is “Plastazote” sheet or block. Sorry but you will have to get the expensive stuff!
Another problem with foam is the thicknesses it is available in. Blocks 25mm thick are no problem. Sheets of 0.5 and 2 mm are readily available. 1mm Thick foam is as common as the proverbial rocking horse manure. Of course that’s what you need You will need 3 strips of foam Two stips 2mm square by about 50mm long and one strip 5 x 1mm by at least 15mm long. If you are going to cut foam please, please, please don’t use a scalpel! Scalpels are designed for cutting flesh. The blades are flexible, and will “wander” as you cut. Not only does this make cutting accurately difficult, it puts you fingers at risk.
Add to that some UTC 70 in Fl Fire Orange, some Synthetic Quills from Virtual Nymph If you want antennae, and some orange flexi floss or Spanflex (the finest you have). And you are ready to go.
This isn’t a fly for a beginner to attempt; you will need to be able to handle your materials with some finesse. Neither is it a 5 minute tie! The first one may take you ½ an hour or more.
The tying starts on a needle, not the hook. Get the finest sewing needle you can find and put that in your vice. Start your thread on the needle about 25mm from the point
Take your two 2 x 2mm strips and cut across the ends at 45˚.Catch the far one in by this point on the far side, then the other on the near side.
Take a couple of turns of thread towards the point of the needle, about 2mm from the tie in point. Fold both foam strips forward and take a turn around the strips. Don’t pull the strips as this will rob the foam of its buoyancy
Draw the foam back and advance the thread down the needle. (I’ve gone several turns here so you can see what I mean, but you should only go about 2 mm to form the net body segment). You need to make 3 body segments
On the third segment tie in two strands of flexi floss to create the back legs. Try to position them like this ˚O˚ viewed from end on. Trim out the forward facing flexi floss and whip finish. Trim out your thread.
Grip the body firmly between index finger and thumb and pull it off the needle.
Now we start on the hook.
Start the thread and work about two thirds of the way down the hook shank. On the way catch in a pair of Synthetic Quills to form the antennae, if you feel the need.
Tie the body in taking two wraps over the thread where you whip finished the body. The body is tied in up side down compared to when you tied it on the needle. Just as you did on the needle advance the thread along the hook shank and form another body segment.
Catch in two more lengths of flexi floss one to either side. Form another segment.
Trim out the excess foam from both strips. Hold the foam under tension while you cut.
Now you need your strip of 1mm thick foam. Round off one end.
Tie in the strip to make the carapace over the body Two turns are enough; on top of the turns you made the last segment with. Takt the thread forward to the eye, whip finish and trim out.
That’s the end of the tying sequence but far from the end of the fly.
Pull on the excess foam forming the carapace and trim it out close to the tie in point.
Lift the carapace and run a drop of CA (super) glue along the top of the body. Push the carapace down onto the body and give it a squeeze from both sides.
With your dubbing needle score a line along the top of the carapace, this makes no difference to the fish, but looks great!
Colouring the beetle is easy. I use a Saddle Brown Letraset pen and a Lime Peal Prismacolour pen. At this point go to Google and do an image search on Soldier Beetles to get an idea of the colour you want. The pens will bleed together giving you a natural graduation from one colour to the other. The Prismacolour pen has another unusual effect I will come back to later.
Now comes the dangerous part! Bending of the legs.
There are two ways you can bend the legs. With heat or with CA (super) glue. To use heat you will need a cauterising tool. If you don’t have one then the super glue method is for you.
To bend flexi floss (or rubber legs) stretch the leg and put a tiny drop of super glue on the side of the leg that will be the outside of the bend. Touch it to set the glue. Then relax the tension. The leg will bend away from the glue. This is because the CA glue “sets” the stretched flexi floss at the longer length.
If you use the heat you will need a steady hand, or you will have a lot of beetle missing legs!
Bend the four fore legs forward and the two rear legs backwards. Trim them to length and colour the ends of the legs with your brown marker pen. It helps to have a small piece of card or plastic to support the legs while you colour them.
Lastly coat the head and carapace in Diamond Flex flexible UV resin. Now you will see the unusual effect of the Prismacolour pen. The carapace takes on an iridescent olive colour very typical of beetles. My photo doesn’t show this brilliantly but you can see what I mean.
If you have stuck with it and finished your soldier beetle, well done. This is a fishable realistic so tie a few for the late summer. Try to get them to land with a little plop when you cast them. Dead drift is usually enough, but if the fish don’t respond a tiny twitch can prove irresistible to the trout.
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