Easy-to-see terrestrial is hard for trout to resist
Matthew Long, owner and operator of Long Outfitting in Livingston, MT has more than two decades of guiding and fly fishing experience in the Rocky Mountains, the northeast, and Florida. He’s also a fly tier. Even after years of fishing and guiding out west, he knows there always a new pattern out there that will outfish others. It’s just a matter of keeping your eyes open on the water to see how the fish behave. The Indicator Beetle is just such a fly. Ever since he first tied and fished it, it’s been the most successful fly for cutts he’s ever used. And it works for big browns and bows too.
Orvis News: What inspired the creation of the Indicator Beetle? What was missing from other flies that you wanted to achieve?
Matt Long: The main reason I developed it was from my experience fishing the spring creeks in Paradise Valley in the fall. My father, who’s fished and guided in the area for many years too, noticed that in the fall in particular, trout kept hitting our orange indicator putty when we were nymphing. I mean A LOT. More than they were taking our flies. It was one of those ideas that seem so obvious. So simple. They loved the color. Not a lot of complexity to it. So, I thought, what pattern would work well where you could get that orange color on a more solid bodied fly? The answer was the beetle. It sits on the surface pretty good, and fish will also take it just under the film. Yet it has a solid appearance, so the orange is highly visible. Thus the name, Indicator Beetle.
Orvis News: Did you have luck with it right away or did you have to tinker with the pattern?
Matt Long: Oh, we had luck right away. And lots of luck. It has been our very hottest fly for a few years now. We tie hundreds of them and our clients go right through them. They love them and the fish love them. This one called for little tinkering, except for the fisherman’s own aesthetic taste. We’ve used black rubber legs and deer hair legs, and settled on the mottled pumpkin legs, but that seems more to please the fisherman’s eye than the trout's. We’ve had equal success in every incarnation.
Orvis News: So is it only good in the fall then?
Matt Long: No. No. It’s great all year long, especially on the cutts, though it works well for browns and bows too. My father landed the biggest brown he’s ever caught on the Yellowstone with a client on the Indicator beetle. And he’s fished a long time.
Orvis News: So it’s not just for cutts then?
Matt Long: No. We’ve had success on every species of trout. The cutts just seem to love it even more.
Orvis News: What are the best techniques for fishing it?
Matt Long: Well, we fish a lot of tandem rigs out here, so we often fish them behind a dry, a BWO or an Adams. Those dries are hard to see on big water, so we started use the Indicator Beetle as a way for clients to better track those tiny dries. Well, we ended up getting three quarters of our fish on the beetle. And I mean this is during BWO hatches, or other hatches, where we are matching the hatch closely and they are feeding on naturals. Yet they hit that Indicator Beetle more than I ever believed they would. It’s really an awesome fly. It’s one of those things where the obvious answer finally jumps out and you see it. And it’s the simple, easy answer. That doesn’t happen often. It’s the best, most successful fly in my and many, many guides’ boxes out here. It’s been a secret for several years. But I guess that is about to end. Grab a dozen of these to keep on hand and get results when nothing else is working. Or, fish them first thing, why wait?
-By Eric Rickstad, editor-in-chief, The Orvis News.