Beetle Bailey

Beetle Bailey |

I found this fly pattern on a road trip to Montana several years ago. My apologies to the originator as I don’t know the real name of the fly. It worked well and after a thorough review of the fly, I created this fly pattern sheet. The fish really like it!

Rainbow and Beetle Bailey |




Daiichi 1280, TMC 2312 or Dai Riki 280 #14 – 12


Black or red


Moose body hair


Black foam – 2 mm


Tan Turantu-Leggs, small or medium


Orange or yellow foam – 2 mm


Grizzly hackle



  1. Start thread on hook and advance to barb.
  2. Tie on tail material and position thread back at hook eye.
  3. Prepare foam by creating point and tie in at eye. Spiral thread wraps over foam back to hook barb.
  4. Wrap foam with thread to create smooth same color body. Position thread at ½ way point on hook shank.
  5. Fold foam forward and use thread to create wide spot approx. 2 – 3 mm. This allows for smooth spot for remaining materials.
  6. Tie in legs on each side of foam body.
  7. Tie in indicator foam and trim to desired length.
  8. Tie in hackle and wrap hackle 3 – 5 turns and tie off on side closest to you.
  9. Pull remaining foam back and continue thread forward to point behind hook eye.
  10. Pull foam forward and stretch a little and wrap thread 5 tight turns. Do not cut.
  11. Whip finish by pulling foam up and away from hook eye.
  12. Trim foam by leaving 2 – 3 mm past hook eye.
  13. Trim legs to desired length.

A friend reminded me that Cutthroat trout really like the color red. I changed the body to red thread and call that pattern Beetle Betty.

Beetle Betty |



  • Originally, I used 8/0 thread. Lately I’ve used UTC 70 or 140 denier thread as I find it makes a smoother body.
  • For size 12, I use 5 turns of hackle; size 14, 4 turns of hackle.
  • For size 12, I use medium size legs; size 14, small size legs.

And be sure to check out my post – Fly Fishing with Beetles to see how they work!


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9 thoughts on “Beetle Bailey

  1. YNP Firehole River just above Biscuit. Hour & half with many fly changes. What to do. Look in the box – Beetle Bailey. Bang – 11″ cutthroat. Thanks for the fly. Eric

    • Thanks for the Comment Eric!

      I love hearing a fish story from one of my flies. I’ve had that experience as well. Don’t know why…it just works!


  2. Another impeccable pattern, thanks! This little guy seems to consistently tempt the biggest trout willing to rise at any given time, and is quickly becoming my #1 searching pattern. I tie a little peacock hurl in the back half of the body for some extra shine.

    • Jack

      Thanks for your comment about Beetle Bailey! You have a great idea to add a little sparkle with peacock hurl. In fact, I tie a beetle fly pattern with peacock herl for the body. Just curious where you fish this fly…


      • John,
        I mostly fish the upper reaches of the Swan River and a few creeks in NW MT to avoid the crowds. Also go into the Missions and Bob Marshall when I can. Thanks for the reply and all the great wisdom in your posts. Jack

  3. Hi John,
    Just found your site and must say it made my day! I really like the looks of the Beetle Bailey and will have to add it to the fly box. It reminded me of times in the late 80’s and 90’s that I went to and fished the Yellowstone (registered for the FFF conclave every year, but could never drag myself out of the park to go) and a Black Deer Hair Beetle was the ‘go to’ pattern everywhere (other than the #20 rusty spinners every night at Buffalo Ford that made us all crazy). A pattern like the Beetle Bailey would have been amazing.
    When looking through your incredible site I had to smile when I stumbled on a reference to a pattern out of Randal Kaufman’s Nymph Book. I started tying over 40 years ago after an impromptu visit to the old house in Tigard, Oregon that was their original shop. I had no intention of buying anything that day, but just wanted to see what this ‘fly fishing thing’ was. I met Lance and Randell’s step father, who was running the store that day (Randall and Lance were at a show somewhere), and he filled 2 shopping bags with tying supplies for me ‘because nobody would ever know’. Along with a 2 hour dissertation on his ‘kids’ life, he also included a copy of ‘The American Nymph Fly Tying Manual’ that basically changed my ‘outdoor’ life. I think that your site might do the same. Thanks again for your desire to share all this incredible information and insight. I look forward to your email updates.
    Have a Great Day!

    • Jean

      Thanks for your comment and the kind words about RiverKeeper Flies.

      Yes, I remember the old house too. Really enjoyed digging around in the corners. I happened to run into Randall yesterday at the NW Fly Tyer & Fly Fishing Expo in Albany, Oregon. He donated a few of his books…even some first edition, hardback of Tying Dry Flies. I tied a few flies out of that book!

      Hope you are a frequent visitor.


    • Ryan

      You may be right. It was several years ago and I’ve changed the fly pattern to fit my need. Guess it might be called a “variant”.


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