One of the best parts about fishing in Southern Chile is the incredible insect life. There’s huge variety in the bugs…and there are some huge bugs.
At Chile West, our favorite may be the Cantaria beetle, or ‘flying deer’. It’s at first glance a nasty looking bug with fierce pinchers, horns and claws. With a body size ranging from a small to jumbo olive plus legs twice in length, this is not the kind of critter you would want to find crawling up your sleeve!
Contrary to its appearance, this slow moving, cumbersome flying beetle is harmless. At close inspection, under all its pinchers, horns and claws, you find an intricate insect, beautifully colored in iridescent purple to maroon, resembling something like a cross between a Triceratops, a June bug and a crab with grappling hooks for feet.
Depending on climate conditions, the Cantaria makes its appearance as early as December and continuing into March. Its favorite habitat is the Coihue (coy-way) tree. In March the male species flies from tree to tree searching out the female. The female Cantaria is a smaller in size and she has short pinchers, resembling a pair of tin snips.
During the mating period you can find tree trunks crawling with hundreds of beetles, the males all fighting like bulls in a corral. The ratio of male to female may be 5 to 1. This is quite a sight to see. At first you don’t notice anything and then suddenly you notice the tree bark moving and the light hits them and lights up the whole show!
These large beetles are a great source of food for Browns and Rainbows. As these beetles aren’t the most graceful at flying, the often miss their mark and land in the river providing an easy meal as they are literally helpless once in the water.
The trout take the beetle with reckless abandon, often times literally body-slamming the beetle in an effort to smash its hard shell with pokety/stabbity legs and pinchers. These fish have learned that it’s normal to get poked in the mouth when eating Cantarias, so don’t worry if you ‘stuck’ that fish but he came unbuttoned– get that fly back out there and you’ll probably get a second chance!