Cantaria Beetle Fly Evolution
Back in the day, some 12 to 14 years ago, when a few of us first started fishing in Chile, we discovered the Cantaria beetle. Our fly tying materials consisted of a little of everything and not much of anything needed to tie a Cantaria beetle imitation. Our first beetle patterns were just black foam with black crystal chenille underbodies, and whatever color of rubber legs we had.
Some of the patterns were crude and not so aero dynamic. We tried to tie them as realistic as possible and were tying in the huge pinchers in the front. This would make the fly spin in the air and wind up the leader, so tying in the pinchers was dropped.
We experimented with gluing different types of mylar materials to the foam to give it the iridescent look of the real beetle. Some of these patterns worked and some didn’t, depending on the density of the mylar. If it was too thick, the teeth of the trout could not penetrate and the fly would slide out of the mouth. The glue tended to make the foam brittle. It was decided that just the soft foam body was best.
We then found “Loco Foam” which came in a variety of colors, but we liked the “Peacock” and “Oil slick” colors. We first used the foam with the color side up but then we realized this was more for the angler and that the fish never would see the color unless the fly was riding upside down. We then flipped the foam or sometimes glued two pieces together with the colored sides out.
Eric Neufeld, former guide and current Simms/Idylwilde/Ross rep, designed a pattern that he had great success with. It was one of the mylar designs but what was different about this fly was the rubber legs. He had used fluorescent orange and then painted them with a black magic marker leaving the tips orange. This fly caught hundreds of fish until the skid lip had been torn off.
Why did this fly work so well? What I learned from this fly was that the red/orange legs were the key. If you look at a Cantaria beetle from below, you really only have a silhouette except for the light that shines through the tips off the legs, giving them a red glow.
We then started experimenting using legs of different transparent colors.
Rick Sisler found a few orange squid jig skirts in his fishing gear and cut the tentacles off to use as legs. They were a bit thicker and stiffer than the usual rubber legs. They worked well but what we liked about them was that not only were they semi transparent but they had a bit of glitter in them for added attraction.
Back then we were throwing these huge patterns with 6 and 7 weights. In a good wind it was tough to get it out there, but they raised a lot of fish!
Today’s beetle is tied in a variety of sizes from realistic to bite size morsels but still based on these same principles.