The Blue Bottle


There is more to terrestrial patterns than just grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and ants. Do you see those regular-looking flies buzzing over the water? The trout do! Adding this snazzy imitation to your fly box will bring fresh excitement to your late-summer fishing

by Nadica & Igor Stancev

BY THE END OF SUMMER, the number of aquatic insects on the water starts declining. During the warmer parts of the day, you will see an increase in the number of land-born terrestrials such as beetles, ants, grasshoppers, and common flies we call bluebottles and greenbottles.

The bluebottle (Calliphora vomitoria) and greenbottle (Lucilia caesar) are common and widespread. They belong to the group of insects we generally call blowflies. Their larvae feed on dead animal tissue, and even though we think of them as nature’s cleaners, the adults can transmit diseases to humans. They also play a positive role as pollinators when flying from flower to flower, feeding on nectar. These insects are often shiny and metallic looking, featuring blue, green, or black thoraxes and abdomens.

Try selecting a bluebottle imitation when fishing terrestrials during the end of summer and beginning of autumn. Even though you might not find a large number of these insects near water, even a solitary fly attracts the attention of the fish. Using this sort of pattern is a nice break from casting the usual grasshopper and ant imitations.

Blue Bottle

Hook: Tiemco TMC2487 or TMC2488, sizes 16 to 10.
Eyes: Red glass bead. Thread: Black 12/0.
Body: Black polypropylene dubbing blended with blue Angel Hair or Ice Dub.
Wings: Pale gray organza ribbon.
Thorax: Black polypropylene dubbing blended with blue Angel Hair or Ice Dub, and pearl plastic film or foil.
Legs: Black dry fly hackle.

Tying the Blue Bottle
Newer Materials, Better Flies

The classic Blue Bottle originated in Scotland. It has a body of dark blue silk thread ribbed with flat silver tinsel, black hackle legs, and wings clipped from a gray thrush feather. During the past few decades, however, new materials give us many opportunities to create better floating flies in a wider range of colors.

Do trout really eat bluebottles? Check
out this photo of the stomach contents we pumped from a large fish. We see a caddis larva, an ant, blowflies, and two large insects that strongly resemble the outline of our Blue Bottle.

Some tiers will construct this imitation with a foam body, but for making the metallic-looking pattern in the accompanying tying photos, we selected polypropylene dubbing blended with Angel Hair or Ice Dub. Tying a chunky, tapered body using dubbing is very easy, but peacock herl is also great for making the shiny abdomen and thorax of this terrestrial. For legs we use a black dry fly hackle, but inventive tiers might experiment with black deer hair.

Imitating the translucent wings of the natural insect is more of a challenge; the wings might also be the most delicate part of the pattern. Organza ribbon, which has a plain synthetic weave, entered the world of fly tying in the early 1990s; we create the wings of our Blue Bottle using this inexpensive yet durable product. Organza comes in many colors, but the most useful are white, gray, tan, and olive. These light-reflecting fibers are easy to tease apart and are also ideal for making trailing shucks on nymphs, the shellbacks on scuds, and wings on emergers, dry flies, and even streamers. Look for organza ribbon in well-stocked craft and fabric shops.

Our Blue Bottle has proved successful for catching trout. Once you get the hang of tying this fly, make a few in pale brown and yellow. It really comes into its own when the hatches of aquatic insects decline and the trout turn their attention to feeding on terrestrials.

I met Nadica and Igor Stancev at an international gathering of fly tiers in Italy many years ago. They hail from Macedonia, and over the years we have enjoyed several of their great articles in this magazine. (I’ve tied their flies, and they do catch fish!) Here’s a fun fact: It is claimed that the first artificial fly was created in Macedonia sometime around AD 170. I suspect that early pattern designer had no closed-cell foam.