Ike Berry and His Foam Beetle

~By: Lance Dean | January 22, 2017

The Pyramid Lake Fishing community lost a great asset.  Ike Berry past away last week and although I don't know all the circumstances to his passing, I do know that his passing will be felt among Pyramid Lake Fly Fishing enthusiasts for a long time.  I have been working on this article for a few months now just recently finished it.  I was hoping to get Ike to read it before I posted it but with his passing it is obvious that this will not happen.  Anyway I only talked to Ike a few times and only met him once but he was for sure a class act.  Ike I hope I did your fly justice.

Pyramid Lake Beetle

Pyramid Lake Beetle
A pile of Pyramid Lake Beetles and Tadpoles.

he Foam Beetle became the topic of a phone conversation between me and Ike Berry a few months ago. Ike Berry’s Foam Beetle is one of many flies featured in “Guide To Fly Fishing Pyramid Lake” by Terry Barron. Better recognized today as the Pyramid Lake Beetle, Ike Berry created this Pyramid Lake staple during the 1980s’. Ike told me that as he was out fishing Pyramid Lake one day, he noticed a bunch of beetles in a bush and it hit him that these fish eat beetles so he went home and put together materials to replicate the beetles he found.  That is how Ike Berry birthed the simple fly that uses dubbing or chenille as a body and foam as a shell to Pyramid Lake.

According to Ike, Pyramid Lake Fisherman weren’t particularly interested in his new pattern when he tried to share it with them shortly after he originated it. The fly itself was a work in progress and never really hit it off with the Pyramid Lake Fly Fishing community until the late 1990s’ to the early 2000s’.  I imagine this was due to the fact that Pyramid Lake was becoming a popular place to fish once again.

Ike Berry's Foam Beetle
Ike Berry's Foam Beetle can be tied with or without a lip.
As our phone conversation progressed, Ike told me that during the design process he not only tried all the types of foam he could get his hands on, but he also tried many different color combinations.  He found that he liked tan, olive and brown foam for the shell with a dark body of dubbing or chenille as an underbody for targeting the giants of Pyramid Lake and that he also used many other color combinations if the conditions called for it. When asked about the lip of the Pyramid Beetle, he told me, that he tied and still ties it with and without a lip; although, “Guide To Fly Fishing Pyramid Lake” shows the un-lipped version, ninety percent of the beetles he tied and still ties has a foam lip.  Although Ike mainly fishes lipped versions of Pyramid Lake Beetles, if the conditions call for it, he is not hesitant to tie an un-lipped fly to the end of his line.

We talked about how his fly had evolved over time as all flies do. We discussed how John Barr’s Copper John had evolved from Hungarian Partridge for legs and a tail rather than the goose biot tail and hen back for legs that we see today.  The wing-case of the Copper John was originally a few fibers of turkey quill, the version we are now accustomed to fishing uses thin skin. Like the Copper John, Ike Berry’s Foam Beetle evolved over time; you commonly see it tied with different hooks, foam and chenille. Some versions of the Pyramid Beetle have even grown tails of marabou or calf tail fibers. Common colors of the Pyramid Lake Beetle you might find include:

  • Chartreuse body with white foam (regular or Loco)
  • White body with white foam (regular or Loco)
  • Purple body with black foam (regular or Loco)
  • Rootbeer body with white loco foam - Rootbeer Float
The list goes on and on...

Ike fishes his Pyramid Lake Beetles in smaller sizes (8-14) but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fished in other sizes as well.

The Pyramid Beetle is a straight forward fly to tie.  Wrap your thread around your hook, tie in the foam of your choice. Ike finds 2mm works the best for his fishing preferences. Next, tie in and wrap your chenille or dubbing around the hook. Then, fold the foam over the body and secure it to the hook at the head of the fly. Apply a whipfinish. Lastly, decide if you want a lip on the fly or not, if not cut the foam near the head of the fly, if you do want a lip decide how long you want it and cut the foam accordingly.

Pyramid Lake Beetle
Pyramid Tadpoles are just beetles with marabou tails
As we continued talking over the phone, we discussed a couple effective strategies to fish the Pyramid Lake Beetle. One method we discussed required the fly fisherman to drag a Pyramid Lake Beetle behind a heavy streamer or nymph.  The heavy streamer helps sink the beetle quickly and as the flies are retrieved, the Pyramid Lake Beetle wobbles under the water and then floats towards the surface during the pause of the retrieve. This wobble-pause action has the ability to drive Giant Lahontans so crazy that they attack the Pyramid Lake Beetle with a vengeance, so hold on tight. Another way to fish the pyramid Lake Beetle is to place two beetles about 24 – 30 inches apart and retrieve your flies by dragging your fast sinking line just of the lake bottom using different stripping speeds and line actions until you find a retrieve that works. Too, be most effective with these methods, be sure to use some sort of fast sinking line. I use Rio’s Outbound Short and don’t forget your count down with both of these methods.

As our conversation concluded I learned a bit about Ike Berry, not just as a Fly Fisherman, but as a person. Ike is a thoughtful, kind person who values honesty and integrity very much. He doesn't beat around the bush much and expects the same in return. He respects people as long as they respect him. Ike was very willing to share what he knew about Pyramid Lake and the strategies he uses to fish it and he wants to help other Fly Fisherman be successful while fishing it. It was a pleasure talking with him and making a new friend.

Thank you, Mr. Berry for taking the time to talk with me about the Pyramid Lake Beetle and for your contributions to Pyramid Lake fly fishing.

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Please enjoy these two demonstration videos of Ike Berry’s AWESOME Pyramid Lake Beetle.

Ike Berry's Foam Beetle
HOOK: TCM 2457 size 10
THREAD: Brown 8/0
BODY: Black Dubbing
SHELL: Tan foam colored with dark brown, waterproof marker


Pyramid Lake Beetle
HOOK: TMC 2457 (8-14)
THREAD: UTC 140 - Fl. White
SHELL: Foam - Craft, Loco, Evozote, or any type you can find
BODY: Chenille or Dubbing


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