Fly fishing with Bees ~“The Tee-Knee Bee”

Bees have a special place in my fly box for some very good reasons. When the weather gets hot and inconsistent trout will break from their lies and rise for a bee with unfettered enthusiasm. Another reason to keep a stash of bees in your bonnet is because bees are very helpless and awkward when they get stuck in the surface film making them easy prey for trout. A trout does not have to expel too much energy for a morsel of bee protein. Unlike a water scrafing cranefly or damselfly the bee is about as helpless as a baby in a swim diaper when it takes the plunge.

Bee patterns often are in the boxes relegated for panfish but you don’t see bee patterns in many trout bum boxes. Trout take bees with the same determination and voraciousness that ants evoke. When the weather is exceptionally hot I have found that a bee can bring some pretty stubborn fish to the surface. Most of the bee patterns that you see in catalogs are not specifically called out as “trout flies” they have gotten typecasted as “Panfish Flys”. This has always been a nagging question in my little head, “why do bees get the cold shoulder when it comes to the commercial tying world?” My guess is that fisher people are more prone to leaning towards the meat and potato flys such as ants, hoppers, and beetles...My mantra has always been “if the trout are not taking ants in the heat then put a bee on”.
Above photo: The two flys in the foreground are tied with black and yellow quills and Coq De Leon wings, my original pattern towards the rear I use yellow and black beaver belly dubbing along with Wood Duck for winging material. Knotted black pheasant tail is used as a rear set of legs on both versions. Both material versions have proven to be very effective over the years.

 Above photo: Aero Wing Dry Fly from Tiemco makes a great winging material if you wish to fish this fly in lower light situations or in faster water. The only drawback with Aero Wing is that it is a bit
slippery to work with so a good dubbing wax such as Loons High Tack Swax is a must. 

 As seen above and below is a pattern that I’ve developed over the years for weary trout during the summer months. This is a smallish fly tied on a TMC 531 #18-20. I’ve had great success with it in some very difficult and frustrating water. My bees have saved many of my fishing days in July and August.
 “Tee-Knee Bee”
Hook: TMC 531 #18-20
Thread: Veevus Black 14/0
Body: Black Beaver Belly & 1 Black & 1 Yellow Quill
Legs: Dyed and Knotted Black Pheasant Tail
Wing: Coq De Leon or Wood Duck Flank or TMC Aero Dry Wing
Hackle: Black (note: dub black just behind hook eye three or four turns)

 Some unique things about my bee pattern is that it uses one yellow quill and one black quill for color segmentation of the abdomen then wrapped over a loose clump of black beaver belly. The quills add floatation to the rear of the fly and keep the bee with its bum on the surface. The wing is variegated ginger Coq de Leon but you can use wood duck flank if you wish. The nice thing about CDL is that its very stiff and extremely durable. Additionally I use knotted black pheasant tail for a rear set of legs.

This pattern works great in slow spooky runs as well as broken water and pocket water. Recently I had some great success in a tiny Brook Trout stream in the Alleghenies, the Brookies thought that they were “the bees knees!”...just had to do it .

Clint Joseph Bova