The Pyramid Lake “Popcorn Beetle”©
Designed , and named by Doug Ouellette in 2002.
These fly patterns are all tested and proven fish catchers at the world famous Pyramid Lake Nevada.
The History of the POPCORN BEETLE
Former Owner: The Gilly Fishing Store
To whom it may concern:
I am writing this letter on behalf of my former colleague Doug Ouellette. Doug worked in and guided for the Gilly for several years. I had been working to hire and work with Doug for several years before finally landing him for the store. He is one of the elite fly fishermen in the area so it goes without saying his addition to the store was a wonderful enhancement. Reputation and ability aside, the main reasons I targeted Doug however, were his integrity for the sport and ability to teach the fundamentals required to become a better fly fishermen. In simple terms, The Gilly was a better place with Doug Ouellette.
I was asked to detail my recollection of how Doug’s Popcorn Beetle came to be. We were hosting a book signing for Terry Barron who had recently had has his book published, No Nonsense Guide to Fly Fishing Pyramid Lake. We were big fans of Terry and wanted to support his achievement. Terry had featured local fly fishermen’s fly patterns in the book and several were present at the book signing. We had the featured tiers demonstrating how to tie their fly as well has discussing the history of how they came to be. Ike Berry was at the vice tying his Foam Beetle. Doug was discussing specifics about the Foam Beetle with Ike as he was tying several up. I don’t remember everything Doug and Ike said to each other, but I do remember questions about colors and hook sizes. To my best recollection, Ike conveyed that he tied the beetle on a Tiemco 2457 size 14 hook mainly in tan and brown color schemes. I remember Doug specifically asking if he had ever tied it with white foam and Ike answering no. Soon after, Doug went over to the fly tying section and selected the materials he fashioned the Popcorn Beetle out of. Doug used a different and much bigger hook than Ike’s Foam Beetle, Tiemco 3761 size 8. He also chose a thicker 3mm foam in white. The chenille was from a different manufacturer, was of unalike texture as well as opposite on the color spectrum. You could see Doug’s mind working as he gathered the materials and sat down at the vice. Like I said earlier, Doug is probably the best fly fishermen in our area and I could tell he had a vision of something different for Pyramid Lake. The first thing I noticed, as well as several others present, was the different approach Doug took to finishing the fly off. He fashioned an extremely large foam head on his Popcorn Beetle. Immediately he was asked why the large foam head (I do not recall exactly who asked the question) and his response was succinct and to the point. “This will push water, create more action and produce takes.” He even compared the larger foam head’s purpose to the vibration produced by the lures used at Pyramid Lake. As most flies are created, Doug saw one tier create something and took it in another direction and fashioned something new and different. He additionally tied a few more that included a marabou tail. Both Ike and Doug are great fishermen. And both, in my opinion, came up with a new take of a fly. There was no ground breaking new technique in either fly. So it can’t be claimed the foam beetle developed a new way of securing material to a hook. Pulling one material over the top of another (foam over chenille in this case) to form a back or wing case, if you will, was not invented by either. My point is this, Doug may have been inspired by Ike’s fly, but he most certainly turned and went another direction with his Popcorn Beetle.
I got him off to the side as soon as I could and asked if The Gilly could start selling his new fly. I understood the potential of what he just created. I knew the importance of vibration and movement. I was positive this was something unique and different in terms of flies. He agreed and we sold the fly and reported on the effectiveness in local fishing reports for several months before we became aware it was being sold in other stores. Our sales for that particular color of foam escalated dramatically. It was one of those moments in retail where you have the hot product. This is why I remember the birth of the Popcorn Beetle. I even recall speaking with Dave Stanley on the phone about the popularity of the fly. He called me to ask about the exact materials Doug used. The Reno Fly Shop was getting enough requests, to motivate Dave, to add and make sure he was ordering the correct materials.
If any person is challenging Doug on how this fly came to be I would personally question their motivation. I mentioned Doug’s integrity for the sport because it sits above reproach. In the years I knew him before he began working at The Gilly I found him to be genuine and honest. Always willing to share information and most certainly zealous about giving credit to other anglers for their accomplishments. And my opinion and measure of him was confirmed after he began working at the store. As a matter of fact, Cal Byrd would occasionally come into the store and was the person who recommended I seek out Doug Ouellette as an expert in the field. He also told me he was loyal and a person I could completely trust.
This is my recollection of that day and the months that followed in relation to the Popcorn Beetle. Doug has worked hard for his place in the fly fishing community and I would hate to see others question his reputation. Anytime his name comes up in my life to this day it is followed by glowing superlatives.
Former Owner The Gilly Fishing Store
This article on the “Popcorn Beetle” by Brad Stout on his blog
Doug and the Beetle
Back when no one had ever heard of the Popcorn Beetle, I met a life long friend. The time frame was in early 2000’s when the City of Sparks had a little tackle store named the “Gilly” that was owned by Lawrence Quadrio. The Gilly found its nitch selling, of all things, bass lures and gear to northern Nevada fishermen. Even though the Gilly specialized in all things bass, the small store also had three small sections reserved for trout, kokanee, and fly tying.
In the late 1990s and early 2000 northern Nevadans had to visit three or four different stores to purchase everything on their wish list until Scheels, Cabela’s, and Sportsmens’ Warehouse moved into town. Those stores weren’t better ,just bigger. My biggest complaint with the new larger stores, besides their commercial feel, is that they carry lots of brand-name products but in limited stock. For instance, the brand of rods and reels they carry is Shimano, Diawa,and Penn, but the models and inventory for these brands are limited. On the other hand, there is an endless supply and selection of their own crappy signature store brand named rods and reels. Before then, northern Nevadan had a handful of small stores that specialized in individual sports. The small stores we had back then had very knowledgeable sales staff who helped answer questions about product and also had information on where to fish and what product to use. In Reno,we have Mark Fore and Strike which opened its doors in 1963. Mark Fore and Strike was like having three stores in one. They had a hunting and firearm department, a fishing department, and…….I’m not really sure how to define the third department. Camping? Rubber rafting? Boating? Anyhow, I was only interested in the fishing department and the other two departments were not relevant to me. Mark Fore and Strike is still open today and just like 30 years ago, they are known for knowledgeable advice and customer service. We also had a store named the “Reno Fly Shop” that specialized in the products needed for fly fishing in northern Nevada until closing it’s doors sometime in the late 2000’s . Jim Litchfield reopened the “Reno Fly Shop” became the new owner of the Reno Fly Shop in 2014. Jim and his staff have been instrumental in my development in fly tying. Nowadays I purchase my tackle from Dave at Mark Fore and Strike and my fly tying material from Jim at the Reno Fly Shop. These guys are two local experts who have a wealth of knowledge fishing local waters. Now that we are talking about knowledge of local waters it’s time to introduce my friend, Doug Ouellette
As a young and eager-to-learn fishermen, I made the rounds to all of the local northern Nevada sporting goods stores fishing for information how to catch trophy size trout. I would gladly spend a little extra hard earned cash in these local Mom and Pop stores. You see, although I paid a few dollars more, that money was well spent in customer service, product knowledge, and expert advice. One day I made the rounds from store to store and ended my quest at the Gilly. My good friend Don was sitting behind the counter with a new employee named Doug. Don made the introductions by announcing Doug as being a fly fishing expert and myself as a trophy trout fisherman. Over the next month or so I would see Doug at the Gilly who often greeted me with a big smile on his face and even though I was not a fly fisherman, Doug genuinely took interest in my quest for catching big brown trout. I started asking Doug more questions about fly fishing and how trophy trout would take a streamer in low light conditions. The whole fly fishing thing was foreign to me so, every time Doug would talk to me about a type of fly or fly fishing technique I would just stand there dumbfounded and humbly ask him to SHOW ME the technique he was referring to. I’m pretty sure that at that time I was known as the “SHOW ME” guy. Whenever I arrived at the store, Doug would always take a few minutes to show me new flies and he often asked if I thought trophy size browns would eat the flies he selected.My reply was,as always”SHOW ME” One evening in particular when I visited the Gilly just before the store was about to close for the day, I stopped by to check out what was new. I had no clue what lesson was in store for me that evening. The place was empty as Don and Doug were closing up the shop. I had just left a local high school where I was helping coach wrestling. I mentioned this to Don and Doug and as we were discussing a wrestling move that I was teaching that evening, Doug interrupted me and said, “SHOW ME.” Laughter broke out from the three of us. Then Doug said, “Show Me” again. I have always pictured Doug as a kindhearted sole who wouldn’t hurt a fly. So when he walked around the counter and asked me to SHOW HIM the wrestling move, it really took me by surprise. At first I thought, he isn’t serious, is he? I took a deep breathe and a leap of faith and headed for the middle of the store filled with rows of merchandise and proceeded to SHOW Doug what a “head and arm throw” felt like. As I gingerly grabbed Doug trying to think of a way to demonstrate such a violent throw without hurting him, Don was sitting behind the counter with a big smile on his face. But as I slowly went through the motions something went wrong. Doug’s weight shifted and he countered me. Did this old man just put a move of his own on me? Doug was quite a few years older than me. I heard a snap and felt pressure on my neck. Doug went from being a throw dummy to aggressively trying to throw me! Bang! Pop! Pop! I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was a better than average wrestler. In fact, I was a three time northern Nevada State Wrestling High School Champion. It was time to SHOW Doug a thing or two. Things escalated extremely fast. Doug and I were in a full out Greco Roman wrestling match in the middle of a retail store. There was grunting, head slapping, hip checking, the whole deal. I mean it looked like a street fight and neither one of us was about to give up until the other one conceited in defeat. “Stop!” “Please guys stop!” “Please,” someone pleaded. It was Don, behind the counter. “Please guys!” croaked Don. And just like that it was over. Just like that we walked back to the counter with smiles on our faces. “A stalemate,” Doug said. “Stalemate,” I replied. Doug and I have been great friends ever since.
Back in early 2000, I Pro Staffed for a little known lure company called “Lyman Lures.” As a Pro Staff member you were asked to make an appearance at local shops and events. There was a book signing at the Gilly for Terry Barron’s new book titled “ No Nonsense Guide to Fly Fishing Pyramid Lake.” After the signing, I gave a seminar about trolling for trophy trout. Once I finished, I found Doug at a fly tying table. Doug had a fly featured in Terry’s book and Doug was giving a seminar on how to tie the fly.
Now, there is some controversy as to what happened that day regarding this fly. This is what I remember clearly from the conversations had at the fly tying table. Everyone wants to reinvent the wheel and in this case Doug did. There is a page located in Terry’s book that has hand drawn local flies that feature the inventor’s names. For instance, there is the Dave Stanley Dragon Nymph, the Dave Whitlock Dragon Nymph, and the Nealley Dragon Nymph. Each of these Dragon Nymph flies differ in some way, either by the materials used or the tying methods applied.
This is where I believe Doug changed a few things and invented or rather improved on a fly that is featured in Terry’s book. The name of the fly is the “Ike Berry’s Beetle” and Doug was showing eager onlookers and enthusiasts how to tie other version of this fly. During Doug’s teaching, I noticed a couple of the fly tiers wondering off and then returning with a handful of materials and waiting their turn to whip out other version of flies in the book. Then the crowd would approve or disapprove on the outcome of the changes made. Every couple of minutes another tier would take his time at the vise. Now it was Doug’s time at the vise and I made a remark that this looked more like a craft show than a fly tying lesson. I heard a chuckle here and a laugh there and then someone scolded me by telling me that “this is serious stuff and to pipe down and maybe I will learn something.” Seeing that I was a little embarrassed, Doug started talking directly to me as he started tying what was soon to become one of the most popular Pyramid flies of all time. The fly was chartreuse and white and resembled the fly pictured in the book but with a couple of differences. The observing crowd were talking about how odd the color pattern was that Doug pick and how the fly was to big compared to the fly in the book. If fact most laughed at it. At this time in my life I was not a fly fisherman and probably would have forgotten this whole incident but Doug made such an effort to include me in the conversation. Doug asked me, “What do you think Brad? ” “It has a lip like a flatfish lure” I replied. The memory of this conversation is locked into my mind because the fly would wiggle like a lure. Colors change, the size of lures increase and decrease, but they are still the same lure to me. I guess what I’m saying is a spinner is a spinner, stick bait is a stick bait, and a jig is a jig. So to my eye, most of the flies featured in Terry’s book closely resembled one another especially since they are hand drawn in black and white. When comparing the beetles pictured in Terry’s book, I believe the biggest difference with the one that Doug tied was the big lip or big bill that he included. Sure it was 5 to 6 times the size and a different color but to me the big lip is what made this fly unique. The lip would actually change the action on the fly.
So who was the original inventor of this productive fly? Hard to answer. Ike Berry made the Foam Beetle 1st for sure and Doug O. made the Popcorn Beetle. Are the two flies different? Absolutely! Why is it that I give Doug credit for the popcorn beetle ? For me it’s never came down to the color,size or even the fact that other fishermen had a similar beetle first . All great arguments . It is the big lip,the lip that give it its action that has to be the first reason I feel Doug is the inventor . The second is because Doug gave this bigger-big lip beetle the iconic name Popcorn Beetle. I mean come on everyone who fishes pyramid has heard of the Popcorn Beetle! Doug named it the Popcorn Beetle and the name has stuck . Since then the beetle as evolved over time and morphed into a tadpole or pollywog tied with holographic foam, marabou tails and a rainbow of colors. Are these considered different fly than the others ? I would say yes. Agree or disagree and it’s really up to you to decide for yourself on who invented this beetle or if these are the same fly or different flies. One thing that few will argue is Doug is one of the elite fly fisherman in the area but it’s really his integrity that sets him apart
Ask 10 different fly fisherman at pyramid what his two best stripping fly are and I bet 7 of the 10 will include the White and chartreuse popcorn beetle as one of the two.
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Popcorn Beetle #8
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Doug Ouellette (775) 722-2267 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org