Ode to Fran Betters and red-heads

From Halford's early dries to the Catskill dry and everything else that floats on the surface.
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Eperous
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Ode to Fran Betters and red-heads

Post by Eperous »

Among my arsenal of trusted dry flies are several Fran Betters’ patterns. Yes, I know these dries weren’t originated in the Catskills, but I tie and fish them in the Catskills, where they work just fine for me. And yes, they are not “red-heads” either, but “hot fluorescent orange.”

The first is Betters’ Ausable Wulff which is on my list of top ten dry flies. I’d seen this dry tied by Betters using both a buff-colored body and one was that more rust-colored orange. I carry dozens of these dries in sizes 10 down to 20, though I don't tie wings on the #20's--- no need too.

Ausable Wulff, #12 Mustad 94840:
oFB1-Ausable Wulff, #12 Mustad 94840.jpg
oFB1-Ausable Wulff, #12 Mustad 94840.jpg (74.48 KiB) Viewed 2637 times
Got to love Betters’ Haystack; it’s an important “niche” pattern for me. When wild Esopus rainbows take a large, dark #10 during the late-spring initial appearance of big Isonychia, you wouldn’t want to be without a bunch of these. It's important to tie these big, chunky, buggy, and chocolate; number 10's only. A good buddy of mine calls my Haystack "The Disheveled", but he's never too proud to bum a few off me.

Haystack, #10 Mustad 94840:
oFB2-Haystack, #10 Mustad 94840.jpg
oFB2-Haystack, #10 Mustad 94840.jpg (74.43 KiB) Viewed 2637 times
A nice late-spring Esopus Haystack-eating bow:
oFB-14 inch Haystack bow.JPG
oFB-14 inch Haystack bow.JPG (192.72 KiB) Viewed 2637 times
I also value his Usual, only I don’t tie it the same way as Betters did. Many years ago Art Lee wrote an article on the versatility of the Usual for Fly Fisherman magazine which caught my attention. For NYC Catskill tailwaters, and the Esopus, at times I find a Sulfur Usual and BWO Usual highly effective niche patterns also. Although, in recent years for tiny late-autumn BWO's my favor has moved to #18 DHE's and/or #24 Slant Wing Mahogany CDC's

Sulfur Usual, #18 Mustad 94840:
oFB3-Sulfur Usual, #18 Mustad 94804.jpg
oFB3-Sulfur Usual, #18 Mustad 94804.jpg (54.3 KiB) Viewed 2637 times
BWO Usual, #18 Mustad 94840:
oFB4-BWO Usual, #18 Mustad 94840.jpg
oFB4-BWO Usual, #18 Mustad 94840.jpg (54.33 KiB) Viewed 2637 times
Although not really a dry fly, in a tight spot Betters’ Mini-Muddler serves quite well for a grasshopper or big emerger.

Mini-Muddler, #10 Mustad 9671:
oFB5-Mini-Muddler, #10 Mustad 9671.jpg
oFB5-Mini-Muddler, #10 Mustad 9671.jpg (69.17 KiB) Viewed 2637 times
This pattern is one of my "top ten" all-time favorite trout flies. That Francis Betters was one heck of a trout fisher/tyer. If you can get it, his book Fran Betters' Fly Fishing --- Fly Tying and Pattern Guide is worth the read. In my mind, Betters was clearly an angler before his time.

Ed

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gt05254
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Re: Ode to Fran Betters and red-heads

Post by gt05254 »

He was one of a kind, I'll give ya that!

Image

Not a lot of fly shops would think that would bring in customers today, lol. I guess Fran did, though.
Gary

bearbutt
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Re: Ode to Fran Betters and red-heads

Post by bearbutt »

Count me among the fans of Fran's patterns. I like them--particularly the Haystacks--for their hydrodynamic action, and for how the sit in the surface film.

Image

As for the reds--the shades vary a lot, here's a few different lots of Fran's dyed Australian opossum I picked up at various times of the years:

Image

bb

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Barleywine
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Re: Ode to Fran Betters and red-heads

Post by Barleywine »

"and red-heads". I'm married to a red-head. Maybe that's part of why I like Fran's patterns. :D

We've been tying some of the same flies Ed. A few days ago, after tying a handful of Missing Link Caddis, I tyed some Usuals ("with a twist" as Art Lee mentioned) adding some wood duck to the wing and the tail. Everything's better with wood duck.....right? Had to tye a couple of Ausable Wulffs at that point.

Image


If anyone thinks we're a long way from using our dries, here's a bit of hope crawling in the snow last week along a NJ stream.

Image

Most of the water was iced up, but this stream always has lots of stoneflies hatching in early February. Too bad it doesn't have wild trout.

Brown Bear, there's just something about that shade of the Possum that's hard to nail down. Anyone know how Fran dyed this color?

Chuck
"The secret to life is honesty and fair dealing. When you can fake that, you've got it made." ---Groucho Marx

squish67
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Re: Ode to Fran Betters and red-heads

Post by squish67 »

Fran got me using fluorescent orange thread almost 40 years ago. He'd get Rich Whaley and me through the gate, and it to the bush near Black Brook, and we'd fish and camp for several days, casting Wulff's, Haystak's, and Mini- Muddler's into the pockets during the Isonychia Hatches in August. A lot of big fish were hooked and most lost, and we'd come out some evening early and go get Fran and head out to dinner. A year or so later, Bill Phillips gave me a Usual on a trip to Battenkill when he dropped off his new book "The Trout, Stream, and Rod". It is my go to fly now, and I have caught trout on it in hatches from the Hendricksen's, through Trico's. Still tie it the way I copied the first one, in sizes 12-24. Don't think you can improve on perfection! :D

So I guess Fran, along with George Schlotter, are my two greatest influences as a tier. Thanks to both!

If I could figure out how to download pictures to my PC, I'd send along some of the 2014 supply of Usuals I just tied!

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Eperous
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Re: Ode to Fran Betters and red-heads

Post by Eperous »

Barleywine wrote: ... I tyed some Usuals ("with a twist" as Art Lee mentioned) adding some wood duck to the wing and the tail. Everything's better with wood duck.....right? ...
Ah, a Usual with wood duck... the merger of Betters with some of the Catskill greats... ;) Everything is better with a little wood duck... :D

Hey is it snowing down there today Chuck, another snow day on the school calendar? :( The snow is coming down here in white buckets... :o But, I'm painting a room today, getting another project off that "honey do list" so the decks are clear come decent fishing weather... :) Not looking too good for me this coming Friday, but ya never know... :?

Hope you're at least tying if you're not standing in front of a class...

Ed

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Barleywine
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Re: Ode to Fran Betters and red-heads

Post by Barleywine »

Yes, we got more snow here as well. My school was one of the ones that stayed open, which I think is a good thing. I hope this warmup isn't too extreme this week. Don't want that precious snowpack running off too quickly before it gets a chance to soak in.

Squish. Great story! I hope you get the photo thing worked out. I'd love to see pictures of the Usuals you're tying.

Chuck
"The secret to life is honesty and fair dealing. When you can fake that, you've got it made." ---Groucho Marx

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