Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fran Betters Picket Fin

Earlier in the month, Alan (Small stream reflections) asked me to try to duplicate a fly that he had picked up in Fran Betters' shop.  Alan later contacted Jan Betters and she told him that Fran referred to it as a Picket Fin.  The colors of the fly remind you of another "Fin" fly the Fontinalis Fin, a wet fly that resembles a brook trout fin with it's orange, black, and white married wing.

After handling the fly and taking some pictures of my own and doing a little experimenting, I think I've figured out how Fran put it together.  Here are two versions for smaller streams where a good sized bead is too heavy.  Both are tied on 2x long nymph hooks that are a little shorter than Fran's fly which appears to be tied on a mustad 9671 (3X long) with a good sized bead on it.  When tying the fly on the 9671 hook add an extra wrap of chenille and hackle.

Tie in the tail (grizzly hackle tip), then the grizzly hackle (#18 saddle hackle was used on the #16 fly).  Remove some of the fibers at the tip of the chenille to expose the thread of the chenille and tie in at the rear (reduces the bulk of the fly).   Wind the chenille to the mid point of the hook and palmer the hackle forward  (3 turns each).  Tie in the calf body hair wing and then tie in 3 peacock herls to the base of the wing and wrap them around the hook once, go around the herls counter clockwise once with the thread once and wrap the thread and herl forward forming a nice tight thorax (wrapping the thread and herl together reinforces the herl and gives it more durability).  Tie off a nice tight hot spot behind the bead or at the head.

Glass bead version
#16 2X long nymph hook
Fire orange thread
Gold lined glass bead
tail - tip of a small grizzly hackle
body - orange fine chenille (3 wraps)
grizzly hackle palmered from the rear (3 wraps)
Wing - white calf body hair
thorax - peacock herl

non beaded version

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Top Flies of 2012 - the Usual

So here it is; the last of the top flies of 2012 and as promised it is from Fran Betters.  The fly has an unusual name.  Apparently as the story goes, Fran was experimenting with snowshoe rabbit, common in the Adirondacks in winter, and tied a half dozen.  They sat in his shop for a while until Bill Phillips came by and bought the whole lot.  Apparently Bill was known to fish the fly everywhere he went and whenever anyone asked him what fly he was using he simply replied "the usual."

The fly is made entirely from the fur of the foot of the snowshoe rabbit which has a water repellent quality to it.  The dubbing formed from the fur is translucent allowing the color of the thread to  color to the body of the fly.  This past season, I had some excellent evenings fishing this fly when the sulfurs starting appearing from just before dusk into the dark.  I still remember one evening in particular, casting the fly out into the darkness and listening and feeling the takes of  large rainbows rolling on the fly.

This fly has everything I love about a good fly, an impressionistic profile and simple construction.  All it takes is a snowshoe rabbit foot and some thread.  I tie this fly on #14 and #16 short shanked hooks.  The shorter hook keeps the fly small but provides the wider gap of a size larger hook.  I tie this fly with fire orange thread and  primrose yellow.  Fish it on the dead drift as any other dry or tug it under at the end of a drift and retrieve it, both are effective ways to fish this fly.  I definitely recommend having  some of these in your box come summer and when your buddies ask you what you are catching fish on you can reply "the usual."

Mustad R48 size 14 or size 16
Fire orange thread
Natural or cream snowshoe rabbit fur (tail, body, and wing)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Some nymphs from Fran Betters

 Alan, over at Small Stream Reflections and I have been messing around with some nymphs from the well known Adirondack tyer, Fran Betters.  I have a particular interest in the impressionistic approach to fly design and is the reason for my interest in the North country spiders.  Fran was well known for a similar approach in his buggy, impressionistic flies.  This post is about two lesser known nymphs that Fran tied that I ran across when trying to figure out what Alan's "mystery fly" was.  Fran called this fly the Muskrat Beadhead.  He used two colors of dubbing for this fly, a gray muskrat fur dubbing and an rusty orange possum dubbing.  Fran explained the addition of the deer hair wing as follows "by adding the deer hair and the herl behind the bead, you are making the fly much more productive and representative of a stone fly plus a host of other insects".  Here's my version of Fran's nymph in both orange and gray.  I've also tied a version without the bead for fishing small streams where the weight is a disadvantage.  Notice the fire orange thread and rough appearance, two hallmark's of Fran's flies.

Muskrat Beadhead
size 14 2XL nymph hook
Fire orange thread (it would be authentic without it)
3.2mm brass bead
natural possum dubbing
Deer hair wing
peacock herl thorax
I've experimented with the dubbing a bit since I wanted a lot of the guard hairs of the possum in the dubbing but this darkened the color quite a bit so I blended fire orange rabbit dubbing in until I was able to have a burnt orange colored dubbing.

Burnt orange dubbing - blend of orange possum and fire orange rabbit
Orange possum version with same materials as the gray
Small stream version
What's up next ?  Well, I'm planning on doing a couple posts on some of Fran's lesser known patterns as well as finishing up the series of "top flies of 2012" with another of Fran's flies so stay tuned !

Monday, January 14, 2013

Top flies of 2012 - isonychia comparadun

Next up in the series - top flies of 2012 is the isonychia compardun.  The isonychia is a large mayfly that appears in late August and remains on the water through October in the northeast.  While you rarely see "hatch" with large numbers of insects on the water, you will see a couple here and there throughout late summer and fall.  Because the isonychia dun are so large (#10-12), at a time when most insects are small, and the fact that the fish are used to seeing them for a long time, they usually draw a response.  This past season, I caught fish on this large dry fly even when there were no duns around.  This fly is always in my box by the time fall rolls around and I fish it often.

For this comparadun, I use a spectrumized Mahogany Brown dubbing which is similar to the dubbing used on the Hendrickson comparadun but with less yellow and more gray, purple, and red in it.

TMC 100 #10-12
Rusty brown UTC thread
4 dun microfibbets split 2 to each side for the tail
Mahogany Brown spectrumized dubbing (Delaware River club)
wing - dark coastal deer hair

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Brook Trout on driy flies in January?

The temperature was expected to reach 50F this afternoon, so Alan and I made plans to meet late morning and fish a stream we talked about last week but niether of us has fished in a while.  The section of stream we had in mind is over run with thorns.  We were hoping the snow had knocked them down at bit but I threw a pair of leather gloves and a small pair of pruners in my waist pack, just in case.


Last night the area had a good deal of rain and the brook was up quite a bit but clear.  When I arrived Alan was already at work so I followed his tracks in the snow and soon found him fishing a favorite spot.  We exchanged some experimental flies, one of which Alan quickly used to hook a nice brook trout.  The fly was a little too heavily weighted for this small stream so I'll make some adjustments (stay tuned).

Alan fishing a nice run in the snow and fog
We headed to the section we wanted to fish and soon decided that there was too much water to effectively fish the section we had in mind so we changed plans and headed to another area.  The day had a dreary fog that was the result of a light drizzle falling on the snow covered ground. Alan caught a few brook trout as we walked along the stream but I was coming up empty until I finally hooked a small brook trout on elk hair caddis that quickly fell off.  The elk hair caddis brought a decisive strike from a nice brook trout at the last spot we fished.  We admired the pinkish flanks of this beautiful fish, snapped a quick picture, sent it back to it's home, and headed back to the cars.

First Brook Trout of 2013 on a dry
We enjoyed the walk back talking of Maine landlock salmon, future flies to tie, and warmer days to come.  As Alan drove home, I decided to head back to where we meet in the morning and managed another brook trout on the elk hair caddis.  It wasn't a sunny bright day, but I was fun to be outside and catch a couple beautiful brook trout in dries in January.

Last brook trout of the afternoon

Monday, January 7, 2013

Top flies of 2012 - sulfur comparadun

As I mentioned previously, I fish a lot of comparadun dries.  I really like the comparadun because it sits low in the water, floats well, is straightforward to tie, and uses simple materials.  Oh and one other thing I like about them, they catch fish!  I have been using a lot of spectrumized dubbing which can be purchased from the Delaware River club.  Spectrumized dubbing is a blended mix of a lot of colors that produces the overall color when the dubbing is wet with lots of different highlights.  For the summer sulfurs I use pale yellow spectrumized dubbing in either a size 16 or size 18.  This fly accounted for a lot of summer trout for me and my fishing buddies.

TMC 100 (#16 or #18)
pale yellow thread
light dun microfibbets split for the tail
pale yellow spectrumized dubbing
comparadun deer hair wing

Friday, January 4, 2013

Top flies of 2012 – tan caddis puppa

Most everyone is familiar with and fishes the elk hair caddis.  We usually see both tan and green bodied caddis on CT rivers.  The elk hair caddis is a staple in my box for small streams.  I use a tan elk hair caddis and lately have been using a peacock herl body elk hair caddis.  This year I had good results with a Lafontaine tan caddis puppa fished on top in the surface film.

This is a tricky fly to tie and it takes a fair amount of practice to get used to working with Antron to get the “bubble” formed correctly.   Tightlines production has a nice video that I found very helpful.  For the tail I pick out a few fibers from the Antron sheath with a bodkin and twist them together.  This is best done before you trim off the excess Antron after securing the sheath.  One trick I've found is that the bubble gets twisted a bit when you make the first wrap at the head of the fly to secure it.  You can "detwist" at this point to unwind it a bit (you can see in the picture below there still is a slight twist in the antron sheath) and then secure it with some tight wraps of thread.  

TMC 100 #16 or #18
Brown thread
underbody – tan dubbing (I use antron)
Antron bubble – tan antron fibers
tail – a few antron fibers picked out from the bubble
comparadun deer hair wing
thorax – brown squirrel SLF dubbing

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Day 2013

Pete, myself, Alan, Kirk, and John (L to R)
Continuing a New Year's Day tradition the small stream "crew" met to kick 2013 off.  This was the first year I was able join in.

Today was raw and gray and the fish seemed content to stay at home but a few fish were caught.  We all met back at the cars for a stream side lunch provided by Alan that was delicious and just what we all needed to warm up a bit.  A great way to kick off the new year fishing with friends old and new.

John with the first brook trout of 2013
Chef Alan working his magic over some chili and franks
Happy New Year to you from all of us !