Monthly Archives: November 2012

New posts coming to FrankenFly!

Frankenstein's labI have some exciting stuff coming to FrankenFly in the very near future, so I wanted to give everyone a look into the laboratory to get a glimpse of what’s ahead.

The next interview will be with Thomas Harvey of Carolina Fly. This guy designs and ties some awesome flies and is really inspiring. I’ve been following his work for awhile and I’m looking forward to interviewing him.

Michigan fly tyer Todd Schotts tells me he has a fly pattern he will be sending my way to post on FrankenFly. Todd is a great guy and a great tyer. I can’t wait to see this pattern!

You might have heard of Juan Ramirez of the Hopper Juan blog. Besides writing an interesting blog, Juan is a fly tyer and fly fishing guide. Juan will be giving us a look inside his fly box. This should be way cool!

Another popular blogger and fellow Indiana native Dave Hosler of will be doing a step-by-step of one of his favorite patterns. Dave was recently added to the pro staff at Regal Vise.

Speaking of Indiana, I just spoke to Wildcat Creek Outfitter’s guide Mike Exl today via phone. Mike has been working for Wildcat since he was a teenager and teaches fly tying classes at Wildcat. I’ll be writing up a post and Mike will be sending me some of his handy work from the vise.

Experienced Michigan guides Jeff Hubbard and Mike Decoteau are both planning to contribute something to FrankenFly as soon as guiding season is over. So we should be hearing from both by the first of January hopefully.

One of Old Au Sable Fly Shop’s guides Alex Lafkas is in the process of sending me a couple patterns to include here at FrankenFly. That will be an early Christmas present receiving flies from Alex in the mail.

The totally awesome Mike Schmidt of Angler’s Choice Flies has confirmed that he will contribute to FrankenFly. He has been busy with orders and shows lately.

I plan to review some Clear Cure Goo products soon. I’m impressed with their products and I hope to write an informative review.

Last but not least I want to give a shout out to the print magazine, The Cedar Sweeper. This is a very nice Michigan fly fishing magazine in print. I have been blessed to have the editor Charles Sams publish several of my articles in The Cedar Sweeper. The next issue will be coming out very soon. So check it out, it’s a great read!

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Spotlight on Dennis Collier

Dennis Collier fantasy fly

Dennis Collier claims to have been radiocarbon dated back to the early 1940’s when he arrived on the scene in his home state of Colorado. And, blessed with a father who, early on, took him on frequent fishing expeditions to Front Range venues, his fate to become a lifelong angling addict was cast at a very early age. Reminiscing on those days, Dennis states: “As a young boy back in the 40’s and 50’s I would sit on the stream bank and watch my father fly fish, amazed and elated each time he brought a beautiful trout to net. And, like many, my introduction to fly tying came in a cardboard box labeled ‘Basic Fly Tying Kit’ which Santa left under the tree one Christmas so long ago.”

“In the late 1940’s and through the 1950’s, Colorado was an uncrowded wonderland of fishing and hunting opportunity for a young man who loved the out of doors. In my early pre-driving teens, a fly fishing friend and I would enlist the assistance of our respective mothers to shuttle us to and from Chicago Creek, south of Idaho Springs, Colorado. There we would stream test our latest gaudy creations of fur and feathers on the little resident brookies and cutthroats. That was in the mid-fifties and our mothers were precursors to todays so called soccer moms.”

“When I turned sixteen, a newly claimed drivers license and a few bucks in the pocket garnered from after school jobs, was all that was needed to explore the many remote mountain areas of Colorado and neighboring Wyoming. To this day, I still prefer to find and fish lesser known waters, even if the fish aren’t quite as big, than to engage in elbow to elbow angling combat on big name angling venues.”

In the ensuing five-plus decades, Dennis logged countless hours on both lakes and rivers throughout the western United States and Canada. He has worked as a fly fishing guide and instructor, and has written numerous articles on the subject of fly tying and fly fishing for Fly Fisherman Magazine, Southwest Fly Fishing and Northwest Fly Fishing magazines. He has also been a featured fly fishing photographer on the Global Fly Fisher web site; and a featured fly tier in Southwest Fly Fishing Magazine (May/June 2011).

Dennis CollierDennis encourages all who are interested in fly tying and fly fishing to visit his own web site at Here you will find several articles in their “pre-published” and unedited form (he asks that you overlook all the typos, etc) that also graced the pages of the aforementioned publications; as well as several of Dennis’ signature fly patterns and their respective tying steps. Included on the web site is an art gallery which displays some of Dennis’ fish and fly related art work. Quoting Dennis: “I will be doing some test marketing in the near future to see if there is any interest in Limited Edition fine art prints from some of my pencil drawings of fish, and the pen and ink renderings of fantasy flies.”

Following a feature article on the Callibaetis mayfly in the June 2010 issue of Fly Fisherman Magazine, Dennis was contacted by the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor, New York, requesting several of his fly patterns for inclusion in their museum archives. To Dennis, this is one of the best validations he has ever received with regard to his fly tying endeavors. Others of his fly patterns can be viewed in the book “Go-to Flies” by Toni Lolli; and on the following web sites: Flytier’s Page; Charlie’s FlyBox, Inc.; Fishing with Flies

Dennis is a contract fly designer for Umpqua Feather Merchants, and over the years has been a guest fly tier at the International Sportsman’s Show; the annual West Denver TU Fly Tying Expo; the AFFTA show; and several Colorado, Front Range, fly shops. He is currently a registered fly tying demonstrator with the International Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) and a member of Trout Unlimited.

When it comes to fly tying Dennis subscribes to the mantra “if it isn’t broken, fix it” and as a consequence even traditional patterns are fair game to his tinkering at the tying vise. According to Dennis: “Over the years my fly tying has been more a means to an end; that is, to catch more fish. That said, I do derive a great deal of personal satisfaction in developing fly patterns that accomplish that goal, and in creating flies that have both esthetic and fish catching appeal.”

Doing fly tying demos also keeps me busy coming up with new patterns, techniques and materials to make things interesting for the audience.


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Rich Strolis / Brian Wise new videos!

Well, today is a good day! Rich and Brian release new videos on the same day!

Rich informs us that Synthetic Quill Body material is back thanks to Kevin Compton and Performance Flies. Then Rich shows us how to tie a Synthetic Quill Nymph. See the video below.

Next up Brian Wise posted a new video of Rich’s Hog Snare streamer. (Are these guys on the same page or what?) Be sure to read Brian’s post to get a sense for what the Hog Snare is all about.

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Al and Gretchen Beatty – authors/fly tyers

EZY KolzerThe authors are best friends, on and off the water, at the keyboard, or working side by side. They make their home in Boise, Idaho; Gretchen’s hometown. Al often remarks that his home will be anywhere Gretchen is so you all know where his heart is. There they operate the family business (BT’s Fly Fishing Products), write, and operate a video production company (fly fishing and tying videos, of course). They got married on April Fool’s Day in 1993 and are as much in love today as when they walked down the aisle together. You might ask, “Why April Fool’s Day?” That’s so Al won’t forget his wedding anniversary, anyone should know that!

Their lives came together with starts at opposite ends of the country; Oregon for Gretchen and Arkansas for Al. Born a war baby in 1943 in Fort Smith, Arkansas Al’s journey to recognition within the fly-fishing community had very meager beginnings on a dairy farm in north-western Iowa, his mother’s home state. Milking cows at four-o-clock, morning and evening seven days a week, did not leave much time for fishing. But he was bit by the fishing bug at an early age and did manage several times a week to hitch a ride to a near by lake to fish for crappie with worms and a bobber. There Al observed his first fly fisher catch a crappie right next to his location on the bank and he was hooked! Fly-fishing was the sport for him. He just needed to figure out how to get started.

At the start of all of his fly tying or casting clinics, Al describes himself as “a fly-tier who fly-fishes.” That proclamation is a reflection on his early years in Iowa. He received a Herter’s fly tying kit for his fourteenth birthday and a month later was selling flies to a local hardware store. Since that start as a commercial fly tier, Al has sold flies every year for the past forty-plus years. That includes 1968 spent with the US Army in Vietnam, his least profitable commercial tying year when he only tied three dozen flies for an officer who wanted to fly fish the Mekong River. Other years your authors have produced near 3000 dozen flies but today tend keep the amount to around 500 dozen per year.

It was more than a year after Al started selling flies that he finally put the money together to buy a fly rod, reel, and line. Al often pokes fun at him self by saying, “It took me a year to get that first fly rod and another twenty to learn how to cast it.” There weren’t any casting instructors or fly-fishing clubs in the Iowa farm country in the mid 1950’s.

After twenty-plus years struggling to learn fly-casting Al encountered a life altering experience when in the early 80’s he discovered the Federation of Fly Fishers at their Conclave in Spokane, Washington. Al learned more at that one show about fly casting and tying than he had acquired teaching himself during the previous years. From that day forward Al has dedicated himself to the Federation of Fly Fisher’s goals, Conserving—Restoring—Educating Through Fly Fishing. At first he learned from the best of the best; Dave Whitlock, Lefty Kreh, and Mel Krieger just to name a few. In time he graduated from the roll of student to that of an instructor.

Al and Gretchen generously share their skills with people the world over. Today they are sought after instructors/demonstrators for organizations on a local, regional, national, and inter-national basis. Both of your authors have been recognized for their contribution. Al has received the Buz Buszek Memorial Award & the Man of the Year Award and Gretchen was recognized with the Woman of the Year Award in 2001.

Though both of your authors are recognized today in the small world of fly-fishing, Gretchen’s start along this path was much different from Al’s. She was born in 1944 in Klamath Falls, Oregon to the fly-fishing Evans family. Her father Dub worked in various locations during the war years on “critical construction” as a plumbing and heating contractor for the US Government.

At the end of the war the Evans family returned home to Boise to resume life. Besides keeping busy with his plumbing& heating business Dub made certain to find time to fly fish and tie flies on a commercial basis. Gretchen fondly remembers sitting next to him at the tender age of six sorting hackle/materials for him as he constructed flies in the “rotary fashion” on a converted treadle sewing machine. Years later when Gretchen started tying with Al she asked, “What’s all this?” when he introduced to her tying tools like hackle pliers, a bodkin, and a bobbin. The only tools she had needed up to that time was a pair of scissors and the rotating-treadle vise she got from her father.

Gretchen also well remembers Dub carrying her across the steam on his shoulders so she could fish her Royal Coachman on the other side. In the early years her rod of choice (what dad gave her) was a trimmed willow stick and a section of leader. With that rig she terrorized the fish in the central Idaho streams near her home.

The years passed and Gretchen became a young lady who still loved to fly fish with the family and down hill ski with her brother Bill. Eventually college, marriage, a career, and a family placed demands on her time so fly-fishing and tying went on a back burner for several years. They remained on that back burner until…!

In the late 1970’s both Al and Gretchen went to work as managers for GTE (later to become Verizon). Their careers bounced around each other for the next fifteen years. Often while at a meeting or working on a project, Gretchen would speak of her early years as a fly fisher and fly tier. At those times the soft, far away look in her eyes reached out to him. Al learned the tough manager really had a heart of gold. In time, their passion for a sport developed into a love for each other.

In 1993 they married, retired from GTE, and entered the full time fly-fishing world. They are now writing their eighth book and hope it won’t be their last.

Al and Gretchen have many beautiful flies and I have included a pdf with recipes and photos sent to me by Al and Gretchen. You will notice those amazing wonder wings on several of their patterns. To read more about those amazing wings, check out this informative article written by the dynamic duo themselves.

Al and Gretchen are definitely a class act and I wish them all the best in their future endeavors.

Al and Gretchen Beatty


Filed under Trout flies

Michael Decoteau – RedSpotFly

Fox CrawProfessional fly tyer and guide Michael Decoteau is originally from Maine, but now resides in Ohio.  His fly tying business, RedSpotFly, is mainly focused on hairwing Atlantic salmon flies, streamers for steelhead, and presentation streamers. He designs patterns for the seasons that will be shared on the Steelhead Alley Tying Blog that will not likely be offered through RedSpotFly, but rather provide tyers with new patterns to add to their own boxes. For example, the carp fly that is pictured here called a Fox Craw.

Michael is busy finishing up guide season on Steelhead Alley, but by mid-December he will be hard at work at the vise again. He mentioned that he will be tying up some Rangeley style featherwings and some swinging flies for steelhead at that time.

He is preparing to teach some classes this winter in Michigan and Maine. Two full day courses at Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop in Maine, one day on freshwater streamers and one day on flies for Steelhead Alley. You can check out the details at the Eldredge Brothers website. This will be followed by Bar Flies, an evening of tying put together by Schultz Outfitters in Michigan.

Be sure to visit RedSpotFly’s facebook page frequently to look at all of Michael’s other beautiful flies.



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Pat Barnes – autobiography

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve researched and learned a lot about Pat Barnes, who owned a fly shop in West Yellowstone, Montana, back in the mid-40s through the early-70s. The summary below was written by Pat Barnes himself back before he released his book, Ribbons of Blue. As far as I know and according to his son Charles, I don’t think this was ever published anywhere. It is a good summary of his life which of course includes fly tying.

Pat Barnes tyingI was born in Lewistown Montana in 1909, the son of a locomotive engineer on the Jaw Bone R.R, a branch of the Milwaukee Road.  Dad was born in Indiana, went to Purdue University and came west when they needed men to push through trains when the west was still pretty rugged.  My mother was a native of Montana, one of six children of the G. W. Marshall family who homesteaded on land which is now under Hebgen Lake, Gallatin County, fifteen miles north of West Yellowstone.

Before I was a year old my father move the family to Three Forks, Montana, on the main R.R. line and there I grew up.  My family fished as often as they could and as far back in my memory as I can recall.  In fact there was always a standing argument in the family as to who was the best fisherman, Mom or Dad.  Mom stuck to grasshoppers and worms and called Dad’s fly rod a “dude outfit”.  When I was so young that I thought I would fall through the space between the ties of the N.P. bridge over the Madison River I can remember helping my mother “kick out” a huge Madison River rainbow – possibly in the 10-lb class – which broke her solid cane pole several times before we finally splashed it up on the bank.

My earliest memories of fishing without my parents involved my free day, Saturday.  I split kindling, took the ashes from the fireplace and waited for the gang to get together to hike out to the slaughter house on the Jefferson River.  There was always bait there – maggots.  Our catch would include chubs, perch, carp, suckers, whitefish and an occasional trout.  I can remember the fuss made over the first little chub that I caught, my first trout, and the first time I filled the skillet ahead of my dad on one of our fish fries.

Growing up in Montana, at the headwaters of the Missouri River, was for me like stepping out into my grandfather’s time, pioneering, and entering the rapid western development following pre-World War I days.  Railroads west were new.  Our home went from well to city water, kerosene light to electric, one cow dairy to pasteurized milk, few game laws to more game laws.  Can you imaging catching 20 pounds of trout, a limit of 40, and easy to achieve?

Our whole family fished – my mother with a 16-ft cane pole, my father with a 3-piece split cane fly rod.  My mother didn’t need a reel.  My father did.  With a cane pole I could run to the Madison river after school, two miles from our home – and walk back with enough fish to last our family of four for two or three weeks.  Sometimes the extras went to the neighbors or the hospital.

During my high school years fishing and fly tying were two of my major interests. A group of boys that were all sons of railroaders rode on passes to Butte each Saturday to take music lessons – drums, trumpet, sax.  I went along and spent the day watching the girls in Beaty’s Bug House tie fly patterns.  Beatty and Jack Boehme were the only two professional fly tiers in Montana at that time, as far as I know.  Both of these men had some special skills that they gave me directly or that I gained through observation.

During my college days, and during the depression, two flies was the equivalent of Saturday’s hamburger special, three pounds for a quarter.  I had one faculty member and one garage owner as customers.  They helped keep the wolf from the door.

When I went to West Yellowstone to teach, my fly tying kit was honed pretty fine.  Enough material for myself, enough to tie a few specials for friends or customers.  It consisted of a wood box with four drawers of varying depth and large enough to hold my hooks, my largest wings, my Thompson vise.  The lid hinged down to form a tray to hold the vise.  It could be gotten out and put away in seconds.

It was in West Yellowstone that I met Don Martinez.  After being a steady customer of his while I worked summers for the Forest Service, he asked me if I would work for him as a guide.  Up to this point in my fishing experience, all my fishing was done with wet flies of various streamer patterns.  My job with the Forest Service was an outdoor job contacting users of the forest.  Often the users were fishermen and we had a common interest.  Ranger Lyle McNight recommended that I carry my tackle with me on campsite patrol trips and fish evenings with my contacts.  By doing this I got to know very well where fish were being caught and on what.  Don of course recognized this.

While working for Don I slowly changed from a wet fly fisherman to skilled using dry flies.  Don was well educated – a Princeton man.  Most of his customers were dry fly fishermen.  All they wanted me to do was take them where they could catch fish.  Through contacts with Don’s customers and as a guide for him I met many of the greats in the fishing world.  Lee Wulff was in West Yellowstone at this time and some of the other early writers.  The Long Beach’s casting champion of the year, Dick Miller, came to town, and from him I learned the Double Hall, increasing my wet fly casting distance to take the State Skish Championship two years in a row.

The third year that the tournament was held I was in the army.  Stationed in England, I sent for my fly line and reel, borrowed and English rod, and when the travel ban was lifted following the invasion, I was able to fish many of the famous trout streams and lakes in the British Isles, Scotland, and North Ireland.

I had the experience of working summers for Don and two years before the war.  In the meantime I changed teaching jobs and moved to Wilsall, Montana, where I met my wife, also in her first year of teaching at Wilsall.

Dan Bailey was just getting established in Livingston at that time.  He needed fly tiers.  After trying out a few different patterns I finally did tie one pattern that he would accept as salable to his customers.  I am sure it was Dan who first brought to Montana standard, quality flies.  He brought to my fly tying professionalism, that is, standardization of patterns.  Sleeping less than eight hours and fishing the rest, I decided that to make a living at the business I had better have my own shop.

The opportunity came when, following the war, Don Martinez moved to Jackson Hole (Wyoming) and I went back to West Yellowstone to establish a summer business of my own.  I went back to school to brush up on teaching techniques, earned my Masters degree, and maintained the summer business.

Following the war, supplies and materials were hard to get.  My non-professional fly kit was for a time our chief source of fly tying material.  By the time it was used up I had established enough sources of material to get by.

Fishing after the war in the West Yellowstone area was super.  Gas rationing had kept people off the streams.  Business grew.  When we sold everything we had to sell, I guided.  Our children came.  My wife became the shop keeper and fly tyer while I guided…..

For 36 happy summers I took customers to my favorite streams while my wife, Sigrid, tied flies for them.  During those years we developed and popularized several new fly patterns.

My fishing now is primarily on the Missouri River.  Retirement has given me time to pursue numerous hobbies:  adding to my fly collection, tying new fly patterns, making fishing nets, helping with our Missouri River Chapter of Trout Unlimited and completing my hopper collection.  I have seen Montana rivers at their best, and I hope that in some small way I have helped to preserve a fishing heritage for your grandchildren and mine.


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