The Dettes

Walt Dette

Walt Dette

Walt approached Rube Cross and offered $50 to be taught to tie flies. “I also told him that if he taught me, I wouldn’t tie flies commercially and even promised not to share his techniques with others, ” says Walt. “He told me to go to hell.” The art of tying flies was a jealously guarded secret at the time. (The year was 1927.)

Undaunted and determined, the young Dette learned the Cross method by painstakingly untying and retying Cross, and other, flies. In so doing, he made himself master of the art and kept the tradition alive.

Unlike Cross, however, Walt, Winnie, and in turn their daughter Mary share the techniques with any and all. In fact, their techniques have spread from the East to the South and West, and just about anyone tying flies today has, in some fashion, been influenced by Walt’s untying of the Cross flies.

This excerpt was taken from Eric Leiser’s book, The Dettes, A Catskill Legend. In between my other tying, I have been studying Catskill style dry flies and their history. I’m not yet able to tie display quality Catskill style dry flies, but I plan to get there. This book and Mike Valla’s book, Tying Catskill Style Dry Flies are inspiring to me. For those of you who don’t know, The Dettes fly shop is still open. You can visit their website by clicking the link on the left hand side of FrankenFly. The shop is run by Mary and her grandson, Joe Fox. I contacted Joe and asked him if he would send me some photos of flies tied by each of them and he sent me the beautifully tied flies you see below. I have included recipes for each and I hope you enjoy them.

Conover - Joe Fox-1024

Conover – tied by Joe Fox

Tied in sizes 12 – 18
Hook: Mustad 94840
Thread: White waxed 6/0 (8/0 for small sizes) (UNI tan works well)
Tail: Cream (straw shade)
Body: Muskrat and red wool blended to heathery claret gray
Hackle: Golden badger (no black edge)

Delaware Adams - tied by Walt Dette

Delaware Adams – tied by Walt Dette

Tied in sizes 10 – 16
Hook: Mustad 94840 or equivalent
Thread: White waxed 6/0 (8/0 for sizes 14 and smaller) (UNI tan works well)
Wings: Rounded grizzly hackle tips (or hen tips)
Body: Medium olive wool palmered with grizzly hackle (medium olive dubbing fur may be substituted)
Tail: Grizzly hackle fibers
Hackle: Grizzly and brown mixed

Dette Caddis - tied by Mary Dette

Dette Caddis – tied by Mary Dette

Tied in sizes 12 – 18
Hook: Mustad 94840 or equivalent
Thread: White 6/0 waxed silk or UNI thread
Egg sac: Medium olive chenille (related to hook size)
Body: Muskrat dubbing
Wing: Brown partridge
Hackle: Dun and brown mixed

March Brown - tied by Winnie Dette

March Brown – tied by Winnie Dette

Tied in sizes 10 – 14
Hook: Mustad 94840
Thread: White waxed 6/0 or UNI thread
Wing: Wood duck flank
Tail: Dark ginger hackle fibers
Body: Sandy beige fox-fur dubbing
Hackle: Dark ginger and grizzly mixed

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