Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bonefish Dick's Betsy Fly

-- Tying "The Betsy" --
As the snowy New England winter wears on, we find ourselves enjoying some quiet time at the vise to prepare for the warmer months that are fast approaching. As much as I love fly fishing in the winter, the closest tailwater is about an hour and a half away that typically requires 7x tippet and a 32 midge just to fool a 12 inch stocked trout. I'd rather tie flies and wait for ice out and the schoolies to return to the tidal estuaries.

2014 was my best year chasing New England Striped Bass from the shore and it will be hard to only fish the freshwater going forward. My saltwater mentor, Mark, has shown me some great locations, techniques and flies that have led to this success. One fly, the Yellow Betsy, accounts for 1/2 of the stripers I've landed and has become the "go to" fly when nothing else is working.
One of several stripers fooled by the Betsy in 2014
The creator of this fly, known as "Bonefish Dick", has posted a wonderful history and evolution of the Betsy along with multiple variations of the pattern through various posts on Stripers Online. I've combed through all these posts and picked Mark's brain for details on how to tie the Betsy which I'll share with step-by-step instructions below. But first, a brief history of the fly is copied here from Dick's post on Stripers Online:

The Betsy Story

I think like any fly, the Betsy was developed over time and refined. The original colors have always been the same Chartreuse and Yellow, the changes that have been made are in only two of the original materials that I now use. I have always used Unique Hair for the fly but it even now appears that this material is getting harder to find and when I do find it the texture of the materials does not seem to be the same. It seems now that it is finer, limper and straight, the little crinkle appears to be gone now and this does concern me.

Back to my original thought. The first fly was all unique hair, both the Yellow and Chartreuse with no red collar. The next step was the red collar and then the eyes where added a few years later. The original Betsy used silver Flash-a-bou.

The flash was changed when Electra scale flash was discovered and the flash was changed to chartreuse as well. The collar was eventually changed to Steve Farrar's Blend and this change in material has to be credited to my good friend Rich Cordeiro not to be confused with Joe Corderio, Rich's older brother. Joe does tie a small flat wing he calls the Lemon Lime which utilizes the Betsy colors. I find this to be a compliment to the Betsy, and while the Lemon Lime may duplicate the Betsy to a degree, it can not however duplicate it on any level.

Carrie Stevens, tied the original Gray Ghost streamer, and she added a red wrap around the head of the fly. It also was not at the back of the head but in the middle of the head and her red wrap was not done to imitate a gill plate but it was done as her signature to indicate the fly was an original Carrie Stevens Gray Ghost.

I did my red color as a sort of tribute to her and to use it as a gill plate as well by putting it at the back of the head.

The name of the fly came about early on and that was also a collaboration of sorts and it goes back to the early days of the fly and how well it worked. A friend of mine, John Kollet on the Vineyard, remarked that the fly worked so well, it was like Davy Crockett's old musket he called "Old Betsy" and the name sort of just naturally stuck and we always just called the fly the Betsy from that point on.

That is the story of the Betsy -- Post from Stripers Online on 5 August 2014 by "Bonefish Dick"

I've only briefly met Bonefish Dick once at the Cheeky Schoolie Tourney last year, but he kindly gave me permission to re-post the history and details on tying the fly. My tying approach is most likely different from Dick's but hopefully have captured the basic approach and magic of the Betsy.

Materials
Hook - Mustad C70S D 2XH/STD Size 1/0
Thread - UNI-Thread 3/0 Chartreuse
Tail - Spirit River Unique Hair Yellow
Flash - Flashabou Lateral Scale
Body - Steve Farrar Blend Yellow (sides) and Wild Olive (top)
Throat - Supreme Hair White
Collar - One Strand of Red Danville Rayon Floss
Eyes - Flat Stick On Eyes 1/8" Holo Silver with Black Pupil
Head Finish - Loon UV Clear Flow and Thick Fly Finish Epoxy

Step by Step Tying of the Yellow Betsy
Start with a Mustad 1/0 C70S D 2X in the vise.
Wrap a base of Chartreuse 3/0 Thread (waxed).
Unique Hair Tail about twice the hook shank in length. Add two strands of lateral flash on each side slightly longer than tail.
Cut a V-Notch in the bottom of the SF Blend Package and pull out a couple strands. Double the strands over and cut in half.
Tie the Yellow SF Blend doubled & cut strands on one side of the fly. Repeat for the second side. Use the same process for the Wild Olive SF Blend on the top of the fly.
Tie back to capture and pull the top and sides closer to the hook shank. Advance the thread to a second tie in point halfway between the first bunch and the eye.
Repeat the SF Blend Yellow (sides) and Wild Olive (top) at the second tie in point.
Turn the fly over and add the White Supreme Hair Throat.
Trim the throat to a length slightly behind the hook bend.
Build the head with additional wraps to shape with a nice taper from the eye to the body. Whip finish the head in the center.
Remove one strand from the 4 strand Red Rayon floss.
Wax the strand of floss.
Wrap about a 1/4 inch of floss as a gill band. I used a hackle clip to hold and wrap the floss.
Whip finish to secure the floss
After some experimentation, I found using a layer Loon UV Flow (thinnest) first to secure the eyes then coat the entire head, Then, use the Loon UV Thick to build up a head and finish with a coat of Loon UV Flow. Of course traditional epoxies can be used as well, but the UV epoxy and layering technique provides a clean and smooth head.
Placing the eyes one at time on each side of the head and using a small amount of Loon UV Flow to secure made it easy to position and secure the eyes.
Apply the Loon UV Flow, Thick and Flow again behind the gill band to lock the SF Blend in place.
Finished Head.
This is the untrimmed finished fly. If too much material was used, it's good to trim and shape the final fly for a slimmer profile.
The Betsy can be tied in multiple colors. Here a tail with Yellow Unique Hair and Flashabou White/Glow glow-in-the-dark flash. The body is made with SF Light Pink Blend (sides) combined with a top of Flash-N-Slinky Misty Green on top.
The Flashabou White/Glow glow-in-the-dark flash lights up nicely after a zap with the UV curing light. It will be interesting to throw these at night.
This is my first step-by-step tying tutorial so please provide some feedback on where it can be improved. I know the pictures could be improved but the iPhone 4 is my only camera.

I really like this pattern and all the variations that are possible. A batch was tied for the 3rd annual Fly Fishing New England fly swap. I'll be posting about the swap and the flies from the swap shortly.
Pink & Yellow Betsy's for the Fly Fishing New England Fly Swap
I know this is a long post, but appreciate you staying with it. Let me know if you have fished the Betsy. If not, give it a shot this spring and share your success with some comments below.