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BlueRaiderFan
09-16-2009, 05:03 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/14/sports/14betters.html?_r=2


Francis Betters, Noted Fly Fisherman, Dies at 78



By MITCH KELLER
Published: September 13, 2009
Francis Betters, a fly fisherman known for his lifelong intimacy with the rivers of the Adirondack Mountains and his long ownership of a fishing shop there, died Sept. 6 at his home in Jay, N.Y. He was 78.
The cause was heart failure, said his wife, Jan Betters.
Mr. Betters was the opposite of the glamorous professional fisherman who travels from one exotic place to another to write, photograph or be filmed. He stayed close to home, going to his shop every day, building fly rods, making trout flies, writing Adirondack-infused books and articles, and providing customers with instruction, fishing guides, advice and encouragement.
For almost five decades, fishermen visiting the Adirondacks have made their way to Mr. Betters’s shop, the Adirondack Sport Shop, in Wilmington, N.Y., northeast of Lake Placid. Especially for anglers traveling to that wild, river-laced region for the first time, the shop was a place to find their bearings. Its two incarnations (Mr. Betters moved the shop a quarter-mile up the road a few years ago) were close by the West Branch of the Ausable River (http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/regions_pdf/wbranch.pdf), the region’s greatest trout stream and the stream that defined Mr. Betters’s life.
Mr. Betters was born April 30, 1931, in Wilmington. His mother died giving birth, and he was adopted by Margaret and Victor Betters, a prominent North Country hunter and fisherman. His father gave him not only a first-rate education in fishing and observing the natural world, but also the opportunity to meet and learn from famous anglers like Ray Bergman, one of the major American fishermen of the 20th century. In angling terms, it was a very privileged childhood.
While still a teenager, Mr. Betters created his first lasting contribution to fly tying, the angler’s craft of using furs, feathers and other materials to fashion, by hand, imitations or impressionistic approximations of the aquatic insects and other stream life consumed by game fish like trout. He called his fly the Haystack, and it is still commonly used by anglers who need an unsinkable, highly visible fly to entice trout to the surface in fast, rocky, turbulent currents.
The West Branch of the Ausable is famous for water like that. “It is not a stream that will appeal to the timid, the weak or the old,” Mr. Bergman wrote of the West Branch in his classic book “Trout.” “You like it best before you reach the age of 40.”
This was exactly the kind of water Mr. Betters preferred in his prime. In “Fishing the Adirondacks,” a book he published in 1982, he wrote that “my forte is fly fishing fast-water streams.”
“I enjoy the challenge of wading fast water and playing and landing a large fish in the heavy currents,” he said.
That Mr. Betters could wade and fish such demanding rivers at all was remarkable. As a young man, he had sustained a broken neck and a broken back in a car accident in the Adirondacks. He was taken to a hospital in Montreal, where, his wife said, he spent a very long time “flat on his back with everyone telling him he’d never walk again.”
“He always attributed his comeback to the Ausable River,” said Mrs. Betters, who married Mr. Betters in 1994.
It was the pull of the river and his angling life before the accident, Mrs. Betters said, that drove him to regain his mobility, so he could wade and fish once again.
At his death, Mr. Betters had been unable to fish for some time, but he continued to tie trout flies until four to six weeks ago, Mrs. Betters said.
“He would tie somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 flies a year,” she said. “He tied between 150 and 200 a day during the season. He could tie a complicated Ausable Wulff in three minutes.”
The Ausable Wulff is another popular, widely copied fly pattern for which Mr. Betters is well known among fly fishers.
In addition to Mrs. Betters, survivors include a daughter, Margaret; a granddaughter; and two great-grandchildren.
Mr. Betters was inducted into the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame (http://www.cffcm.net/pdf/CFFCM-PressRelease-2008HOF.pdf) of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum (http://www.cffcm.net/) in 2008, honored for, among other things, being “the ambassador for the Adirondack waters.”
Mrs. Betters, who is trying to sell the Adirondack Sport Shop, said that Mr. Betters did not want a funeral, but that a celebration of his life would be held in early October on the banks of the West Branch. The date and location will be posted on adirondacksportshop.com (http://adirondacksportshop.com/).