Franz B. Pott is one of the most interesting innovators to produce flies in the american west. his life in Missoula, Montana began as a German immigrant who had opened a barbershop. However, Franz had not only brought hair cutting skills from Germany. He also imported a unique hair weaving skill learned in the trade of wig-making. Using this talent, he experimented in the 1920's in his barbershop and produced the first woven hair trout flies. These woven hair flies became the dominant commercial patterns of the first half of the 20th century in the Rocky Mountains. George Grant stated that Pott's Sandy Mite was Montana's most successful wet fly for 50 years and "...outsold it's closest competitor by at least five to one."
Pott's flies were famous for several reasons. First, they were extremely durable being produced on gut leaders and woven with coarse badge and ox-ear hair. This durability was vital to early fisherman in the tough economic conditions in which they lived. A fly had to be cost effective. Pott's flies cost a premium and retailed at 35 cents each or three for a dollar for the majority of their existence. Second, they were famous because they consistently caught fish. These flies imitated large caddis and stonefly nymphs and sported a hallmark brightly colored threaded stripe into the woven underbody of each fly (see Lady Mite underbelly). Given the flared woven hackles, the trout could easily see the colored bodies of these flies. The most famous of his patterns were the Mite series. Their name was believed to have derived from the term Helgra"mite" which was the name used for the large stonefly nymphs that inhabited big western rivers.
These commercially produced flies were obsessions of quality for Franz. In the 1930's and 1940's Franz hired female students from the University in Montana and neighboring towns to weave the bodies. He, however, retained he production of the woven hackles himself to ensure perfection of the final project. In the 1940's he leased his business to the Finline Tackle Co. in Denver, Colorado. This didn't last long. He disliked their quality and given his contractual clause of "high quality" was able to cancel the agreement and move the business back to Missoula. After his death the business was operated for a period of time by Gene Snyder who owned Angler's Roost fly shop out of Hamilton, MT (note Hamilton distinction on fly cards below).
Pott's flies were carded as noted above with the name of the fly, size, patent and site of production. On the front of the card is a brand mark that states "The Original and Genuine have my Signature F.B. Pott" and is accompanied by a facsimile of his signature. On the back of the bottom card displayed above is a rare authentic F.B. Pott original signature.
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