by Matt O'Neal of Savage Flies: Find him on his YouTube channel at Savage Flies
This special Fly of the Month is tied by our good friend Matt O'Neal of Savage Flies. Most of the information about this fly was sourced by Matt from John Shewey's "Classic Steelhead Flies" published in 2015.
Jules Francois "Frank" Bekeart came to CA in 1849 in the first wave of the gold rush but quickly decided gold mining wasn't his thing. He started a gunsmith and gun sales business in the 1850s. His business prospered in San Francisco, and he ultimately turned it over to his youngest son Phil in 1890. (Philip Baldwin Bekeart, 1861-1936)
Phil was a competitive shooter, gaining fame among handgun aficionados for his design of target weapons. He was a highly-respected marksman, and west coast representative of the more well-known Eastern firearms manufacturers. He was also a dedicated fly angler.
He hung out with some of the more notable anglers of the day, including Will and Henry Golcher of Golcher Brothers Sporting Goods. All were members of the San Francisco Fly Casting Club.
Here's where the background gets a little hazy. All of these men would have known John S. Benn, one of the most notable fly tiers of the day. Some say Benn created this pattern and named it after his friend Phil Bekeart, but the English author A. Courtney Williams credits the fly to Bekeart in his 1932 book "Trout Flies."
Without more research we may never know for sure who created this pattern. I've still got a handful of old books to look through to see if it's mentioned anywhere. But either way, it's a nice looking fly.