The Art and Use of Nap-Hats

I’ve always enjoyed hat of all kinds and have taken a number of jobs along the way that involved the wearing of helmets. It seems to me that most people only wear a hat, rather than inhabiting it. By this I mean a hat needs to fit in such a way that when you walk into a brisk wind it will stay on your head, and when you flop down on a couch or against a tree, the hat  should fit in such a way that you can slide it down to your chin (over your nose and eyes) and use it as a light-blocker. Not every hat will fill this bill. The best I have is  UP-assembled Stormy Kromer (Ironwood factory), which also doubles as a fly patch (Betty McNaults down one side, and green Yooper Hoppers down the other side although I don’t put the Yooper Hoppers on until we get back north.).

The Betty McNault dressing I prefer is essentially a royal coachman with a red tail. Other anglers seem to prefer a green body with red tail. Both  are effective and there is no need for anything to be rising in order to  inveigle a strike, the Betty being an excellent search pattern. Most of the small waters we fish in the western Upper Peninsula have sporadic hatches (if any) so there is little point to carrying anything except for various sizes and ties of blue wing olives (BWOs) which seem to pop forth  from late spring, through summer, into late fall on just about any cool,  cloudy day. Otherwise, gaudy wet flies seem to work best as do bushy raggedy dry flies.  The nastier and more dilapidated the dry fly looks, the more attractive it seems to be. Species doesn’t seem to count for much. Raggedy appearance and natural colors  are what matter.

I only recently  heard that the Betty was the late John Voelker’s  favorite fly, which may or may not be true. Always been my impression that he like teensy-weensy flies, of which the Betty is not one,  but who knows? Most Bettys get tied in #12-#16.

But back to hats. It’s fun to look back and see what others thought about the subject, for example, Walt Whitman, who wrote,” I wear my hat as I please, indoors or out.” Certainl this attitude has carried over. We are always amazed by the number of people , adults not teens , who wear their hats in restaurants of varying sophistication.

Shakespeare also had some thoughts on hats, this excerpt from Hamlet:

 “HAMLET: I will receive it sir with all diligence of spirit. Put your bonnet to his right use, ’tis for the head.
OSRIC:  I thank you lordship, it is very hot.
HAMLET: No believe me, ’tis very cold, the wind is northerly.
OSRIC: It is indifferent cold my lord, indeed.
HAMLET: But yet methinks it is very sultry and hot for my complexion.
OSRIC: Exceedingly my lord, it is very sultry, as ’twere – I cannot tell how. But my lord, his majesty bade me signify to you that a has laid a great wager on your head. Sir, this is the matter –
HAMLET:  I beseech you remember.(Hamlet moves him to put on his hat)” 

In Much Ado About Nothing, the Bard also gave us following line, which still holds today in some spheres: “ He wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat.”

One of my favorite chapeaus was given to me in Paris one night by my pal Bob Kunze. It s  Italian-made, a Borsalino Compania. This is a  100-percent wool fedora in coal-black, the kind of thing gentlemen once wore to the opera (low and high).  I’ve treasured this hat for a long, long time, and wear it when fishing in the U.P. the highest honor I can bestow.

Snow day here today, second one this week. High today to be around 10 and colder tonight. Winter is here!


Nice looking brook trout wet flies.
Betty McNault with green body.
My Stormy Kromer with Bettys. Warm hat, nice nap-cap, fly-patch.