This is me on my local river Spider fishing for Brownies. What a day it was too, I had fished spiders all day without success (that was what I had planned to do!) then in the last hour a change to size 16 Caddis Emergers took two. Just goes to show how early predictions, ideas and hopes for a day’s fly selection doesn’t always work… a bit like the weather forecast, I suppose!

Although I have fly fished since the early seventies it was not until the 1990’s that Spiders and Soft Hackles became my new adventure, an escape into another world of tying and fishing. I have and still do occasionally copy the old masters from the books on my shelves but for the past few years those books have just sat their collecting dust. Nowadays I look at pictures of the natural fly and with some imagination put together mixtures of traditional materials in my attempt to discover my own spider patterns such as my Craig’s Mayfly.

In 2014 I created a new general pattern for myself which I have named “Spey Spider”, a pattern with a much longer hackle. It has been a successful fly for me on the Swedish rivers (where I now live) and the more I fish them the more confidence I gain using them. In my mind it is not a traditionally known spider/soft hackle pattern as it uses a hackle approximately two and a half times the length of the body.

I normally pluck the hackle either from the back or the flank of the bird and in many cases Waterhen. From the back, the colour is a darkish grey with a touch of green and from the flank; it is a super blueish dun colour. These hackles are extremely soft and webby and because of these two characteristics alone the hackle fibres fall back sufficiently over the body of the fly to create the illusion of the shuck shedding stage as the fly emerges through the surface layer.

In flowing water and fishing across and down very little work is required except line mending but fishing upstream the flies need to be worked (speeded up) which is never a bad thing as it often induces a take. Of the Spey Spiders I have created, four have been exceptionally successful; Waterhen Bloa, Blue Winged Olive, Waterhen and Purple and the Medium Dark Olive Spey Spider. Behind the hackle I have found it necessary to tie in a thorax (I often use rabbit or beaver) not just to create that teardrop effect but to keep the spread of the hackle around the body fairly even and to prevent hackle collapse. As previously mentioned hackles are webby and extremely soft which although doing the intended job it also has a negative effect in that it doesn’t take many fish to render the fly below par!

Fishing Spey Spiders is no more difficult than any other types of fly fishing although false casts should be, if one is to prolong the life of the fly, kept to a minimum where possible. I prefer to fish after rising fish but that is not always possible so whilst waiting for the fish to start moving I fish all the ‘should hold fish areas’. I tend to cast 90 degrees across and as the line lands on the water I mend the line by dragging it upstream so that I can dead drift.

Now it is time to work the fly by lifting the rod to induce a take by putting life in to the hackle, moving the fly across the river by imparting small mends in the line and by doing so one can hold the fly in front of the fish and move the fly to and fro across its nose. With a relatively high rod tip the fly can be held static in the water and with concentration one can feel the fly being slowly moved by the fish. Concentration is paramount and it is hard work but the rewards can be phenomenal.


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