Wednesday, 29 February 2012

More on North Country spiders or soft hackled flies

As readers to this blog will have read last season saw my introduction to fishing spiders or soft hackled flies as they say in the USA a term that I think is more apt than spiders but more of that later . Last season my first fishing spiders, I tied and fished the Partridge and Orange the Snipe and Purple and the Waterhen Bloa. These were my team of three.  The flies are a cinch to tie and of those I tried the Waterhen Bloa proved to be the most successful.

This winter I have obtained and read the works of  T E Pritt, Edmonds and Lee and Stewart.  Also the more recent Roger Fogg which I found excellent . All in order to better understand the method and to a lesser extent expand the patterns at my disposal.  I have also explored the internet for resources.  I can also recomend watching the the Oliver Edwards series of DVDs . I found them excellent and I am sure helped me to early success. I think when you can appreciate the difference between across and down and down and across and you realise an escalator isnt something you find in Marks and Spencers then you are well on the way..





So what have I learnt so far?, well like all branches and styles of  the sport there is as in most forms of fly fishing a fair amount of dogma. I have read interminable internet discussons regarding the correct thread for a partridge and Orange, and the correct number of turns of thread on the body and turns of hackle for that perfect style. the choice of hook alone seems to cause more discussion than I could have thought possible.  I am sure that such worries werent on the mind of the likes of Stewart and Pritt. I am also pretty sure the fish couldnt give a fig.

 Although there are some anglers who have stuck with the style for years it is now to some extent enjoying  a renaissance .  As for literature the old works can still teach us a great deal and are still a major source of knowledge ,   Stewart in particular is excellent, his approach is very different to what I imagined.  He talks of stealth and natural presentation and has tactical understanding that would not be out of place in todays publications. There is an article in the current FFand FT that talks in the same terms it just gos to show that in the fundamentals theres nowt new in the world.


To many readers who may be proficient with spiders this is an obvious comment but one of the keys to the success of these spider patterns is the mobility of the hackle materials. The feathers of the game birds used have a softness and open structure not found in cock and even hen hackles. Hence my reference in the first few lines to soft hackle flies been a more apt description . The waterhen and partridge hackles  have a mobility and translucency that beautifully mimics the drowned or crippled delicate dun wings .  The more robust hackles of the woodcock and grouse are perfect for sedges and stoneflies.  Combine this with the bodies of silk with sometimes the meanest of dubbing which have a lovely translucency when wet, dress this on a light hook and you have a very effective combination.

When you combine this with a high level of control in the presentation which the close range and  dead drift gives it makes for a very effective technique.  This is not the cast at 45% downstream and let the flies whizz round approach that so often is thought of as downstream wet fly .  I think that this is every bit as immitative as the upstream dry.  Incidentally fishing spiders upstream is a variation I am yet to try but I can imagine it to be extremely effective. So we are presenting an accurate imitation of the drowned or emerging fly at the speed of the current in or beneath the surface what could be better?, I for one am a convert and spiders will now have a permanent place in my kit.  I just have to learn more and get better at using them.


My selection of spiders so far is the Greenwells , Partridge and Orange , Waterhen Bloa, Grouse and Green and Grouse and Red ,  Woodcock and red , Snipe and Purple , Black Spider , March brown and some copper bead  Endricks.  Still room for a couple more patterns so any suggestions welcome...Only another month or so to wait now and I will be able to try them in the river....

3 comments:

Mark said...

Glad to see you enjoying these wonderful old patterns. They are enjoying a resurgence here is the states. I'm amazed at how often the Stewart's black spider will take trout. Enjoy fishing these gems this season and let us know how you make out

Kiwi said...

I have read all of those books and agree with everything you have posted. They are great flies and among some of the first that I tied. I still fish them once in a while. I tend to use tenkara style flies, the sakasa kebari. They are very similar to spiders except that the hackle faces forward. Which ever an angler chooses to use I don't think they can go wrong.

Chris Barclay said...

Fascinating! This past year I, too, have discovered this wonderful niche flies. I appreciate the referal of the books - I'll look those up.