Spiders By Ron Jones
For generations fly fishing was usually undertaken using wet or dry flies fished near to or on the surface, fishing “nymphs” nearer the riverbed was seldom practised. In the last 20 years considerable innovations
have evolved allowing weighted patterns to be fished very successfully nearer the river bed.
Many anglers now use these techniques as a first line of attack. However, there will be many occasions during an angling season when fish, both trout and grayling will seek food in the upper layers particularly when food is abundant here.
Emergers, drown duns, and spinners and terrestrial insects are often found in the top few inches of water and a fly fished to imitate these can be very effective. One style of fly particularly suitable on such occasions are wet spider patterns. Curiously, they seldom actually imitate terrestrial spiders. They are tied to imitate any food items found in the surface layers and by changing the size and colour almost any fly encountered in an angling season can be imitated. They are extremely simple designs often incorporating only 2 or 3 components in the tying. Some may only have a tying silk body and only 1 half – 2 turns of hackle. Many of the more successful patterns are well over a 100 years old and have stood the test of time, as effective now as when they were first tied. Patterns such as Waterhen Bloa, Partridge and orange, snipe and purple and black spider should be included in any river fisher’s fly box. The secret is to keep the tying simple, slim and mobile, try to avoid over dressing spider patterns. Soft hen hackles and feathers from game birds are essential in tying spider patterns.
On smaller overgrown rivers and streams, particularly in high summer when insects of a terrestrial origin feature highly in the diets of trout, patterns tied with fatter peacock herl bodies and with various colour hackles are very effective. Although not strictly classed as spiders they can be fished with confidence. The humble black and peacock, long associated with lake fishing, can be good fly tied on size 16 and 18 hooks. It is not only on rivers where these patterns are successful; spiders can be used on lakes and reservoirs particularly for wild Brown trout and even rainbows which have survived and reverted to natural feeding. Patterns tied to imitate the many different buzzers encountered on still waters can often be more effective than the more precise copies sometimes used. On either river or lake 1 or even 3 flies can be used on a leader but in calm conditions on a lake or on slow pools on a river, it may be better to fish a single fly on a longer, degreased leader to keep surface disturbance to a minimum. The success of spider patterns throughout the season should not be underestimated, possibly the movement of the sparse mobile hackle may suggest ‘life’, the most difficult of all aspects of a natural fly to imitate.