9 Deadly Spiders: Top fly patterns and fishing tips

Traditional, understated and so often underused, spider patterns are a must for any fly box. Turrall’s Dom Garnett provides a host of traditional and modern favourites and tips for river and stillwater fly fishing.


There are so many reasons to recommend spider patterns. They are simple to tie, yet so effective for various species. Thanks to their subtlety and excellent movement, they also work in tricky conditions and so even if I don’t start fishing with one, there are always a few ready in my box.

A small water rainbow is hooked on a spider fished just inches deep.

So what exactly is a spider? Traditionally, it is a fly consisting of little more than a thread body and a sparse, mobile hackle. In fact the Americans simply call them “soft hackles”. Flies that date back to the earliest fly fishing.

They are fished wet and tend to work well with very little retrieve. There is such natural movement in the “legs” made of hen, pheasant, starling or any various soft feathers, that they often need little manipulation from the angler. In fact they are a godsend in flat calm conditions, or where there is little movement in the current. I like them for days when the streams are running low and clear, and also for stillwater fishing when there is little wind.

Classic spider patterns

Traditional Spider fly patterns Turrall

For the ultimate in simplicity and traditional good looks, we should start with some of the basics. The Black and Peacock, Greenwell’s Spider and Black Spider (above) are three to have in any fly box. The Black and Peacock is probably my most used fly of all time, not just for wild trout for me, but large rudd, roach and even carp.

The Black Spider is another classic and about as simple as it gets: A black thread body, a hen hackle and that’s it! It remains an extremely versatile fly though. Fished in the top foot or two of water, it’s a great little fly during a buzzer hatch on lake or river.

Moving on to other spiders, some traditional patterns are more colourful and less realistic, such as the Partridge and Yellow (above L). These flies are useful in stained water or to ring the changes when drab flies won’t work.

Along with the traditionals, we also have some newer flies in the mix at Turrall, to target different species. Chris Ogborne’s Moorland Spider (above middle) is ideal for smaller streams, while my own Dace Ace is a tiny bead head to try for coarse species.

Spider fishing tips

River fly fishing Devon

-You don’t need to impart a lot of action into a spider. The movement is already there, so try fishing these flies with minimal retrieve. Fish at dead drift on the river, or as you’d fish a buzzer on stillwaters.

-Besides being fished wet, small spiders are also excellent fished in the surface film. Try applying some floatant and present a small dark spider on a fine leader; this can be a real frustration saver when fish are rising to tiny insects and bushy dry flies don’t work.

-You can fish them singly, but spiders also work well as part of a team. Try two or even three in different colours to see what the fish want. Because they are so light and sparse, they are not always suitable as a point fly.

– Don’t expect every take to be a line wrencher. Spiders are incredibly easy for fish to inhale and you may get quite subtle bites. Be ready to strike at anything suspicious.


Spiders are among the best patterns of all to try for different species. I love small dark spiders for roach, rudd and dace. That said, brighter colours are also great fly patterns for bluegills, crappies and other US “panfish”!

 

 

Three spiders to tie and try yourself…

Because they are so easy to tie, spiders are also fantastic to make and fill your fly boxes without spending weeks at the vice. That simplicity also makes the style of dressing hugely versatile, whether you tie large or small flies, or want to add your own twist. Here are three I’ve had great success with recently.


(
Three spiders to tie yourself. L to R: Spider sedge, JC Midge & Beaded Black and Peacock)

Spider Sedge

This is my ultimate wet fly for chub. Not what was originally intended though, because Spider Sedges are a very old pattern, originally tied in larger sizes and winged to be fished wet or just sub surface.

Hook: Nymph 10-12
Thread: Brown
Rib: Gold wire
Body: Olive Alpaca Dubbing
Thorax: Peacock
Wing: Woodcock slips
Hackle: Grizzle Hen

JC Midge

Adding a sparse hackle to your favourite buzzer patterns is a great trick for stillwater trout and this is a good fly when rainbows are feeding in the upper layers. Be sparing though; you just want a hint of legs so just one turn of hackle is usually more than enough. For coarse species or hatches of tiny midges, you can also try these right down in size 16 or 18.

Hook: Turrall Barbless Grub 12-16
Thread: Black
Rib: UV Multiflash
Body: Partially stripped peacock herl, fine.
Cheeks: Jungle cock
Hackle: Black cock (one turn only)

Beaded UV Black & Peacock

I just love this fly for coarse fish. Large rudd and roach are usually the target. The usual spiders also work, but for windy days, or when the bigger fish hold a little deeper and you have to get down to them, this is the daddy. It’s also the pattern responsible for my 2lbs 3oz PB rudd, caught this summer.

Hook: Turrall barbless grub
Bead: Metallic Red 2mm
Thread: Black
Tag: UV multiflash (pearl or red)
Body: 2 strands peacock herl
Hackle: Black hen (two turns max).


Spiders are fantastic for rudd; this canal fish took a beaded spider.

Fly tying tips for spider patterns

– Less is always more with spiders. This is especially the case with hackles. The old masters of river flies recommended two to two and a half turns of hackle, but modern feathers are so dense, one turn might be enough.

-Standard nymph hooks are ideal for spiders, but they also look great on short shank hooks- or even a curved pattern such as grub hook.

-A few basic feathers will set you in good stead. Whole capes are brilliant for getting a wide variety of fly sizes, but a few smaller packs of feathers makes a cheaper starting point. Hen is perhaps the easiest to find and use, closely followed by partridge. Traditional materials like woodcock and starling are also excellent and cheap if you can find them.

-The same is true with body materials. Keep dubbings sparse, so as not to lose that slim spider profile. That said, you can also add some special effects with just a hint of embellishment. A fine UV rib works well, while it’s no coincidence so many classic spiders have a touch of peacock.

– If you like to secure your materials with plenty of turns, a lighter thread is excellent for smaller spider patterns. It’s especially important to avoid bulk and not clog up the hook.

-To some extent, proportions are subject to taste. But spiders tend to have slightly short bodies (finish above hook point or barb), but if anything hackles tend to be slightly long.

– Try to tie your hackle feather so that the fibres point out at a lively angle, splayed out, like the spokes of an umbrella. Tied like this, they’ll really breathe, so avoid pinning them back or trapping with thread.

Further Reading

For anyone interested in tying the huge range of traditional patterns, or indeed the history of these classic flies, some other books are well worth a read:

A Guide to North Country Flies and How To Tie Them: 140 Flies with Step by Step Photographs (Mike Harding)

The North Country Fly: Yorkshire’s Soft Hackle Tradition
(Robert L. Smith)

Be sure to keep an eye on the Turrall Flies Facebook page for our latest news, tips and the latest fly patterns.

 

 

How to Tie a Quill Buzzer: Fly Tying Step by Step

Is there ever a bad time to have a few buzzers in your fly box? With a few variations in size and colour, there aren’t many days in the entire year you won’t catch stillwater trout on these favourites. We must have sold enough buzzers to fill a bathtub over the years! Not all of these patterns have to be black, or ribbed using tinsel or flexifloss. In fact, good old stripped quill makes a lovely natural looking body that will appeal to wild browns as much as stocked rainbows.


Here’s our quick guide to tying a simple Quill Buzzer, as recommended by Turrall tyer and competition fly angler Gary Pearson:

QUILL BUZZER

Hook: Turrall Grub Hook (size 10-14)
Thread: Black
Body: Stripped peacock herl
Cheeks: Yellow goose biots
Cover: Strand of UV Multiflash

STEP 1: Take your thread and run it onto the hook until it catches tight. Run down the shank in touching turns.
STEP 2: Continue the touching turns evenly, until you reach a little into the bend of the hook.

STEP 3: Prepare a strand of peacock herl by carefully scratching off the fuzz. A finger nail should work, but if you’re struggling try an eraser.

STEP 4: Tie in the strand as shown. For an even body, it’s best to tie the length of herl right along the hook, rather than just a short “stub”. Be sure to tie in via the thinner end of the quill (this will help create a slightly tapered body).

STEP 5: Using hackle pliers to grab the end of the quill and bring it up to the eye in even turns.

STEP 6: Now secure the quill with a few tight wraps of thread, leaving plenty of space to make the head end of the fly.

STEP 7: Now take a yellow-dyed biot and secure along one side of the head as shown. Secure with a couple of fairly firm turns of thread.

STEP 8: Pair up with another, setting this on the opposite side. Remember, if you are not totally happy, you can always undo a couple of turns and try again!

STEP 9: Bind in place with several even wraps of thread and trim with scissors as shown.

STEP 10: Now add a strand of UV tinsel on top of the fly. This will add just a hint of flash to the finished fly.


STEP 11
: Now trim any excess and bind all the materials tidily with a few more wraps of thread, like this.

STEP 12: Now bring forward the yellow “cheeks”, followed by the tinsel strip and bind in place with a couple of tight turns of thread.

STEP 13: Now do the same with the UV tinsel, binding it in place with a couple of turns of thread.

STEP 14: Now trim all the excess cheek and flash materials as tight as you can! A really sharp pair of scissors will help here.

STEP 15: Now use just a few sparing turns of thread to tidy up and whip finish. You can now take a needle and/or brush and apply a thin layer or two of varnish. Tip: If you find it tough to get a nice even finish, try a thinner varnish and make more layers.

STEP 16: The fly is now finished and ready to fish!

These flies work perfectly in sizes 10 through to 14. Remember, the heavier the hook and the more varnish, the deeper they will fish. You can also tie them on finer nymph and emerger hooks to create slower sinking buzzers for those days when the fish are up in the water. You could also replace the flash with a tuft of CDC to create a suspender buzzer.

Stock up on quality materials and buzzers with Turrall…

For a selection of the finest fly tying materials and tools, try your local Turrall stockist or one of our online retailers. The Fly Line at Amazon UK sell a range of materials, hooks and tools, while the likes of www.troutcatchers.co.uk offer individual and boxed selections of our best buzzers, including the great value Turrall Fly Pod.

Fly fishing and tying tips: The Humungous

With the colder days of the fly fishing year ahead of us, lure style flies really come to the fore on small stillwater fisheries. Hence our fly of the month for November is one of those classic stillwater lure patterns that can be relied on to keep the takes coming. Hence this month’s blog provides some fly fishing tips and a handy step by step guide to tying one of the all time greats, the Humungous. 

Humungous and rainbow trout

Although it’s a regarded as something of a classic for rainbow trout in small, stocked fisheries, this design of the humungous fly pattern actually originates from the waters of Loch Leaven in Scotland. It was here that the fly gained infamy for catching big brown trout.

These days, however, the original has spawned a number of variants worthy of a place in any fly box. Our range includes classic olive coloured patterns, along with black and silver and viva style variants and even versions in hot orange and Cat’s Whisker hues.

Turrall_Lures_humungous02

Fishing the Humungous

Like other lures for trout, there is a lot more to catching fish than launching the thing out and stripping like a madman. You could indeed try a few quick retrieves high in the water to kick off, but should no early chases or takes commence, try counting down to different depths to find the fish.

A slower and steadier retrieve also keeps the fly deeper, holding it in the taking zone. A figure of eight, with regular twitches thrown in is ideal. You could fish it on a floating line with a longer leader between a rod’s length to twelve feet. There is little need to go any lighter than 8lb fluorocarbon.

Should you want to retrieve faster at depth, you could try a sinking fly line and a shorter leader of just six or seven feet. If you do bring it in quickly though, do be sure to throw at least one pause into the mix each cast. A little “break” in the retrieve can often be the trigger for a fish to hit the fly as it stutters and speeds up again.

Last but not least, try to make a mental note of how long you had let the fly sink when the bites come. If the action is hard and fast, or you use the same flies for more than one session, a hook sharpener is also an excellent idea to keep the point nice and sharp.

How to tie the Humungous
Colour choices are quite wide for this fly pattern and humungous variants are numerous. For extra attraction however, we would recommend a touch of extra flash in the tail and body materials (our UV Multiflash and UV Fritz are ideal for adding some extra sparkle!).

The other notable feature is the weighted head. Chain eyes do the job perfectly, but you could also try larger eyes, such as tungsten dumbbell eyes to create a fast sinking trout lure for really deep waters.

hourglasseyeblack_001

In this case, however, we have chosen classic Viva style colours, with a black marabou tail and green body.

Humungous (Viva variant)
Hook: Long Shank Lure Size 8-10
Thread: Standard Black
Eyes: Bead chain eyes
Tail: Black Marabou, with a hint of Turrall UV Multiflash
Body: Green Fritz Chenille
Hackle: Palmered grizzle cock

Step 1: Run some black thread just behind the eye of the hook, until it catches.

Turrall_Lures_humungous03

Step 2: Now pinch the chain eyes just above the hook, behind the eye. Carefully bind in place, using tight turns of thread in an X shape, as shown. Build up plenty of tight turns for security here- and you could also add a spot of varnish as you do so.
Turrall_Lures_humungous04

Step 3: Now run the thread towards the hook bend with a series of tight turns. Stop when you are above the hook point.
Turrall_Lures_humungous05

Step 4: Now for the tail. This is easiest to tie in two parts rather than one bunch of material. Start by snipping off a pinch of black marabou and measuring against the hook. A tail that protrudes about the same length as the hook itself is about right.
Turrall_Lures_humungous06

Step 5: Once you have bound the first pinch of marabou in place right along the back of the hook, you can then add a little sparkle. You needn’t go too crazy; 4 or 5 strands of flash is ample. As with the marabou, you will create a more secure, even body by tying right the way along the back of the hook, rather than securing just at the end.
Turrall_Lures_humungous07

Step 6: Now add another pinch of marabou of similar size to the first to complete the tail.
Turrall_Lures_humungous08

Step 7: Now take a grizzly cock hackle and tie securely along the hook as shown, so that you have plenty of feather to work with.

Turrall_Lures_humungous10

Step 8: Take a section of chenille and strip away the outer to reveal the core. Strip away enough so that you can tie this right the way along the back of the hook, as shown.
Turrall_Lures_humungous09
Turrall_Lures_humungous11

Step 9: Now make a body using even, touching turns of chenille, before tying off and trimming just behind the chain eyes.Turrall_Lures_humungous13

Step 10: Now wrap the feather around the hook in open, evenly spaced turns, like this. Make an extra couple of turns just behind the eyes to make the head a little bushier.
Turrall_Lures_humungous14

Step 11: Secure in place with 2-3 tight wraps of thread before trimming the hackle off.
Turrall_Lures_humungous15

Step 12: Now ring the thread so it sits just in front of the chain eyes. Here’s a useful fly tying tip for any pattern: Rather than only appealing varnish at the end, try applying a little directly to the thread before you whip finish, as shown. This way, the varnish will set right inside the knot, rather than just coating it.Turrall_Lures_humungous16

Step 13: Whip finish and trim to complete.
Turrall_Lures_humungous17

Last of all, do have some fun and try your own colour variants. Sometimes one colour scheme will outfish the rest. Bright colours can be deadly for stockies, while a predominantly olive or black version is also worth a cast for brown trout too.

Keep an eye on the Turrall Flies Facebook page and our Blog Archives for more step by step fly tying guides, tips, deadly new patterns and more.