Sunday, January 31, 2010

Classic North of England Spiders #1: Woodcock & Hare's Lug.

In line with a similar thread I started on the Fly Fishing Forum, I've decided to do a little series of posts on the north country spiders which so characterise our local fly fishing tradition.

Spiders are almost ubiquitous these days - they even appear on the far side of the Atlantic in the guise of 'soft hackled flies'. It's easy to forget that they actually originated over 150 years ago right here in the north of England, with pioneering anglers from Lancashire, Cumberland and particularly Yorkshire, leading the way in early river trouting methods. Those early flies have evolved little hereabouts with the charactaristic sparse style surviving to this day......although it is amazing how often we see poor imitations with heavy floss bodies and over-dressed hackles, passed off as traditional spiders.

Personally I believe it is a worthwhile exercise to attempt to preserve these classic patterns in more or less their original form. I was taught how to tie our local patterns by popular local angler - and now sadly deceased - Eric Sayers, and I consider it my duty to keep the fires burning so to speak. So over the next few weeks I will attempt to stave off closed season boredom by running through a series of north country patterns as I believe they were meant to be tied, starting with a personal favourite of mine, the deadly but unfashionable Woodcock & Hare's Lug:

Woodcock & Hare's Lug
I imagine this was devised as a caddis imitation. That's what I use it for anyway; fished on a short line upstream to fish bulging at caddis pupae, it can be absolutely deadly. I love this fly and it's given me some memorable moments.

Hook: Mustad R50 #14
Thread: Pearsalls silk - amber
Thorax dubbing: Sparse hare's ear
Hackle: Woodcock marginal covert


Tying notes:
1. I firmly believe in the use of bronze wire hooks for tying spiders. When wet, the silk takes on a lovely translucency which is enhanced by the gleam of the hook shining through from beneath. The use of black wired hooks as seems to be fashionable these days (eg TMC 103bl, an excellent hook but unsuited to the purpose), kills these patterns stone dead in my opinion.
2. Silk is tied in quite short - roughly opposite the hook point.
3. The dubbing is kept sparse and restricted to the upper half of the shank only.
4. Tie the hackle in by its tip - two turns max.

Hope you find the above useful. Nothing new here - indeed quite the opposite.....but take it from this north country lad, this fly  (and the others I'll post soon) are excellent fish catchers on spate streams up and down the country.


Hillend Dabbler said...

Lovely pattern. I have been interested in this style of fly for a while now. I have to admit I have tied quite a few of these NC spiders but not with the traditional silk which after reading your latest blog entry is crucial in keeping the tradition alive. I will be making amends though as I will be purchasing some pearsalls silk this week.

Jim Anderson said...

Thank you for your effort, Matthew. I, on the far side of the Atlantic, have been interested in these patterns since being introduced to them by Sylvester Nemes' book, Soft Hackled Flies, back in the 90's. A very successful pattern for me the past few seasons has been the Hare's Lug and Plover. I look forward with great interest to your future postings.