How reassuring that a fly dating back to the 19th Century should prove to be one of my little revelations of 2015, the introduction of a tiny smear of synthetic fibres resulting in something very interesting indeed. Not that it would be the first time I've meddled with a traditional spider pattern. In moments of boredom I have in the past committed all sorts of heinous crimes against the principles of our flytying forebears, the jumbled results of which used to occupy a compartment of my spider box which was seldom opened except in moments of desperation and/or clouded judgement. Time wasted stripping hooks with a razor blade has taught me one thing: if an embellishment is to be made to such a classic, then it must be a subtle one if the resultant variant is to be fished with anything like seriousness.
So after a glut of failed experiments, I always played a straight bat where my spiders are concerned, and tied them pretty much as the textbooks dictate....up until a couple of years ago when Paul Procter converted me to his Waterhen Bloa variant, the 'Pearly Butt'. That fly was - and still is - a revelation, to the point where I seldom tie my waterhens 'neat' anymore. To look into a box of Pearly Butt Bloas and see tiny glints of yellow olive irridescence winking out from the tangle of gunmetal, is to appreciate that a couple of turns of tinsel can lift an already deadly pattern to a whole new level.
I took inspiration from Paul a while later and after being amazed at the weird lilac-green fire emitted from certain shades of Hends Microflash dubbing, took a punt one afternoon and tied a batch of Dark Purple Snipes with a tiny dab of the aforesaid dubbed in behind the hackle. I kind of liked the result and gave the 'pimped-up' snipes a couple of run outs in the weeks that followed. The results were surprising. Fished upstream on a tenkara leader, I caught late season grayling straightaway. If paired with another fly, the flashy number always seemed to be the one to score, be it at point or dropper position. One afternoon I conducted an experiment and fished a team of three down and across: a pair of traditional snipes with the new version occupying the traditionally 'troublesome' middle dropper between them. You can guess where this is headed eh? An hour later I'd seen enough and my confidence in that tiny speck of flash was reinforced.........
Since then, I have - much as the case with Paul's waterhen variant - more or less eschewed the old school pattern altogether. Whether over time that proves to be an error of judgement, who knows; but for the time being it feels like a good call. Give this one a swim and see if you find the same.
4. Pimped-up Snipe & Purple
Hook: spider hook of choice #14-18
Thread: purple silk
Thorax: tiny wisp of Microflash #18
Hackle: snipe over covert
This might be a good juncture to mention the forthcoming Wild Trout Trust auction which takes place from 4th March this year. As always, there will be some excellent lots available and I cannot think of a better conservation body to support for anyone who cares about wild trout and their environment. Our club - the Yorkshire Fly Fishers' Club - will be donating a couple of days fishing on otherwise private beats of fine northern game rivers; and I have donated a box of spiders, the two patterns above featuring along with some other more conventional tyings (and an oddball one of my own favourites). If you like the look of the flies below, please do have a bid for this great cause!