John's Spider Spider
By Jeffery Hamm, NZ

Previous Flies
Fly Tying Terms

About a week or so ago I was in my local fly shop talking with John, who works there on the weekends. John knows I like to fish wee wets, especially North Country Spiders. He thought that I should try tying a spider that, well, represented an actual spider rather than a spider that represented an emerging or drowned fly.

The week prior I had attended the fly tying exhibition that was being held at the same shop. One of the fellows demonstrated his pattern of a large spider, tied with legs made from trimmed furnace hackle and a wing case, or body cover, of turkey quill. The "body cover" really helped make the profile. That pattern, however, is tied quite large (the legs are 2 or 3 inches across).

From the same shop I had ordered a starling skin. A few years back my fly tying kit was stolen out of my car and in it, among other things of course, was a starling skin. It was the only one I had ever seen for sale here in New Zealand. The shop ordered in half a dozen, and I asked them to save me one. I kept a close eye on when they arrived.

Anyway, these 3 events all came together at the right time. I had my starling skin for soft hackles, I had just watched a demonstration of a real spider pattern, and then John suggested I tie a NC spider as a spider (a spider – spider). Since John suggested this to me, I call the resulting pattern "John's Spider Spider". I've not had a chance to fish this yet, but I suspect it would do well fished along a grassy bank when there's a bit of a breeze that might blow a few of the naturals into the water. It should do well whenever the fish are feeding on terrestrials like spiders, beetles, or ants.


    Hook: Size 12 (size to suit of course)

    Thread: Black.

    Abdomen: Black dubbing (wool or seal's fur).

    Wing case: Hen pheasant quill fibers.

    Hackle: Starling body feather.

Step 1: Tie on the thread making a smooth underbody. Leave the front portion of the shank bare. The reason for this is that we want to create a nice fat abdomen but we want the body quite small in proportion. So, to avoid any build up of excess bulk, we start off leaving this area empty.

Step 2: Now we're going to build up the abdomen. It is made out black acrylic yarn which has been pulled apart into dubbing fibres. You know how in most fly tying books you read the advice of "take as much dubbing as you think you will need, throw out half, and that's probably about right"? Well, for most people starting to tie, it's probably still way too much. Below is the amount of material I'll use for the first pass. And, if I weren't building a fat ball, this would be enough to dub the abdomen of a nymph on this size 12 hook:

Here's the amount of thread this whiff of dubbing will cover:

And here it is turned onto the hook:

That would be just about enough for the start of a black nymph body.

Step 3: Now, repeat this by adding about the same amount of dubbing then wrapping back. Keep adding small amounts and layers so you can build up and shape the abdomen of a spider:

The reason I suggest building this up in layers rather than in one go with a big fat ball of dubbing is because by doing this in layers it should hold together a bit better. One big fat ball will, I suspect, just get pulled apart once a trout gets it's teeth on it. Hopefully the multiple thread wraps, with smaller amount of fiber per wrap, will hold together a bit more. That's the theory anyway.

Step 4: Tie in a small slip from a hen pheasant quill. This will get tied onto the bare front section of the hook.

Step 5: Select a body feather from a starling. Although any small dark soft hackle type feather will do I like starling feathers and the "sheen" that's on them mixed with the dusty dun section as well. The white dot at the tip will, on some feathers, give you white tips to the hackles as well:

Step 6: Tie this in by the tip just in front of the "wing case" and bring the thread forward.

Step 7: Palmer the feather forward. This was four wraps of the starling feather.

Step 8: Pull the hackles down under the shank and pull the wing case down and tie in. Trim off the excess quill fibers.

Step 9: Form a small neat head, trim the thread, and cement.

I've tied a few of these now, some in brown using fox squirrel guard hairs for dubbing, and some in claret seal's fur. I'll be interested to see how well they hold up to the fish, and just to getting wet and cast about. Tight lines! ~ JH

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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