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March Brown Spider
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March Brown Spider
By Dave Hughes

Soft-hackled wet flies form a lively class of their own, and though they are not often precisely imitative of mayflies, and therefore not heavily covered in this book, they do take quite a few trout, often in situations when trout are feeding on mayflies as well as a minor mix of other insects. At such times the trout are not selective, and are very susceptible to a fly that swims by with its hackle opening and closing, looking much like an insect with its legs, antennae, and wings all kicked about by the currents.

Sylvester Nemes brought these ancient flies to our shores, tracing their origins to the border region between England the Scotland, with his beautiful little book The Soft-Hackled Fly (Stackpole, 1975). He lists a small variety of dressings that work well for him. From his list I've pared out my own, and would never consider myself very well armed for trout fishing on streams without the listed March Brown Spider plus his Partridge and Orange, Partridge and Green, and Partridge and Yellow in sizes 12 to 16.

Each of the dressings consists of a body wound with two layers of the appropriate color silk thread, a very small hare's mask fur thorax, and one or two turns of gray or brown partridge hackle. They're simple to tie, and as simple to fish on the swing. They'll coax a surprising number of trout for you when trout feed on drowned emergers, duns, and even spinners in the afternath of a mayfly hatch or spinner fall.

Materials: March Brown Spider

    Hook:  Standard wet fly, 1X or 2X stout, size 12 to 16.

    Thread:  Orange Pearsall's gossamer silk or 6/0.

    Hackle:  Brown partridge.

    Rib:   Oval gold tinsel.

    Body:   Hare's mask fur.

Tying Steps:

1. Fix hook in the vise and start thread behind the eye. The thicker silk will give an undercolor to the body, the 6/0 will work if you can't find Pearsall's gossamer. Select a partridge feather with fibers twice as long as the hook gap. Strip the fuzzy fibers from the base and tie the feather in by the stem so that the fibers will sweep back when wound.

2. Clip 2-3 inches of oval tinsel and tie it in at the bend of the hook. Wax the thread with a sticky dubbing wax, and twist hare's mask budding onto it loosely, so that lots of fibers will work in the current when the fly is fished.

3. Wrap the body forward to the base of the hackle. Wind the rib forward in three to six evenly-spaced turns. Tie it off and clip the excess. Be sure that the ribbing does not mat down the loose dubbing. If it does, use your bodkin or a dentist's root canal tool to rough it up again.

4. Wind one or at most two turns of hackle. If you use two, the second should be placed tight behind the first. Capture the hackle tip with your thread, then clip or break off the excess. Work the thread through the hackle to the hook eye. Form a neat thread head, whip-finish, and clip the thread. If you're using silk, wax the last inch with beeswax before whip-finishing. ~ Dave Hughes

Credits: From Matching Mayflies by Dave Hughes, Published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

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

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