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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Greetings all,

I hope everyone had a chance to get out and fish this past weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather... I know I did!

I'd like to bring up the topic of North country spiders/soft hackle wet flies, as many anglers seem to dismiss these simple patterns and opt for more modern/complicated to tie patterns. Because of all the snow we've had, I've been on a bit of a tying binge and decided to reference my fly encyclopedia to find something new. After stumbling across the section on traditional North country spiders, I decided to tie some up as they are extremely simple (any fly that is fast and easy to tie is likely to find a nice home in my box!). Now I'll admit that I was skeptical at first, but after several hours of research, I became infatuated with these flies. The versatility of them is incredible (more on my real world experience with them to come); fish them deep behind a bead head nymph, on the swing to imitate a nymph rising to emerge, dress them with floatant to resemble an emerger or a drowned fly/cripple. The possibilities seem limitless.

Enter the Mitchell: After seeing the forecast for Saturday, I decided to head up to the Mitchel to test out this new (to me) magic fly. I started with what I know best - high stick nymphing. Invariably, my first choice fly is either a bead head GRHE or Prince nymph, and I almost always tie one on before even looking at the water. Why not take the time to check if fish are rising? I guess I'm stubborn. Or Cocky. Probably both. But nymphing catches me plenty of fish and I like it. So for whatever reason, that's what I use.

Anyway, I tied on a BHP (#12 with a very lightly dubbed march brown spider (#14) behind it. I missed a fish on the first cast but nailed it on the second. After a short (but splashy) fight, I landed a nice brookie. It wasn't on the BHP, but the spider. Interesting. So I continued fishing and caught fish on both the BHP and spider.

I fished for about an hour and got hungry, so I sat down streamside and snacked. Remembering what I had read, I clipped off the BHP and tied on a single march spider (#16). This time I fished it on a swing, and after two misses, finally manged to hook a little rainbow. I continued this technique for some time and missed most strikes, but with a little practice I think it could become part of my repertoire.

It was about this time that fish started rising and ,much to my chagrin, refusing my subsurface offering. I began to reach for a #18 adams when I decided to try what I had read. So I dried my fly off and smothered it in floatant. I cast out to where I had seen a fish rising and... WHAM! Nicest fish of the day - a beautiful bow.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying that dressing a spider with floatant and fishing it in the surface film won't catch fish; it will, and it did for me (once). But let's talk about practicality. If you want to go through a bottle of floatant a day (we're talking liberal reapplication after every cast here, folks), fishing completely blind (half the time I wasn't even sure if it was still floating), and countless other frustrations, then this is your method of dry fly fishing! I think most of us will find, however, that changing to a fly designed to float is well worth the time and effort of tying a new knot with that pesky 7x tippet. I quickly switched to that #18 adams and proceeded catching fish.
Magic Fly?

I like old flies. I like the nostalgia. I can almost picture myself on a stream in England or Scotland when I use them - back in the glory days of fly fishing. There is something Romantic about it, and I think any fly that increases your pleasure in the sport is well worth using. Regardless, let's talk about pure function.

When it comes down to it, the spider patterns really are great flies to use; largely due to their impressionistic nature. They don't look exactly like a specific insect but rather a little like a lot of insects - probably because of the lifelike action the soft hackle creates. But will they really catch you more fish than any other fly? Probably not. Trout may be smarter than the average bass. But when it comes down to it, trout are fish, and fish are pretty stupid. Anything that remotely resembles an insect is likely to take a trout. So to me, these flies are worth using because they are cheap, easy, and fast to tie.

Logic tells us that less time at the tying bench equates to more time on the river. This is definitely true for me. I can't count the number of times I've stayed up late tying flies for a last minute trip the next morning. Only to go to bed and sleep through my alarm; all but missing that golden hour of fishing at first light. To me, this is just another reason to add the spider patterns to my box.

So let's hear it. Does anyone on here have experience with North country spiders?
 

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Great post, fishfingers!

I hadn't considered much in the way of soft-hackles or wet flies until a few years ago, when I began to research topics and content for some of our fly-tying classes. At that time, I had an opportunity to question a gentlemen who has been teaching fly-fishing at Penn State for years and I asked him, "What should I teach our fly-tying students?" With no hesitation what so ever he responded, "Soft hackles." He said further, " The effectiveness of soft hackles and wet flies are becoming forgotten as a way of fly fishing, then he went back to fishing. This got me to thinking and then I began to read more about these simple patterns and I was amazed. Most of the time aquatic insects are buried in the substrate of stream and are unavailable to fish as food, unless they lose their grip or displaced by some disturbance in the water, such as someone wading through. Then they drift helplessly until they can regain their grip on the bottom or are consumed. Further, their time emerging on the surface is very brief under most circumstances. However, it is the time when the insect forms gas bubbles under the exoskeleton, releases from the bottom, and begins to rise to the surface that they are most vulnerable and available to fish as food source. This is the stage that wet flies imitate and the reason that they produce , so well.

Now, I love to tie soft hackles and I fish them all the time. Other than classic nymph patterns like hare's ear, pheasant tail, and the prince, I have more wet flies in my vest than anything else.

This is one of my favorites.

The Guide's Choice Hare's Ear
Insect Liquid Arthropod Artificial fly Fishing bait
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the feedback, guys!

When you guys fish them is it on a swing? If so, any tips for a newbie wet fly fisherman? If not, how do you guys use them?

Backlash, after my success on Saturday with the soft hackles I came back and started experimenting at the bench... I think all of the nymphs I tie now are going to have soft hackle collars. Does the hot-spot collar on that guide's choice hare's ear produce more fish or is it just preference? I've seen a lot of flies tied with them recently and have thought about incorporating it....
 

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I wouldn't venture to say for what reason, if any that the hot spot collar makes, as I am unaware of anything that it imitates in nature. Maybe, it produces a reaction bite , or maybe it is just different enough from what their used to seeing. There's no way of knowing for sure and anything else is simply a guess. However, they work and they appeal to anglers, as is often the case with many lures on the market and for that reason, I think some will have greater confidence in it and pay closer attention when fishing the fly. I think that the main thing is that the collars trap air bubbles and give the fly more action which I think are key to get bites.
 

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Out west, I was taught to add a small amount of soft hackle to make the emerger form of a nymph; one that is swimming toward the surface to dry off and fly away. Their wings are out of the case. I fished them during hatches and did pretty well. I almost never fished dry. When they are taking them on the surface, they will generally take them just below also if they look like what is surfacing.
 

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I usually have mine as a dropper About 18" or so behind a Pat's rubber leg or some other attractor. I cast just downstream and swing it through. I rarely tie a wet with a bead head. I have had better succes with a sparsely tied pattern than one with flash. That's just my experience.
 

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You'll get alot of mileage from a partridge skin in your tying. I would recommend also tying some using starling feathers. These feathers have a really neat looking iridescent effect to their color that makes a great looking fly. The popular combination is purple and starling.
 

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RouseD, the Girdle Bug appears to me to be the original version of this fly that imitates a stonefly nymph. It got its name because the rubber for the legs came from ladies' girdles. Pat's fly, again in my opinion, is a version tied with more modern materials. Like the 10, 000 variations of the wooly bugger.
 

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Backlash, sounds like you may have been talking to Joe Humphries?

I too love the guides choice, but I modified it to be a pheasant tail instead of a hares ear. It has accounted for 90% of all of my fish this past season. I've noticed it gets even more effective once a few fish have really chewed in it and the Orange collar starts to get frayed!

 

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I noticed that some of my battle worn flies seemed to work better also. I think we often go a little heavy. In my case it was mostly GRHE with the dubbing starting to wear a little thin to the point I was considering a change but the fish wouldn't leave it alone.
 
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