Soft Hackle Spider / North Country Wet Flies
Yorkshire spiders are the traditional wet trout and grayling fishing flies of the North of England. They are soft hackle patterns which are deadly when fished upstream or downstream. They represent a fly fishing tradition which goes back many many years and they remain in use today because they are so effective when presented in the correct way.
These flies are constantly in use on rivers throughout the British Isles and they will prove just as effective on any trout stream in the world.
Yes we imitate hatches with our fishing flies, no spiders have NOTHING to do with imitating Spiders! This is the name given over the years as when dry from immersion the soft hackle looks like the legs of a large spider! Spider flies are over 300 years old and still they still catch fish. These are not an imitation pattern an exact match like blue winged olives, they are impressionistic patterns. The soft hackle represents the legs and wings of a subsurface insect, but it is the movement in these flies that make them work. Soft hackled wet flies like spiders are extremely successful patterns on streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. the hackle responds to every movement of current as it is pulled through the water on the retrieve, thus suggesting to the fish this imitation is alive. The hackles are swept back over the hook as it is pulled through the water. Spider or North Country flies can catch trout by:
- look like emerging insects or 'buzzers' that are the midge or olive hatch coming to the surface or
- they can imitate the wings and legs of a hatched out insect, drowning or drowned as it tumbles in the current and finally
- it can also imitate a struggling or swimming subsurface insect with the mobile hackles giving a suggestion of life and hence food to the trout.
During a hatch we have seen how trout can become totally preoccupied with eating as many emerging insects as they can. The trout eat them on their journey up to the surface to hatch with the trout feeding in the top 12 inches of water. This is identified when the fish are taking food just below the surface. The undersurface rising movement of fish is frequently visible to the fly fisher, this is called 'Bulging', indeed if you see the fish's mouths never break the surface, a sure sign they are eating buzzers/emergers.
Emergers reach the surface and emerge in the surface film and as they wait on the surface for their wings to dry before they fly off. In a lull in a hatch using a heavier nymph such as a diawl bach (little welsh devil) or pheasant tail they sink too rapidly and trout will not eat the artificial fly. Fishing a fly in the top 12 inches of water is crucial, slow sinking patterns are important and this is where Spiders are key being sol lightly dressed. As excellent imitations of emerging nymphs and midges with the soft hackle acts as a parachute while the fly sinks and with a a hackle that has a high degree of water resistance.
Trout do take static food like pupae in the surface film or spent spinners yet they also take subsurface food that is moving. A trout has the opportunities to investigate a static dry fly floating on the surface to see if it recognizes the silhouette as food. A trout's recognition of a subsurface insect is not just on shape it is a combination of silhouette and swimming movement. When insects swim, their legs cling to their sides as they are propelled through the water. As their momentum slows their arms move forward to make the next stroke to propel them forward again. This is the exact movement duplicated by the soft hackles on a spider fly. As you retrieve the fly the hackles are forced back against the body of the fly and on the pause the hackles move forward again just like the real insect about to make another swimming stroke.