T E Pritt, Edmonds and Lee, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Partridge and Orange, Waterhen Bloa, authors, fishermen, the old North Country Counties of England, North Country Spiders, a pint of bitter ale, all famed in fishing circles from past to present.
The famed flies from the old North Country of England are of the sparse spider patterns, they look nothing like the eight legged spider but a term for a fishing fly. The spider fly is of a sparse dressing of silk and feather, looking not much to the eye but a feed in the eyes of river fish, still great fish takers as they were two hundred years ago!
Pick up a North Country Spider tied properly and it will look sparse, undressed and not worth the money to be paid for it compared to a heavily tied fly from a production line. Take a walk by the river or some time in your garden and catch a few natural flies in your hat or net. Now compare them to the flies in your box and you will see what fly is more in keeping with the natural fly, a North Country Spider!
Many dressings date back to the late 1700’s, named by their feather and silk colors they have been passed down from generations of fishermen by word of mouth or handwritten lists, a name change here and there, from county to county or authors fly lists. You will notice though they have one thing in common, tied slim, sparse and neat designed to catch fish on the free stone rivers and Becks tumbling swiftly on their way through The North Country from a time when a basket of fish went a long way to feed a large hungry family.
Many of the flies are a general copy of the insects to be found, from a nymph, to a Dun, to a broken drowned adult fly. Given the nature of our waters the fly is snatched as an edible morsel by a fish that needs to keep its strength as food is swept past in areas of little opportunity.
Our spiders are in the main tied with feathers from birds of the Game bird families, Snipe, Grouse, Grey Partridge, woodcock, tied short on the hook shank with a simple body of a coloured silk, yellow, orange, purple, used as it is or darkened with a rub of black cobblers wax to match the colour of the insect being studied, or a pinch of fur added to the silk to match the body hairs of the insect. The soft hackle fibres when moved by the current may look like legs, a nymph swimming if swept over the body or broken insect wings. The body can be varied to suit the water colour, an orange body is sometimes preferred in water that looks tea stained, or a yellow in the evening. Please do not think to use a very small hook, use a size 14 or 16, small feathers don’t tie well so shorten your fly body on your hook of choice! Looking good to us now the fly maybe tried on the eye of the master, the fish!
Many of the great books can be viewed online or by purchase of a facsimile copy though some libraries may have a copy for study in their reference section. A wonderful time may be had over the winter months reading and learning from the old masters, North Country Flies by T E Pritt, Brook and River Trouting by Edmonds and Lee, Jim Wynn’s flies for the Wharfe by Tom Cross or some of the collections by Leslie Magee or Roger Fogg, these delve into more detail and history and techniques of fishing your flies and their dressings.
The wonder of the internet also allows us to dream, many clubs have web sites with web cams, amateur photographers may publish their pictures of many of the famous river beats, allowing us to follow in the steps of greats such as Carter Platts, Walbran, Brumfitt and many others whether on the rivers Wharfe, Aire, Derwent, Nidd therefore allowing us to fish without travelling or in the warmth of the fire on a cold winters night, or sitting with a good old magazine.
Some winter evening reading material,
Fly fishing, the North Country Tradition by Leslie Magee,
North Country Flies by T E Pritt,
Handbook of North Country Flies by Roger Fogg,
Brook and River Trouting by Edmonds and Lee,
Guide to North Country Flies by Mike Harding,
The Flies of Jim Wynn, Prof Tom Cross, The Practical Angler by W C Stewart.
Flies nestled in my Spider Box.
Partridge & Orange, all year round fly, taken as many things
Partridge & Yellow, use in the summer months, especially evenings.
Waterhen Bloa, an all year round general Olive fly copy.
Snipe & Purple, a copy of the Blue Duns for all year use
Dark Watchett, for dark dull days with a bit of bluster Iron blue copy.
Woodcock &Yellow, a small general summer fly.
Golden Plover & Hare, another general copy of the Olives.
Stewart’s Black Spider, a small different looking fly by W C Stewart from The Practical Angler 1857. Top dropper
Old Master, for warm sumer days and evenings.
Little Black/Fogg Black, late summer fly when the hay is being cut.
Greenwell, the spider version of the famous Greenwell Glory, Olive Copy.
Feb Red, small early needle fly for early season.
Woodcock & Orange, small copy of many things for year round use.
Grouse Gold, a small late spring summer fly for general use.
Broughton’s Point, a small dark Needle Fly/willow fly copy.
Crimson Partridge, a small dark early and late season fly.
Flies for sale link.