Bully's Bluegill Spider Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard
I first learned about the Bully's
Bluegill Spider, as did most of the angling world, through the book
Bluegill Fly Fishing and Flies by Terry & Roxanne Wilson (Amato
Books, ISBN 1-57188-176-X). The Wilson's tell an amusing tale of
how Terry lost his bass bug to an errant cast that hooked the hind end
of a bull. While recovering and re-rigging, Wilson observed a
fellow fishing crickets on a cane pole and noticed that the wild
gyrations of the insect's legs lead to almost instantaneous takes on the
drop. Inspiration strikes us all in different ways, in the case of
the Bully's Bluegill Spider it was via the courtesy of a bovine
I love fishing the Calcasieu Pig
Boat, that unique bass fly created by the iconoclastic Tom Nixon in the
late 1950's. The Pig Boat is also a drop bait, albeit one on
steroids when compared to the rotund little Bully. I've also
fished spinner baits and jigs as drop baits when hardware fishing - this
is a technique often used when 'flipping' to heavy cover. The
sudden entry of the bait and its subsequent slow drop, complete with the
strong sonic signature of the water-resistant legs and the visual
attraction of intense motion from the thin rubber suggests something
living. The Bully Spider offer a fantastic suggestion of life.
Small living things don't often survive long in a warm water pond!
I like to use a short, steeply tapered leader with a long tippet to fish
this fly. A 6-foot tapered leader ending with a 1x diameter is
about perfect. To that I'll use a triple-twist surgeon's knot to add 3
to 5-feet of 6lb test fluorocarbon tippet. I like to liberally
apply floatant to the end of the fly line and the tapered portion of the
leader to keep things floating high and assist in the vertical
By far the best color for the Bully's
Bluegill Spider is a black body with white rubber legs. In the
autumn a hot pink is tough to beat. And in July try a white body
to imitate suspended small minnow fry. Brown and olive are also
productive colors, especially in clear water or on creeks. Don't
be surprised if you find a lot of rock bass and smallmouth bass
attaching themselves to this fly if you fish it in a creek. The
action is effective for multiple species. It's easy to tie, easy
to fish and very effective. What's not to like?
Hook: Mustad 3366 bass hook or similar
regular length shank wet fly hook, size 8 to 14 Thread: 140 Denier 6/0 black or color to match body
Body: Chenille or vernille in pink, black,
brown, olive, yellow, white or chartruese
rubber hackle, Sili-legs or strands from a spinner bait skirt
The Bully's Bluegill Spider is a "drop bait".
It is designed to, and does, work best while falling vertically
through the water column. I don't have a lot of luck
retrieving this pattern, though a slow hand-twist retrieve can
often trigger a strike. I like this fly on a longish tippet
with the bulk of the leader dressed with floatant. That way
it pulls the leader straing down into its little sinkhole and the
entire rig retains an excellent right-angle set-up. Takes
can be soft. This fly will work wonders under a float
indicator on a windy day! Try it under a popper, too!
The trick to making this a drop bait is getting
the weighting in the right place. You want the fly to drop
bend-first through the water column, sinking with they eye
pointing up to the surface. To do this correctly the fly
needs to be aft-weighted. I like about 16 wraps, made double
thick, right over the poin and barb of the hook. In
smaller sizes it pays to bend open the bite of the hook just a
Here I'm demonstrating how the fly will fall
through the water column. The legs will kick out away from
the body, like a parachute deploying. This gives the fly a slow
sink with lot's of action from the waving legs. I only use
white legs, bluegills love them!
Wrap over the lead to secure it in place
and give yourself a good base to start wrapping the body.
Tie the chenille on right in front of the lead
weight. You'll begin by wrapping back to the bend then then
This way you build a teardrop-shaped body with
the tapered end pointing towards the eye. Think about what a
raindrop looks like falling through the sky and you'll get the
idea of how you want the body tapered. Don't limit yourself
to chenille! Try dubbing a body with different dubbing
furs. I like to use a fluorescent thread under a fur dubbing
to have a 'bleed-through" effect when the fly is wet. Gray
squirrel over orange thread, white rabbit over red thread and dyed
light green squirrel over chartreuse are all variations you'll
find in my kit.
Make sure to cut the legs long, we'll be
trimming them all together as the last step in the tying process.
Tie the first leg on top of the fly, with one end pointing over
the eye. Wrap back to force the rear-facing leg to "cock up"
at the body and stick out at a right angle.
Fold the front-facing leg back and wrap in
front of it so it also radiates from the body at a ninety degrees.
I like to separate the legs so they form four "slices of pie"
around the shank of the hook. This attention to detail and
symmetry will keep the fly from spinning when you cast it. This
can be very important if you need to false cast a lot to change
The final step after tying in the legs, forming
a neat thread head and applying a double whip finish is to pull
all the legs forward over the eye. One cut with sharp
scissors will ensure all appendages are the same length.
A simple pattern, designed to provide a simple
action. This is fly fishing at it's most pure. Think
about trying this one on a picky trout. Few fish can
resist the slow fall and enticing action of the Bully Spider.
You might not think you're matching the hatch, but you'll be