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The Heavy Metal Hairy Spyder
Photos and Text By Joe Cornwall

North Country wet flies, often referred to as spiders, originated in the north of England. First described in print over five hundred years ago by Dame Juliana Berners in The Treatise of Fishing with an Angle, these simple patterns define the minimalist approach. Consisting of one or two materials and a hook, they posses a spartan look of classic elegance. I am always amazed that such a simple design can be so amazingly effective in a host of conditions. From bluegill to bass, trout to carp, a soft hackle fly appeals to all gamefish.

The Heavy Metal Hairy Spyder is my idea of a new take on an old friend. Traditional spiders are tied with a silk thread body, sometimes lightly dubbed with mole or seal fur, and the shoulder feather of an upland game bird such as a partridge, quail, grouse or woodcock. The soft shoulder feather offers a subtle, life-like action, and the profile imitates scores of aquatic insects. This delicate creation only fails when one needs to get the presentation deeper than a few inches, however. While split shot and sinking lines are good options, there are circumstances in which the ďplopĒ of an action-robbing split shot or heavy sink-tip line will spook wary gamefish. The Heavy Metal Hairy Spyder addresses these circumstances by incorporating well-balanced weighting with a tough hair-hackle. It is an ideal offering for educated gamefish.

The HMH Spyder uses a fine wire body to provide sleek, efficient penetration of the water column. Sold as Ultra-Wire, this material is available in a multitude of colors. When wrapped over a tapered thread base, Ultra-Wire creates a realistic, segmented look, which is a central component of such storied patterns as the Brassie and Copper John. Itís a fact that the subdued flash and segmented appearance of a wire body is an effective strike trigger.

Certainly the HMH Spyder would be a wonderfully effective fly using the traditional covert feather hackle, but Iíve found that a hair hackle offers greater flexibility for tying larger sizes, is tougher, and provides the tier a new palette of natural and dyed colors with which to work. Also, a hair hackle offers better action in the water whenever the fly must be worked against the current or fished on a tight line in rapid runs. Good materials for a hair hackle include squirrel, mink, woodchuck, beaver and muskrat. Only the guard hairs are used, the soft under-fur must be brushed out.

The secret to tying an effective HMH Spyder or traditional North Country Spider is applying the material sparsely. The hackle should consist of just a few mobile strands to imitate the six legs of an insect. The body should be tight, thin and lightly tapered. When fished on a long, light fluorocarbon tippet, this simple fly pattern works on just about every species of fish from late spring through late summer. Tie a dozen in various colors for your next outing!

Hook: Any dry fly or wet fly hook will work. I like the Mustad 94842, which is used on the flies pictured. For largemouth bass and carp I use size 8 or 10. For smallmouth bass and panfish I use size 10 or 12. And, for trout sizes 14 and 16 are so effective they should be banned!

Thread: Use a fine size 8/0 or 10/0 in black, dark brown or any color to contrast with the body

Body: Ultra-Wire in copper, red and green. For a different effect, try the new florescent colors.

Hackle: Guard hairs tied in with the tips facing over the eye of the hook. After youíve wrapped the wire body, pull the hairs back and form a neat thread head between the hackle and the hook eye. The head will hold the hair hackle out at an angle for maximum action. Remember to use a sparse amount of hair!

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