Fly Tying Videos
Fly Fishing Podcast
FFOhio Team
Warm Water Rivers
Flatwater Guides
Site Map

Heavy Metal Hairy Spyder


Originally Published in

Country Anglin' Outdoor Guide
April/May 2005


By Joseph D. 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 and trout to carp, a soft hackle fly appeals to all gamefish.


The term "Spyder" derives from horse-drawn carriages, as do other automotive terms. A spider phaeton was a lighter version of a phaeton, having narrower, spindly wheels and two-seat accommodation. This term was subsequently applied to cars.  The first car to be officially called a "spyder" was the Porsche 550 Spyder. The name implied an extremely rudimentary top mechanism originating from a small two-seat horse-cart with a folding sunshade made of four bows; with its black cloth top and exposed sides for air circulation it resembled an eight-legged spider

For a fly fisher, the Heavy Metal Hairy Spyder is a new take on an old friend, a sporty convertible pattern that can fish demanding waters with impeccable ease.  I worked this pattern out several years ago when I was fishing the Mad River on something like a regular basis.  If this were in my fly box In three colors, I'd fish there today, or any day of any season, and carry no other pattern. I'll make that same claim for any Midwestern tail-water fishery or creek - I'd rather have this pattern and no others than a box of the others and not this!


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 subtle 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 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.  The colors I've found to be irreplaceable include red body and pine squirrel hackle, green body and possum hackle and copper body with a light dun mink hackle.


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 on the Mad River, 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, especially on low water steelhead around Lake Erie.


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!


Fly Fish Ohio is © Copyright 2005 - 2007.  All rights reserved.  

No portion of this web site may be reproduced in any fashion without the express written consent of FlyFishOhio.

Send email to the Webmaster