The Hackled March Brown Spider

“March Brown” is a name you see attached to a lot of different wet fly patterns. Some of them are caddis; others, mayflies. This spider is intended to represent the latter. I discovered it on page 116 of Sylvester Nemes’ Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies. It was originally published in 1936 in an English book, Trout Fishing From All Angles.

The Farmington River is not known for its March Browns; while we do experience that hatch, it’s not on the level of, say, Hendricksons or Sulphurs. But we do have a good showing of Isonychia, and I have taken to fishing the Hackled March Brown spider in the late summer to represent those substantial mayflies.

Last August, I was fishing a snotty run that was studded with boulders and pockets. There wasn’t much going on hatch-wise, and I had the Hackled March Brown spider as the point fly on my team of three wets. The hit was one of unrestrained violence and brutality, such that it ripped the line from my hands. The trout went immediately on the reel; I never saw it until I was able to coax it into the shallows. Over twenty inches long, it was my biggest trout of 2013.


Hook: Wet fly, size 12
Silk: Orange Pearsall’s Gossamer
Tail: Grey partridge fibers
Body: Hareline Dubbin Rust (HD23)
Hackle: Brown partidge

 Tying notes: A straightforward, simple fly to tie. The original calls for a body of “hare’s ear dyed red ant colour.” I have settled on “rust,” and the trout seem OK with it. You could make the body a little buggier than I have here, but I like this fly with a thin profile. There are a multitude of brown feathers on a standard partridge skin; they’re located along the back of the bird.

The Hackled March Brown Rogues’ Gallery:


5 comments on “The Hackled March Brown Spider

  1. Michael J says:

    Steve, you refer to this as a “March Brown” pattern, but would this be a wet fly you’d be more apt to fish in late summer? I thought the Isonychia hatch in early autumn (before the October hatches begin), and I was assuming you fish this after those nymphs get to decent size…i.e. in the weeks before their hatch. But then I don’t know how many years they stay in the nymph stage. Basically what time of year does this one tend to work for you?

    • Steve Culton says:

      Hi Michael,

      On the Farmington River we get Isonychia in August. That’s when I usually start tying this fly on to my team of three. All I’m trying to do is match the size and general coloration of what’s out and about.

      Hope that helps. 🙂

  2. Michael J says:

    It does help; thanks Steve. (Actually I’d read your shorter description of this fly on another site and then asked my question here, not realizing you had already said it was a late summer fly in this site’s version of the description…sorry about that.)

    I would guess that Isonychia are going to hatch around late summer time frame wherever they live…even west coast. So I’ll tie up a few and be ready in advance; might also have to dig up some color photos if I can, as color is likely to change more than general time of year…I think so anyway.

    My theory is that the nymphs are bigger and more mobile in the weeks leading up to the hatch.

    It stands to reason that trout would smash these things hard, given how fast the nymphs swim.

    Thanks again!

    – Mike

  3. […] and Ginger on top, a sz 16 Magic Fly in the middle, and (after I saw a couple Isos) a size 12 Hackled March Brown on point. All three patterns took fish, the majority on the caddis and the […]

  4. […] time readers may recall the first time I wrote about it — you can read that piece here. I don’t have much to add, other than this has become a supremely reliable pattern for me […]

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