I don’t know if W.C. Stewart had yellow sallies or sulphurs on his wee Scottish burns. But we have them here in the States, and Stewart’s Dun Spider does a bang-up job of imitating those hatches. Try fishing this on a small stream as a dropper off a bushy dry — or as a dry-wet tandem during a sulphur emergence. (You can thank me next time you see me.)
Every fly tier has a good supply of dotterel on hand…uh…hold on…dang! Turns out, not so much, even in Stewart’s time (mid-19th century). You can substitute with webby dun hen, or heed the sage advice of the man himself:
Stewart’s Dun Spider
Hook: 14-15 (from Leisenring). I used a Partridge SUD2 #14.
Hackle: Dotterel (I used a feather from the inside of a starling wing)
Body: Working silk
Tying Notes: The silk body should cover only the front half of the shank. Select a feather with fibers about as long as the shank. To make a more durable fly, Stewart suggested twisting the hackle around a silk tag before winding. Here’s how I did that: Start the silk at the head, winding rearward. Leave a 3″ tag about 3/4 of the way down the body. Continue winding the working silk. At the halfway point of the shank, proceed back toward the head. When you get to the silk tag, tie in the feather at its tip, and continue winding your working silk toward the head. Now, twist the feather around the silk tag, taking care not to break the spine (starling is fragile!). If you look closely at the photo, you can see the silk reinforcement around the spine of the feather. Wrap the feather toward the head, 3-4 turns, preening the fibers so they don’t get covered (a bodkin or needle may help). Tie down the feather and whip finish.
We know that Leisenring was a big fan of Stewart’s spiders. He called them, “a deadly combination on every stream I have ever fished.” That’s one of the things that still attracts me to soft hackles — that a pattern so lethal on small Scottish rivers is just as effective here in the States. Here’s the second in a series of three, Stewart’s Red Spider.
Fresh out of landrail? No worries (or as they’d say in Stewart’s homeland, “Nae fears!”). You could use a brownish-red hen hackle or other similarly colored game bird. I like this solution best: starling wings dyed burnt orange. I bought them a few years ago from Mike Hogue at Badger Creek. Says Mr. Stewart:
Stewart’s Red Spider
Hook: 14-15 (from Leisenring). I used a Partridge SUD2 #14.
Hackle: Landrail wing feather (I used dyed starling)
Body: Working silk
Tying Notes: Like the Black Spider, this pattern is widely interpreted. The silk body should cover only the front half of the shank. Select a feather with fibers about as long as the shank. To make a more durable fly, Stewart suggested twisting the hackle around a silk tag before winding. Here’s how I did that: Start the silk at the head, winding rearward. Leave a 3″ tag about 3/4 of the way down the body. Continue winding the working silk. At the halfway point of the shank, proceed back toward the head. When you get to the silk tag, tie in the feather at its tip, and continue winding your working silk toward the head. Now, twist the feather around the silk tag, taking care not to break the spine (starling is fragile!). Wrap the feather toward the head, 3-4 turns, preening the fibers so they don’t get covered (a bodkin or needle may help). Tie down the feather and whip finish.
Sal, the owner of Legends on the Farmington, has authorized me to make the following special offer to currentseams readers: you can now attend my Wet Flies & Soft Hackles class for one day only, Saturday, March 14, dinner included, for just $99!
If you want to catch more fish, you should be tying and fishing wet flies like the Squirrel and Ginger.
What: “Wet Flies and Soft Hackles” is a tying and how-to fishing class. We’ll do plenty of tying (bring your vise, tools, and threads and I’ll supply the rest of the soft-hackled magic) and we’ll have a little classroom presentation/discussion here and there.
When: Saturday, March 14. Starts around 9am. Goes all day, then we enjoy a delicious dinner prepared by Sal.
Where: Legends on the Farmington, a gorgeous lodge on the banks of the river.
How:You cannot sign up/resgister through me or my website. Please contact Sal at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their site at legendsbnb.com.
This class will sell out, so make haste. See you there!
The Sports Illustrated Book of Wet-Fly Fishing came in the mail last week. I’ve wanted to track down a copy for years, and finally got round to it. It’s written by Leisenring’s disciple Vern Hidy, and it lists tying instructions for three patterns, one of which is Leisenring’s Spider.
They (very literally) don’t make ’em like this anymore. A little dog-eared but just as relevant today as it was in 1961.
You don’t hear much about Leisenring’s Spider today. (I first encountered it in a Wingless Wets piece written by Mark Libertone almost 15 years ago.) It’s not listed in his book, which is strange considering it’s got fish magnet written all over it. Leisenring used his version of a dubbing loop to form the body, and I suspect buggier and nastier is better than perfect. A so-simple soft-hackle to help you clean up during the next caddis hatch. Hang on!
The Leisenring Spider
Hook: Wet or dry fly 12-16 (this is a Partridge SUD2)
Happy Sunday. Hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather. I am not, as I am STILL under the weather. I’ve got the cold that my doctor tells me is “lasting for up to month.” I’m now on week 3. Happy-happy-fun-joy, and I haven’t been fishing since early January. Bleah.
Capt. Hank Hewitt of Block Island Fishworks says, “Steve’s cold sucks THIS much!”
So, here’s a good, short read from our good friends at the American Saltwater Guides Association. This group continues to fight the good fight, and is being relentless even in the face of disappointing news. Please consider showing your support for their efforts with a donation. You can effort that on their website.
Many of you noticed my recent post on Stewart’s Black Spider. I’m hoping to cover his Red and Dun spiders next. Then, some more of Leisenring’s flies. Last winter I did a highly popular series of posts on Leisenring’s Favorite Dozen wet flies. Now I want to take a closer look at patterns he describes as nymphs.
Baron von Black Gnatgenstein.
Speaking of wet flies, stay tuned this week for special offer/event on a wet fly tying and fishing class I’ll be leading in March! In the meantime, I hope somebody’s fishing…
A hale and hearty shout out to the South Shore Fly Casters, who most graciously asked me to speak at their February meeting. The topic was “Trout Fishing for Striped Bass,” which focuses on traditional flies and presentation methods you can use to catch the stripers that everyone can’t. Let’s start with the venue. Any club that holds their meetings at a craft brewery gets bonus pints — er, points — from me. The turnout was strong (almost 50) and it was very passionate, interested group. I appreciated your welcoming nature and for all the kind things you had to say about me and my writing (and the SSFC club swag). Hoping to come back soon!
A very cool space for a meeting. In case you’re wondering, it’s Barrel House Z in Weymouth. That’s my double IPA near the projector. Yummy. (Photo Dan Wells.)
Three Q&A highlights: Q: What knot do you use to build your three-fly team? A: Triple surgeons. But you should use the knot with which you are most comfortable (a lot of people like the blood knot). I also mentioned that I never go below 20# mono for the rig, and that if bass over 15lbs are in the mix, I’ll typically fish only one fly.
Q: Do you ever tie droppers off the bend of the leading hook? A: Never for striper fishing. I don’t want anything getting in the way of a hookup, but most of all I want the dropper fly to able to swim freely on its own tag.
Q: How do you use a floating line to present an unweighted fly deep? A: I’ll either add a 3/0 shot (or two) to the leader (and I may also lengthen the leader from, say, 7 feet to 10 feet), but most often I’ll use of the following: 1) homemade T-11 sink tips (I carry a bunch from 2-8 feet long in 2-foot increments; or 2) I’ll use an integrated sink-tip line that has a floating running line. Of course, with either of these solutions, you must mend if there is current to help the fly sink. I’ll also shorten the leader to 3 feet.
Tomorrow, February 19, I’ll be presenting “Trout Fishing For Striped Bass — How to catch the stripers that everyone can’t” to the South Shore Fly Casters. SSFC is a newly formed group, and they’ve done a terrific job of getting their club up and running in a short amount of time. The gig is from 6pm-9pm at Barrel House Z, Weymouth, MA. Come on down…or up…or across…and you might win this spiffy little collection in their raffle. As always, please come say hello!
When the stripers are keyed on small stuff, it’s hard to go wrong with a well presented team of three. Four options here, clockwise from top: Deer Hair Grass Shrimp, Micro Shrimp Gurgler, Orange Ruthless Clamworm, Eelie. Good luck!