You’ll often hear me say that there ain’t no best — only what’s best for you, or the situation. For this “Best of North Country Spiders” series, I’ve been choosing the flies based on what I like to fish here in the northeastern U.S. Or, in the case of the Smoke Fly, flies that I can’t believe I never fished, but should have. Beetle, anyone? How about a midge in size 18-20 (like a subsurface Griffith’s Gnat)? Even a steelhead fly in 2x short, 2x stout size 12. My mind is whirring…
Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14-20
Body: Peacock herl
Hackle: Snipe undercovert or light blue-grey hen
Head: Peacock herl
To tie a more durable body, use two strands of herl spun on a length of thread or silk; you can see the technique in my Drowned Ant video here.
I used hen hackle for this tie. The head is three wraps of a single strand of herl. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
Sticklers may argue that this is a really winged wet. Yet there are multiple references dating back a long ways about the Yorkshire take on the legacy pattern Greenwell’s Glory. Tell you what: I’m including it here because it’s a storied fly — and most of all because I like it. Oh. Trout like it, too. Caddis, olives…it’s all glorious with Greenwell.
Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-16
Body: Yellow silk waxed to an olive shade
Rib: Fine gold wire
Hackle: Furnace hen
Wing: Woodcock or starling
Cobbler’s wax does a fine job of coloring up Pearsall’s Primrose Yellow. As for the wing/hackle order, I’ve seen this fly tied two ways: wing first and hackle first. The version pictured is hackle first, followed by starling for the wing. To tie in a quill wing with a minimum of grief, grip it between your thumb and middle finger (don’t ask why, just do it) position it, and bind down with three tight wraps. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
Pale Wateries, indeed. The Poult Bloa has Light Cahills and Sulphurs written all over it. When it comes to matching those hatches with North Country style spiders, I have been using my home-brew Partridge and Light Cahill and one of Leisenring’s favorites, the Light Snipe and Yellow. Clearly, the Poult Bloa needs to move into the rotation. This fly would work both as part of a swung team, or as a dropper off a dry.
Poult Bloa North Country Spider
Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14-18
Body: Straw silk
Hackle: Feather from the inside of a grouse wing
No straw-colored silk? Not to worry. UNI makes a very nice Light Cahill thread. Absent an English grouse wing, you could use any number of lighter colored hen hackles. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
He probably had no idea, but the first angler who took a feather from the game he’d shot and attached it to a hook with some thread borrowed from his wife’s sewing kit was creating a classic. Today, there’s something poetic about catching a trout on a pattern that is hundreds of years old. From Olde England’s North Country to New England, nothing is lost in translation. I like the Partridge and Orange as a caddis imitation. It also makes a fine spinner.
Partridge and Orange
Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-16
Body: Orange silk
Hackle: Grey speckled partridge
If you’re new to soft hackles and North Country Spiders, this a great place to start. By varying the color of the thread and the size of the hook (and even the color of the partridge — the back is covered with brown speckled feathers) you can match just about any hatch. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
I will not go small wild trout stream fishing, big stream trout fishing, or steelhead fishing without the Snipe and Purple in my box. I particularly like this fly as a midge imitation, seductive hackles fluttering in the current. One day on the Salmon River in Pulaski, my only steelhead came on a Snipe and Purple as it rose off the bottom and swung toward the surface. Try it as a dropper off a bushy dry on a small stream.
Snipe and Purple North Country Spider
Hook: Wet or dry fly 12-18
Body: Purple silk
Wings: Snipe wing over-covert
When I tie this fly for steelhead, I use a 2x strong 1x short size 12-14 hook. I’ll also add a gold rib. Like all North Country Spiders, you can add wiggly leg and wing mass by making more hackle wraps. If you can’t find snipe, try starling. Bonus! The video tutorial for the standard issue fly is right here.
Like a soft-hackled Pheasant Tail, the Sandy Moorgame can look like nothing in particular, but a lot of things in general. Think smaller mayfly nymphs (this is a terrific pattern to place as the top dropper in your nymph rig) and little brown stones when you tie on this classic North Country spider. I have no proof, but in any given year I’m guessing that I’m the only angler on the Farmington River fishing the Sandy Moorgame. (You should do something about that.)
Hook: Wet or dry fly 14-18
Body: Dark brown silk
Wings: Hackled with a dark reddish-brown feather from the back of a grouse
Simplicity rules the day. If you’re being a stickler for authenticity, use English grouse, which is different from some of the other grouse skins available. You could dress the fly more heavily than I’ve done here (two wraps of hackle) — try three or four for some extra wings/legs creepy crawly emerger action. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
When the hatch is black caddis, I know of no other more bewitching soft hackle brew than the Black Magic. What else would you expect from a North Country spider with a peacock herl thorax? The white fly hatch gets all the juice on the Hous in August, but there’s also a substantial black caddis hatch around the same time. If you’re targeting smallmouth, tie the Black Magic on a 2x stout hook, size 14, or try a size 12 1x short shank. Make it the top dropper on a two fly team (white fly on the bottom) — and hold on.
Body: Black silk
Thorax: Peacock herl
Hackle: Black hen
Tying notes: I attach the hackle, wind the silk, then attach and wrap the herl forward to the hackle tie-in point. Move the thread to the head of the fly, wind the hackle, and whip finish.