'Spider' dry flies

From Halford's early dries to the Catskill dry and everything else that floats on the surface.
wiFlyFisher
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Re: 'Spider' dry flies

Post by wiFlyFisher »

Guys, i am still confused. :-)

What the heck is the difference between a "variant" and a "spider"?

When I looked a Flick's Dun Variant pattern in his book and at Mike Valla's tying of the Grey Fox Variant in his book, Tying Catskill Style Dry Flies, they look exactly like what I tied, except different feathers. Mike states in his book, Dettes preferred a size #4 hackle when using a size #12 hook and Flick preferred a size #8 or #6 hackle for a size #12 hook.

So is a spider just another name for a variant?

Rob, thanks for your description how to fish a spider.

John

Bamboo&Brookies
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Re: 'Spider' dry flies

Post by Bamboo&Brookies »

I share your confusion... it does sound like variants and spiders are closely related if not the same fly altogether. Although many variants seem to be tied with quill bodies and not tinsel, which is called for on badger spiders.

Someone with more Catskillian wisdom may be able to parse it out further.

Unlike Hewitt, I have alot to be humble about. 8-)

rjj
Give a man a fly rod, a shotgun and a bird dog and he'll never be worth a d*mn.
-Old New England saying

wiFlyFisher
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Re: 'Spider' dry flies

Post by wiFlyFisher »

Bamboo&Brookies wrote:
Sun Feb 25, 2018 11:52 am
I share your confusion... it does sound like variants and spiders are closely related if not the same fly altogether. Although many variants seem to be tied with quill bodies and not tinsel, which is called for on badger spiders.

Someone with more Catskillian wisdom may be able to parse it out further.

Unlike Hewitt, I have alot to be humble about. 8-)

rjj
I believe I read in Mike Valla's book that Flick preferred quills because the tinsel had a tendency to come loose and unwind. Although, I am not sure how important a body is at all. I would guess the trout see it as just a big wing skating or fluttering across the surface with little light dimples twinkling under the surface.

John

Bamboo&Brookies
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Re: 'Spider' dry flies

Post by Bamboo&Brookies »

Please indulge me a few more lines about Hewitt.

From the reading I've done I always find him intriguing and amusing.

With all his inventions and experimentation, you could call him the Thomas Edison of fly fishing -- along with all the flies he created, he also designed rods and other tackle and was a pioneer in trout stream habitat improvement and hatchery management. And beyond that he was an itinerant tinkerer who engineered and patented various contraptions.

In "A Trout and Salmon Fisherman for Seventy-Five Years," Hewitt holds forth how he was one of the first people to fish Yellowstone's waters, during an excursion just before it was opened to the public. He claims he caught wagonloads of trout on flies and live grasshoppers -- enough fish to consistently feed the 40-man cavalry detachment assigned to guard the park.

He also fished all over the Northeast, Canada and Europe.

Hewitt started buying his Neversink property after WWI, and ended up with around five private miles of river just below Claryville (some of it was flooded by NYC's Neversink Reservoir decades later). He built wooden plank dams to create bigger pools and help keep his big stocked trout from migrating out of his water.

He was incredibly exacting and particular about how he cared for what became his big pet fish -- he reportedly hand fed them special mussels trucked up from Long Island. Just before weekend visiting fishermen arrived, he would heavily feed his fish so they would not rise to the fly readily. He was shrewd.

At the end of the summer he would fill a big tub with water and drive up and downstream collecting some of his vagrant trout that had escaped his river miles over the season. I think he put all the big fish in his private hatchery runs for the winters.

There's alot more to say about Hewitt, he led a fascinating life.

rjj
Give a man a fly rod, a shotgun and a bird dog and he'll never be worth a d*mn.
-Old New England saying

catskilljohn
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Re: 'Spider' dry flies

Post by catskilljohn »

Bamboo&Brookies wrote:
Sun Feb 25, 2018 11:20 am

I think Catskill John is one of our resident experts at tying skaters, and I know he has fished them as well... maybe he will chime in here.
Not an expert, that’s too strong a word, but I do love tying and fishing them!

We have hashed over this subject before, and in my opinion the variants are not exactly the same as the spiders.

Flick was the variant king, and his flies seemed to me to be more of a “variation” of a similar standard sized dry fly, thus he coined the phrase “variant”, meaning variation. His quill or dubbed bodied variants were tyed to imitate a larger insect that with oversized hackling and longer tails would leave a bigger footprint on the water, or give the illusion of a bigger bug without actually tying a fly on a larger hook.

The spiders were typically tyed on smaller hooks, and often with thread or tinsel bodies, sparser but with proportionately larger hackle to sit very lightly on the water and be allowed to move more freely due to their svelt construction.

Bergman lists a row in “TROUT” with various hackle colors and tinsel bodies. Atherton spoke very highly of them also, and wrote of actually using them exclusively one year remarking that he did just as well using only those as he ever did using standard patterns.

In the catalog listing bb posted, Hewitt calls the tail-less flies “spiders”. This I believe is the confusing part. To me, a thread bodied #16 hook oversized hackle fly would be a skater. A small skater, but a skater nonetheless.

I do believe a spider and a variant are two similar styles of flies, but shouldn’t be considered interchangeable.

Like Atherton, I have found that on my little stream the spider and the variant are top flies in that kind of water. Many times, and certainly enough to form an opinion, they have outfished the Catskill standards to the point where I was blanked with Hendrickson’s and Cahill’s but tyed on a spider and caught trout within minutes. Since the small freestones don’t have consistent mayfly activity, matching hatches doesn’t occur but a small,light high floating dry brings them up.

Johnny, those badger flies look great! CJ
"Gentlemen,remove your hats,this is it"
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"Oh he existed in a crude,primitive form in Waltons England"
"But this is where they painted spots on him and taught him to swim"

mikevalla
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Re: 'Spider' dry flies

Post by mikevalla »

Semantics in fly tying--- :lol:
I've always considered Spiders simply as variants or skaters that are tied on short shank hooks, in small sizes, often on up eye hooks, and sometimes without a body.
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wiFlyFisher
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Re: 'Spider' dry flies

Post by wiFlyFisher »

Thank you CJ & Mike for clarifying it for me.

I just dug through some of my older saddles and found some feathers that have stiff, long hackle tips.

So I took three dark barred ginger hackles and tied up my first Variant Spider Skater pattern. :lol: :lol: :lol:

John

Bamboo&Brookies
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Re: 'Spider' dry flies

Post by Bamboo&Brookies »

CJ is correct about hashing this out previously... his historical SGM memory is much sharper than mine... here are 10 pages of previous discussion on the Neversink Skater, with some mentions of spiders as well:

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=491

I should mention he gifted me some skaters he tied but they are such fine presentation grade that I don't have the heart to fish them. I would rather take a stab at tying some second-rate skaters myself and casting those.

-rjj
Give a man a fly rod, a shotgun and a bird dog and he'll never be worth a d*mn.
-Old New England saying

tailwater
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Re: 'Spider' dry flies

Post by tailwater »

With out a doubt the finest spade hackle I have found is from Natures Spirit.

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quashnet
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Re: 'Spider' dry flies

Post by quashnet »

The earliest deliberately-tied variant dry flies that I know of were tied by Dr. William Baigent of Northallerton, North Yorkshire, England. They had tiny hardwings and extraordinarily long, fine hackle. Art Flick popularized the wingless Cream Variant, Dun Variant, and Grey Fox Variant in his Streamside Guide (1947). The most detailed and valuable discussion is in Chapter 7, "Fishing with Spiders and Variants," of John Atherton's The Fly and the Fish (1951). I like to tie and fish the Badger Spider, as shown, with or without a gold tinsel body, depending upon hook shank length:

Image

I use an old badger India neck. The hackles are not as stiff as on contemporary necks, and that's fine. They float well and catch trout. Bamboo fly rods are not as stiff as contemporary graphite rods, and that seems to work out fine too.

These two flies were tied by Catskill fly tier Elsie Darbee. The Badger Spider on the left is nearly a dead ringer for the Badger Spider that she tied for the fly plates in Al McClane's New Standard Fishing Encyclopedia:

Image
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