Fly fishing with David Johnson: fishing north country spiders

David Johnson, of Peaks Fly Fishing
David Johnson, of Peaks Fly Fishing

With most local rivers opening at the beginning of April, the fly fishing season is nearly upon us.

Now is the time to get the old gear out of the attic and undertake a few last minutes checks or purchases before the season starts.

Time spent checking your waders for leaks will avoid a wellie full of water from the off and replenishing your fly box in anticipation of the first hatches of the season is always a joy and a good excuse to make a few new purchases of flies or tying materials.

I always like to focus on a new skill or revisit something each season that I haven’t tried for a while and whilst tying some new flies, I started re-reading some old books on north country spider fishing.

North country spiders are wonderfully simple flies tied with just a few sparse feathers and a simple silk body, some spider patterns date back over 400 years.

Despite what the name suggests, they are not designed to look like spiders, instead they look like all manner of insects that the trout feed on.

The way the feathers are tied mean they move beautifully once immersed in the water. Most spider fishing takes place on the river however they can be equally effective on still waters.

I have just returned from a splendid spring morning fishing on Ladybower reservoir where six lovely rainbows all fell to spider patterns fished in a team of three.

The aim of fly fishing is to deceive the fish in to thinking that your little piece of fur and feather is a real piece of food.

Some of the flies we use are tied to look like specific insects however many successful patterns like the spider are general imitations that look like all sorts of water based insects.

Trout and Grayling are quite catholic in their tastes and will eat all manner of bugs, flies and grubs. Often a general imitation will do the job just fine.

Two personal favourites of mine for the Peak District are “partridge and orange” and the simple “black spider”. Enjoy the new season!

l David Johnson teaches fly fishing in and around the Peak District -