This is an old North Country spider pattern dating from 1820. The fly emanates from Yorkshire’s river Wharfe and I hope it will prove acceptable to the stillwater trout this coming season too.
In his excellent book The North Country Fly, Robert Smith lists the Green Sleeves spider pattern as dating from the 1820 fly list of Jonathan Pickard, an angler who fished the river Wharfe in Yorkshire. In his fly list of 1820, Jonathan Pickard lists the Green Sleeves spider pattern along with other pattern entries under June and gives the dressing as: ‘green silk’ (for the body), ‘peacock harl’ (or herl) ‘in the head’ and ‘feather from a woodcock wing’ (hackle).
Part of the joy of tying your own flies is deceiving and catching a fish on a pattern that you have tied yourself. But when you combine that with patterns that are steeped in angling history you really do have a heady combination. Perhaps that is why soft hackle wet flies, spiders and flymphs hold such a fascination for me. It is also fascinating to think that flies such as the North Country patterns, first devised all those years ago, are still as relevant today as fish catching patterns, as they were when they were first developed.
The pattern in Pickard’s list called for green silk. Whether the original called for Pearsall’s silk I’m not sure and I was happy to use 14/0 olive coloured Ultra Thread for the pattern. Tying the pattern was beautifully simple. I viced up a de-barbed #12 Kamasan B410 hook and ran the thread down the shank from the eye and then back up again. I tied in the woodcock feather by its tip and wrapped a turn or two around the shank. I added one strand of peacock herl and wound it to form the head, using it to slightly angle the hackle fibres backwards. All that was left to do after forming the head was to do a three-turn whip finish and add a spot of varnish.
I am really looking forward to fishing this fly, perhaps just sub-surface or as an emerger. I classify the Green Sleeves spider as a general representation of aquatic insect life form, rather than a specific species representation. That said, I can imagine it doing quite well in a hatch of Chironomids or olives.