The Black Spider: there is beauty in its simplicity.
I caught my first ever fly caught brown trout on a family holiday to Pitlochry in Scotland where I fished the river Tummel. I was probably 10 or so at the time and I caught my fish on a Black Spider. I discovered I could ‘dap’ the fly into the water behind rocks where the Black Spider must have looked like a tiny insect caught up in all the turbulence as the water flowed over the rocks. That was quite a few years ago now (I am trying not to count exactly how long…). Fast forward to today and the Black Spider still works. And it works very well as I am rediscovering, only this time in the lochs. During my last session as the fish began feeding once again as the wind dropped and evening approached, I removed the dropper entirely and fished a single #16 Black Spider. I moved into a tiny bay, cast and hooked a fish on my first cast…which then came off just as quickly as it had taken the fly. I cast again in the opposite direction towards some surface activity. The flyline had wrapped its itself round my net so I began unwrapping it…and yes, a fish took the fly and I missed it! I noted a fish taking a fly off the surface in a tiny inlet off to my right where a small stream enters the loch. I decided to try for this fish as it looked like a nice one. I had caught some good fish from there in previous seasons. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ I thought. I entered the water carefully, cast and then began a very, very slow retrieve. Towards the end of the retrieve everything went solid. I’d hooked some of the more than plentiful weeds right? Well then the ‘weedbed’ began to move and the end result was a beautiful golden-bronze, red-spotted, 41cm brown trout. After that, further fish continued to come and some of the takes to the Black Spider really were quite ferocious. Interesting considering the size of the fly and the slow speed of the retrieve.
The dressing for the Black Spider is simplicity in itself: your hook of choice (mine was a Kamasan B175) some 8/0 black thread for the body and a black hen hackle. This fly also provides the foundation dressing for additional patterns: add a silver rib and it becomes the William’s Favourite, then add a pheasant tippet tail and you have a Black Pennell and add a grey wing to your Black Pennell and you tie a Blae and Black. You can of course add a tinsel or wire tag of your choice as I did with the Red Tag Spider. I am unsure of the origins of the Black Spider itself, though given the simplicity of its dressing and the availability of these materials, I suspect it must be an ancient pattern, perhaps even dating to Roman times. I guess though, we will never know for sure.