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North Country Spiders, or "Soft Hackled" trout flies really do epitomise the simplicity of fly fishing.

The origin of spider fly patterns is buried in the mists of time but some recipes can be traced back as far as the early 1800's.

Some of the first descriptions of these little creations were found in an 1807 document written by Yorkshire farmer John Swarbrick.

It was only during the late nineteenth century that the spider pattern really became recognised in the publishing of the classic book "Yorkshire Trout Flies" by T. E. Pritt in 1885 and re-published a year later under the title "North Country Flies".

There were certainly many other supporters of the spider pattern writing at the time, but it was Thomas Evan Pritt's book that really made an impact and was, and still is today considered by many as the standard reference work for North Country Spiders.

Olive Bloa
Pritt's belief in the spider pattern was based around some common - sense thinking in that it was virtually impossible ( in his time) to perfectly imitate an insect to copy nature, but an impressionistic one was feasible with the materials available to him.
Thread Bobbin His reasoning was that it was far more difficult to create a perfect imitation of an insect and to impart life afterwards, than to produce an impressionistic resemblance of an imperfectly developed insect, struggling in the current.

From 1886 onwards the spider patterns’ recognition spread until 1916 saw the publication of “Brook and River Trouting' by H. H. Edmonds and N.N.Lees

This tome caused the spider patterns popularity to soar higher than ever. 

Both Pritt’s, and Edmonds and Lee's books are considered to be THE bibles on the tying and fishing of North Country Spiders and are well worth reading.

I’ve just scratched the surface of the history of these wonderful little creations – dig deeper and the names of W.C Stewart, W.H. Aldam and a real unsung hero – the West Country wet fly gentleman – H. C.Cutcliffe. 

So, with literally tens of thousands of patterns around today, why fish with what is just a hook with a little bit of silk thread and a few hackles from a game bird…?

The humble North Country Spider patterns perfectly imitate easy prey for trout and grayling. They have stood the true test of time AND will do so for many years to come!

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