Selective Dogma

Selective Dogma

Martyn White | Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Recently I've been tying a small box of North Country and Clyde style wets for myself. So I have been re-reading Edmonds and Lee's ‘Brook and River Trouting’ which I've been enjoying thoroughly. The book is thankfully now easily available thanks to a few companies doing reprints.

I love spiders, both tying and fishing them. There's something incredibly elegant about these simple slender flies, and it doesn't hurt that they're deadly when fished properly. The upstream method  with only a rod length or 2 of line outside the rod is my favourite although I rarely see others fishing that way, perhaps because it's more effort than the usual down and across swing that seems to have become popular.  It's a shame that many people associate the down and across method with these flies now, because it's frankly inferior to both the upstream and across and down methods which allow the flies to drift naturally with the current, rather than swinging unnaturally across the current in the hope of eliciting a reaction bite. 


Despite the apparent loss of the traditional techniques there seems that there's been something of a resurgence in popularity of spiders among anglers and fly tiers in recent years, or perhaps we can just see them now thanks to the internet and social media.  Unfortunately it came too late to save Pearsall's which caused a bit of consternation among the purists, despite the recent release of a few silk alternatives that are pretty good matches for the old colour charts, except the notorious 6B which no one seems to want to reproduce-I once saw a spool on ebay go for close to £70! It's crazy as there are other non-silk threads that match the browny orange quite well. But those purists want the exact thing from the book, and are often derisive of anyone who suggest subs- I was once kicked out of a Facebook group for dissenting.


This dogmatic approach is something that I really can't get along with, it stifles growth and improvement and is hardly in keeping with the attitudes of experimentation and development that were prevalent in the Victorian / Georgian era that Edmonds, Lee and Stewart lived, fish and wrote in. The baffling thing is that the first paragraph of Brook and River Trouting -the bible to  many of the spider puritans- begins "While it is the endeavour of this work to bring the range of trout flies within reasonable and practical limits and to describe no other than sound practical dressings, there is no desire to limit experiment either in patterns or numbers. In fact to do so would take away one of the pleasantest features of the pastime..."  Why ignore this part but be so adamant that the dressings must be followed d to the letter?  Especially when our sport is increasingly struggling to attract new young people, this kind of attitude is something I think should be left behind.  Far better we follow the spirit of these old anglers and welcome change and development.


So try tying some spiders, or winged wets  and have a go on the river. Just don't pay too much attention to those who decry your spider tied with brahma hen and burnt orange Uni thread.  The fish don't know or care what the patterns in books are and they'll eat a well presented without knowing if it's tied with silk or not.