Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Gravel Spinner (Spider Fly); Gravel Bed Fly; Spider Legs

This dressing uses raw Targhee wool rather than the dark brown mohair assigned to the fly.



Silk buttonhole twist – Talon 533 light gray, size D

Raw brown Targhee wool

Crow undercovert

Michael Theakston describes the Gravel Spinner in his List of Natural Flies (1853) as hatching in middle April to early May and suggests dressing the fly with an abdomen of a “lead or ashy colored silk; winged or hackled with a starling’s feather or the blue blo of a crow, with a few fibres of dark brown mohair at the breast.” Theakston dressed another Gravel Bed Spinner (Spider) for later in the season, from May on: “They are usually hackled with a feather out of the woodcock’s wing, lead colored silk, and legged with a black red hackle or coppery silk, tinged with water rat and a few fibres of red brown mohair, but must be made smart and fine.” Theakston's contemporary, John Jackson, included a similar dressing for April in his posthumous Practical Fly-Fisher (1854). No. 18, the Spider Legs was dressed with a "rusty coloured" hackle from a Fieldfare's back for wings," as well as a "lead coloured silk" body and a "dark grizzled hackle" for legs, rather than Theakston's woodcock. 

In The Northern Angler (1837), John Kirkbride includes winged and hackled dressings for the Spider Fly and Gravel Spider, instructing the fly tier to dress the fly “as a spider, or hackle-fly, with the body of the fur from a water-rat’s back, and a hackle from the outside of a woodcock’s wing, near the butt, of not too dark a colour.”

Alfred Ronalds dressed the Gravel Bed fly, No. 13, similarly to Kirkbride's dressing for April:

“BODY.  Dark dun, or lead coloured silk thread dressed very fine.
WINGS.  From the underside of a feather of the woodcock’s wing.
LEGS.  A black cock’s hackle rather long, wound twice, only, round the body.

To make it buzz, a dark dun cock’s hackle tinged with brown may be used.”

The Bowlkers also include dressings for the Spider Fly in their Art of Angling. In his 1754 edition of the book, Richard Bowlker recommends a dressing with wings “made of a Woodcock’s Feather that lyes under the butt end of his Wing; the Body of a Lead-colour’d silk with a black Cock’s hackle twice or thrice around: The Body is to be made in the shape of the Ant Fly.” Charles Bowlker’s 1774 additions maintain the essential parts of the earlier dressing, but Charles gives the “black cock’s hackle wrapt twice or thrice under the but of the wings,” noting that “The fly cannot be made too fine.”


  1. Very nice, I love the bodies you are able to build with the buttonhole twist. Where do you purchase it from?

  2. Simple and exquisite.
    Neil, would you please email me.