|Rootbeer Spade ~ Henry Loiseau|
So what do you get when you combine elements of the soft-hackle styles with the classic salmon/steelhead styles? Well, yeah, something that looks a lot like a low-water steelhead fly – & the low-water patterns do provide a good design frame for wetflies meant to be swung for trout.
The ‘Spade’ low-water steelhead design is an excellent example. Northwest angling legend holds that the Spade design was originated by Bob Arnold, who needed something less invasive than the popular standards for meeting finicky low water summer steelhead on the Stillaguamish. Bob Arnold’s Spade was composed of a deer hair tail, black chenille body, & grizzly spade hackle tied in-the-round. The deer hair tailing (which produced an underbody when tied in) was meant to give the fly some buoyancy, & the flared tailing aiding in deflecting the hook bend from catching the bottom. Yet, while Mr. Arnold’s purpose of the deer hair in this design may have been original to him, a look at sea trout designs from
evidences that the wingless design frame is not. The defining characteristic of
the American Spade designs is that they are tied with the spade hackle taken
from a hen’s back. And Bob Arnold’s greatest contribution beyond his original
pattern is the name he gave it, which has now come to define a recognizable
|Alec Jackson Spade ~ Jeff Cottrell|
Word swiftly got around that Bob Arnold’s Spade pattern was killing, & this was not missed by Alec Jackson (ironically) a native of Yorkshire, transplanted to the
Pacific Northwest. Hailing from the Yorkshire Dales, the of soft-hackle
flies, the Spade design no doubt resonated with Alec Jackson, & he set
about refining the style, tying & fishing a number of the wingless designs,
which he called ‘Spade’ flies, firmly defining & putting a stamp on the
style. And it wasn’t long before Northwest steelheaders started taking the
design frame even further, & I’ve seen some examples that approach Atlantic
salmon designs in detail (fun!). Mecca
The Spade design may have come full circle, having origins in trout fishing, been expanded upon & defined through anadromous fishing, then come back to trouting as a nattily dressed attractor pattern. To my mind, the Spade design frame holds the potential for creating wetflies just as elegant, yet more effective, than the old paired-quill wing lures that have all but disappeared from modern fly boxes (& way easier to tie). Spade flies are designed for swinging, which makes them a good choice for soft-hacklers wanting to swing something when no insect activity is apparent, & a perfect choice for Trout Spey.
|Black & White Spade ~ Jeff Cottrell|
Though drab colorations may serve to simulate the larger natural food forms – sculpin, crayfish, stoneflies, drake nymphs – generally Spade flies are tied as attractor patterns (lures), dressed on #6 through #10 hooks. Although there have always been wee attractor-style spiders used for trouting, in the Spade designs we see the frame expanded both in hook size, and the creative potential a larger hook size presents (not exactly a new concept in soft-hackle flies for trout, the venerable Carey Special is an example of a big one that’s been in service for a long time). Most often, I tie Spade flies on #6 to #10 TMC 200R or low-water steelhead hooks. In any case we want a straight or up-eye hook for best tracking. To some soft-hackle purists that might seem like a big fly, but compare a #6 fly to the wee spoons & spinners used to fish even the smallest streams, & we see that a #6 is at the smallest end of the lure spectrum, & a #10 seems tiny in comparison. This is the size range the old winged wetflies were most often tied in, for perspective. The Spade designs fill the size gap between streamers & wee soft-hackles.
To ensure good surface penetration, tracking and hooking, the bodies of Spade trout flies do not crowd the hook, ending adjacent to or just ahead of the hook point. Typically, a thorax of dubbing is built to flare the hackle collar and create profile and body mass. Hackle collars are full. A spade hackle from a hen back has fatter barbs than hackle taken from the neck. On larger flies, #6 & #8, I’ll wind up to four turns of hackle.
The Spade design frame is perfect for those tiers prone to fanciful creations, or those who would like to branch out from tying & swinging drab wee flies meant to simulate insects, applying the same principle & method to tying & fishing attractor patterns.
|Rootbeer Spade ~ Steven Bird|
Hook: #6 - #10 TMC 200R
Thread: rust-brown UNI 8/0
Hackle: craw (rusty-orange) hen
Tip: copper tinsel
Tip: copper tinsel
Tail: rusty-brown deer hair; bit of rust-brown flue taken from the base of the hackle; nub of pink yarn
Rib: copper wire
Body: peacock herl; thorax: 50/50 mix of Hareline UV Pink Shrimp & dark brown antron dubbing
Horn: 4 or 5 bronze waterfowl flank fibers tied in as a ‘wing’ before winding the hackle ~ & finish.