Stewart on Spiders

‘Before commencing, bite the end of the gut between your teeth ; this flattens it and makes it broader in the point, which prevents its slipping ; a thing very liable to occur with small flies.

Next take the hook firmly between the forefinger and thumb of your left hand, lay the gut along its shank, and with a well waxed silk thread, commencing about the centre of the hook, whip it and the gut firmly together, till you come to the end of the shank, where form the head by a few turns

of the thread.  This done, take the feather, and laying it on with the root end towards the bend of the hook, wrap the silk three or four times around it, and then cut of the root end.

  What remains to be done is the most critical part of the whole operation ; still holding the hook

between the forefinger and thumb of your left hand, take the thread, lay it along the centre of  inside of the feather, and with the forefinger and thumb of your right hand twirl them round together till the feather is rolled around the thread ; and in this state wrap it round the hook,

taking care that a sufficient number of the fibres stick out to represent the legs ; to effect this

it will sometimes be necessary to raise the fibres with a needle during the operation.

  Having carried the feather and thread down to where you commenced, wrap the silk three or

four times round the end of the feather, and if there is any left cut it off, and finish with a succession of hitch knots, or the common whip fastening.’


Here are Stewarts recipes for the three Spiders.

1st. The Black Spider.  This is made of the small feather of the cock starling, dressed with brown

silk, and is , upon the whole, the most killing imitation we know. We were first shown it by James Baillie, and have never been without it on our line ever since.

2d. The Red Spider should be made of the small feather taken from the outside of the wing of the

landrail, dressed with yellow silk, and is deserving of a very high rank, particularly in coloured waters.

3d. The Dun Spider. This should be made of the small soft dun or ash-coloured feather, taken

from the outside wing of the dotterel. This bird is unfortunately very scarce ; but a small feather

may be taken from the inside wing of the starling, which will make an excellent substitute.


The above was taken from ‘The Practical Angler’ (1857) by W. C. Stewart.

The way I dress Stewart’s spiders is :-

1. Wind the silk onto the hook at the eye.  


2. Strip off the unwanted hackle fibres at the base of the hackle and tie onto the hook, hackle stem towards the bend hackle tip forwards, with the concave surface up, trim surplus stem.


3. Wind silk back to where you want the body to end, and then forwards to where you want  to

wind the hackle to on the body, I usually leave about a third of the hook length for the hackle.


4. Now wind the hackle back to where the silk is, tie down hackle with a couple of turns of silk.

Trim off surplus hackle and carefully wind silk through the hackle to the head, this can be done without fouling the hackle fibres using a kind of sideways motion while winding the silk.


5. Finish with a small head, and varnish.


The above instructions are for a basic spider, in 3., you can tie in a tail and rib, then finish the body as required.  


Page 9.

James Baillie Memorium