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Adventures in Fly Tying... June 2008

Bully's Bluegill Spider
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard


I first learned about the Bully's Bluegill Spider, as did most of the angling world, through the book Bluegill Fly Fishing and Flies by Terry & Roxanne Wilson (Amato Books, ISBN 1-57188-176-X).  The Wilson's tell an amusing tale of how Terry lost his bass bug to an errant cast that hooked the hind end of a bull.  While recovering and re-rigging, Wilson observed a fellow fishing crickets on a cane pole and noticed that the wild gyrations of the insect's legs lead to almost instantaneous takes on the drop.  Inspiration strikes us all in different ways, in the case of the Bully's Bluegill Spider it was via the courtesy of a bovine stander-by!

I love fishing the Calcasieu Pig Boat, that unique bass fly created by the iconoclastic Tom Nixon in the late 1950's.  The Pig Boat is also a drop bait, albeit one on steroids when compared to the rotund little Bully.  I've also fished spinner baits and jigs as drop baits when hardware fishing - this is a technique often used when 'flipping' to heavy cover.  The sudden entry of the bait and its subsequent slow drop, complete with the strong sonic signature of the water-resistant legs and the visual attraction of intense motion from the thin rubber suggests something living. The Bully Spider offer a fantastic suggestion of life.  Small living things don't often survive long in a warm water pond!  I like to use a short, steeply tapered leader with a long tippet to fish this fly.  A 6-foot tapered leader ending with a 1x diameter is about perfect. To that I'll use a triple-twist surgeon's knot to add 3 to 5-feet of 6lb test fluorocarbon tippet.  I like to liberally apply floatant to the end of the fly line and the tapered portion of the leader to keep things floating high and assist in the vertical presentation.

By far the best color for the Bully's Bluegill Spider is a black body with white rubber legs.  In the autumn a hot pink is tough to beat.  And in July try a white body to imitate suspended small minnow fry.  Brown and olive are also productive colors, especially in clear water or on creeks.  Don't be surprised if you find a lot of rock bass and smallmouth  bass attaching themselves to this fly if you fish it in a creek.  The action is effective for multiple species.  It's easy to tie, easy to fish and very effective.  What's not to like?


Hook: Mustad 3366 bass hook or similar regular length shank wet fly hook, size 8 to 14
Thread: 140 Denier 6/0 black or color to match body

Body: Chenille or vernille in pink, black, brown, olive, yellow, white or chartruese

Legs: Round rubber hackle, Sili-legs or strands from a spinner bait skirt

Weight: Lead wire

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



The Bully's Bluegill Spider is a "drop bait".  It is designed to, and does, work best while falling vertically through the water column.   I don't have a lot of luck retrieving this pattern, though a slow hand-twist retrieve can often trigger a strike.  I like this fly on a longish tippet with the bulk of the leader dressed with floatant.  That way it pulls the leader straing down into its little sinkhole and the entire rig retains an excellent right-angle set-up.  Takes can be soft.  This fly will work wonders under a float indicator on a windy day!  Try it under a popper, too!
The trick to making this a drop bait is getting the weighting in the right place.  You want the fly to drop bend-first through the water column, sinking with they eye pointing up to the surface.  To do this correctly the fly needs to be aft-weighted.  I like about 16 wraps, made double thick, right over the poin and barb of the hook.   In smaller sizes it pays to bend open the bite of the hook just a little bit.
Here I'm demonstrating how the fly will fall through the water column.  The legs will kick out away from the body, like a parachute deploying. This gives the fly a slow sink with lot's of action from the waving legs.  I only use white legs, bluegills love them!
Wrap over the lead to secure it in  place and give yourself a good base to start wrapping the body.
Tie the chenille on right in front of the lead weight.  You'll begin by wrapping back to the bend then then forward again.
This way you build a teardrop-shaped body with the tapered end pointing towards the eye.  Think about what a raindrop looks like falling through the sky and you'll get the idea of how you want the body tapered.  Don't limit yourself to chenille!   Try dubbing a body with different dubbing furs.  I like to use a fluorescent thread under a fur dubbing to have a 'bleed-through" effect when the fly is wet. Gray squirrel over orange thread, white rabbit over red thread and dyed light green squirrel over chartreuse are all variations you'll find in my kit.  
Make sure to cut the legs long, we'll be trimming them all together as the last step in the tying process.  Tie the first leg on top of the fly, with one end pointing over the eye.  Wrap back to force the rear-facing leg to "cock up" at the body and stick out at a right angle.
Fold the front-facing leg back and wrap in front of it so it also radiates from the body at a ninety degrees.  I like to separate the legs so they form four "slices of pie" around the shank of the hook.  This attention to detail and symmetry will keep the fly from spinning when you cast it. This can be very important if you need to false cast a lot to change directions.
The final step after tying in the legs, forming a neat thread head and applying a double whip finish is to pull all the legs forward over the eye.  One cut with sharp scissors will ensure all appendages are the same length.
A simple pattern, designed to provide a simple action.  This is fly fishing at it's most pure.  Think about  trying this one on a picky trout.  Few fish can resist the slow fall and enticing action of the Bully Spider.  You might not think you're matching the hatch, but you'll be surprised!

Till next time, tight lines and clear flows…

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