Paul Little Dressing the Red Tag Spider

Hook:                 Partridge L3AS size 12

Thread:            Brown thread of choice

Tail:                   Red floss

Body:               Peacock herl (from the eye)

Hackle:           Red game

Paul Little has been a Partridge Ambassador for many years his skills in fly tying are second to none. His spiders are very well known and beautiful to see. This post from Paul contains some great information on dressing the Red Tag Spider.

Spiders are a great weapon in the river and still water fishers armoury. This article contains a number of tying tips that will help in its construction.


Paul Little red tag spider
Spider Hooks

Hook choice

The choice of hook not only for this type of fly but all flies is the most important consideration; it is the canvas on which the tier creates their killing fly. Many fly dressers will have their favourite hooks and will have reasons for their choice.


Four patterns of Partridge hook to suit are:

L3AS        Spider hook       Size 14

PWW         Wide Wet          Size 14 (Barbless)

L5A         Standard dry      Size 14

S2401       Matt Bronze       size 14 (Barbless)

The first two hooks have short shanks and wide gapes, the third a slightly longer shank with smaller gape and the fourth is a barbless version with a slightly upturned point. The slight upward curve to the hook gives the hook gives a pleasant look to the final fly

IMG 3491
Hook Choice

Tying thread

The choice of silk used for dressing classic spiders would be Pearsall’s Gossamer. This is not a pre-requisite and hence do not let it be an obstacle in dressing spider patterns, select a silk of one’s own choice. The fly above has been dressed Pearsall’s Gossamer silk, shade 6b to match the colour of the hackle.


Fly dressing wax

Fly dressing wax is a great tool in providing security to the materials hook when materials are attached (wax usually consisting of Rosin, Beeswax and a reasonably viscus oil such as Caster oil, with parts by weight of 7 : 2 : 1.5).

Material choice 

Tail material

A fine red floss or wool could be selected for the tail. In this case Glo-Brite red floss has been selected. A good wool for a tail would be Marino sheep’s wool; it is very fine and combs out well.

Body material

The finest herl from the centre of the Peacock eye tail should be selected. The location of the finest herl is on the top of the feather directly above the eye as shown below. The usual region is approximately the width of the “eye” itself.


This version of the Red Tag is the wet fly dressing and has a red game hen hackle from an Indian hen cape, a genetic hen hackle could also be used.


Tying tips



Secure the floss from just behind the hook eye and bind down (keeping the floss under tension with the non-bobbin hand) to where you want the body to end; this creates an even underbody, a prerequisite for a good final herl body.


Body and taper 

Select a minimum of four fine herl strands align the tips as best you can,  then cutting the tips to make them even. This really helps when attempting to secure them on the hook shank by the tips. 

After winding the tying silk towards the eye, wind it rearward for a short distance and then back to just behind the eye. This creates a slightly more exaggerated taper as in the photograph above. 

Attach a pair of light hackle pliers to the butt ends of the herl gathering them together under a little tension. Twist the herls slightly and begin winding to form the body. After each give them a twist in the same direction as before; this prevents them splaying during the winding process. Leave enough space at the head for the hackle.


Hackle whip finish

Attach the feather by the tip with waxed thread the hackle fibres can are now doubled or helped in their way with the non-bobbin hand, allowing them to point rearwards. Secure the waste with two turns of waxed thread towards the eye and then make a two turn whip finish backwards to the hackle.

Paul Little red tag spider

Fly critique by Paul Little


  • The body has a nice even taper due to the formation of the underbody
  • The head is small and tapered towards the eye
  • The hackle looks a little untidy. If to overcome this problem, the hackle should be steamed over a kettle before attaching it, this will realign the fibres and remove any kinks.
  • Hackle length is to some extent a personal choice. Should it only extend to the hook point or past the bend of the hook or somewhere in-between? A point for further discussion.