The Platte River Spider

I moved from Idaho to Utah in the mid-2000s after graduating high school. While I was excited to move away from home, I was heartbroken to leave the trout-rich waters of Idaho. Shortly after the move, I remember going into a fly shop in Park City and being shocked to find out that there were many fly fishing options near Salt Lake. In my mind, Salt Lake was hot, dry, and devoid of trout.

I figured I’d put down the fly rod for a few years, go to college while getting in some rock climbing and skiing, and then move back north. 15 years later, not much has changed, except that I’ve met some great anglers and friends in Utah and have found unexpected treasures pursuing trout and other fish in my adopted state.

Working in a warehouse for one of Salt Lake’s major online outdoor retailers, I met Ebon, a fellow Idaho native obsessed with fly fishing. He introduced me to another co-worker Jeff, a hardcore cyclist, and angler whom I instantly liked. I was still in the first date phase, exploring Utah’s waters and hungry for beta. Over a sandwich in the break room, Jeff whispered about a stream a few hours away that held large brown trout and his preferred fly: the Platte River Spider. Later that evening I poured over maps and looked up the fly realizing it was essentially Gartside’s Soft Hackle Streamer in classic Platte River Special colors.

That special stream held my attention for many years until a fire ravished it. However, the Platte River Spider lived on and was my top-producing fly for many years, especially as I started to get into the trout spey game. The beauty of this pattern is its versatility, there isn’t much reason to stray from the classic Platte River color scheme of yellow, orange, and brown. But over time I have found confidence in white, olive, and black with some copper flash. I’ve also had great success with a pure white pattern. The secret to the fly is to tie it sparsely, starting the body at the midpoint of the hook shank. Stripping away one side of the marabou plume can help create a very sparse transparent body.

This Platte River Spider is very buoyant and you will benefit from some sort of sinking leader/tip to help keep the fly at the proper level. This fly does not need to be fished deep and I often fish it in the first 18” of water. Like most streamers fishing early and late in the day, as well as in unsettled weather will be the most productive, however, I have been shocked at the force and aggression of the sunny midday strikes this fly has produced. Another consideration with this pattern is that fish tend to inhale it and even juvenile trout can’t resist. When selecting a hook I try to find one with a reasonable gape and shorter shank to help ensure clean hookups and limit damage to fish. Yes, you can tie this on a shank with a trailing hook but then again life is full of questionable decisions. It is a great pattern on a tube if that is your cup of tea.

We lost Jeff to a battle with skin cancer years ago. I’ll forever be thankful for his introduction to the Platte River Spider, the many games of ping pong, and fish stories shared.

Ebon went on to trade Utah for Montana. It’s been a while since we’ve had the chance to fish together, and we’re overdue to walk the Ranch, share a Brown Drake hatch, or swing some Platte River Spiders. Life moves quickly and you never know which fishing trip will be the last with your buddy. Call them and make plans to get out on the river as soon as possible, we could all use more river time shared with a good friend.

STEP-BY-STEP: Platte River Spider / Soft Hackle Streamer

Hook: Heavy Wire #4-8

Thread: Tyer’s Choice

Body: Copper Ice Dub

Hackle: Marabou

Collar: Mallard or Teal

Wings: Furnace Hackle and a few strands of flash

1: Wrap thread to mid-point of the hook shank

2: Create a dubbing loop of Copper Ice Dub and make 3-4 wraps

3. Tie in 1st Marabou feather by the tip and take 2-3 turns

4. Tie in 2nd Marabou feather by the tip and take 2-3 turns

5. Tie in 3rd Marabou feather by the tip and take 2-3 turns

  • Note – if feathers are fluffy or you want a thinner profile fly, strip one side of the marabou feather

6. Tie in a few strands of flash

7. Wrap collar

8. Tie in a furnace/badger hackle on either side of fly in a “V” shape.