Friday Fly Day - All YOU need to know about spinnerfalls

Following on from last weeks ‘low light solutions’, we are now at the business end of our rig. As Autumn cools and mayfly hatch out in larger numbers spinnerfalls become more prolific and are a delight to arrive to. While spinners can fall at any time, they prefer the calmer, more pleasant parts of the day which often coincide with the grasses drying out mid morning. As adults mate and the females return to the pools and glides to lay their eggs and expire, the angler is often rewarded with an intense period of dry fly activity, but be prepared and know your game, there is no telling for how long, or how short a period a spinnerfall can last. If you snooze, you lose. Let’s get you in the mix. Trout can often feed rather specifically when keyed in on spinners, and with the sheer numbers often available to them during a decent fall, key in they will.


Size is a key factor when trout lock in to one food source, so matching the size of your fly to those on the water is key. Most autumn deleatidium come in around 16 & 18, and so these make up the basis of my selection, though it’s not uncommon to find larger spinners, especially where other species are present.


Where your fly sits is almost as important as size in my opinion. You are imitating an expired mayfly, laying flat in the film, lifeless with wings stuck to the surface. This is not a time for your high riding, full hackled uprights.


One of the things I strive for in my spent spinner ties is a soft translucence of the wing, and often find sparse CDC prevails over traditional aerowing or clipped hackle ties. Then again, my mate Mike ties a shocker of an imitation, pretty much strapping an entire hank of polyyarn to his hook and does ok.


‘If you don’t know, you don’t go on the eat’. As discussed in last week’s Techy Thursday, seeing / knowing where your fly is is essential to success. These fish will eject an artificial quicker than you can make a decision to set, and you don’t often feel the take here in NZ. Unfortunately, most film flies fall into the ‘no see em’ category, but by trailing your spinner a few feet behind a high vis pattern, you increase your odds greatly.


This is one of the few times when fish will lock on to prey and feed rather specifically, so alongside a killer imitation your presentation needs to be tight. A long, level 5x nylon tippet and snake river mud is a must in my books but have you considered how your fly presents? When fish are sitting high in the surface focussed on the smallest of morsels in often, glassy water I avoid dropping my leader across them from a downstream position. Rather, I prefer to stay low, get across, or even upstream of the rise, and present my spinner downstream to them, ‘fly first’. An upstream reach mend assists your drift (check out THIS ARTICLE for a refresher), as can a pile, or parachute presentation according to the situation.

Let’s look at the flies...

CDC Spinner Original


Spinnerfalls occur in the headwaters too and so you need something with a little more presence to get noticed. The CDC Spinner Original is a go to throughout the season in sizes 12-18.

Dore's Mataura Spinner


Small, sparse with just the right puff of CDC and prominently splayed tail fibres these present a great footprint, are my autumn go-to’s on our technical front country streams. Designed to present on long, light tippet the Mataura Spinner is available in sizes 16-18.

Quill Spinner Black


Quill Spinner Brown




Pick a colour, any colour for a splayed tail, sparse parachute design, perfect for joggly water or when a tiny unweighted trails beneath. A soft CDC post creates viz when looking into the eastern glow of the morning or western glow of evening and even better, the trout love them!

So arm yourself with a dozen of the good stuff and don’t forget your Top Ride desiccant from Loon... the action can be fast and furious so you want to rejuvenate, and get your fly back out there before you miss the boat.