"IF" poses as an expert on fly fishing forums where he originally attacked Year of the Spider posting under the name Caddisfan. He is from Aberdeen and I made him angry by contradicting him and attributing his bad mood to the weather in that part of the world. I also made a joke about the Scottish diet to which he took great offence. "IF" is an anonymous Amazon account created to exact revenge. SharkeyP and Kris are his virtual gang. Their motive is perhaps a rage against the impotence that life has visited upon them, a sense of mischief, or maybe just the urge to break things that all little boys have, so don't think too badly of them.
To the substance of the review.
North Country spiders are soft-hackled flies. The "style" of their tying has changed since the 19th Century when TE Pritt wrote Yorkshire Trout Flies and continues to evolve. The modern "style" is for very thin bodies with a sparse hackle, but this was not so in Pritt's day. Back then, hooks were eyeless, curved wire, with the line incorporated directly into the fly - being laid along the shank and tied in from the start. Look at the images in Yorkshire Trout Flies and you will see the line is already attached to the flies. That line would be about the same thickness as the wire used to make the hook, effectively doubling its diameter. Double the diameter and you triple the circumference. This means that in Pritt's day, before the advent of eyed hooks, there would be three times as much thread making up the body of the fly.
Looking again at the original paintings in Yorkshire Trout Flies, it also becomes apparent that the hackle was far heavier than in modern spiders. And yet they caught fish in numbers. Whether the modern spider is more effective than its fatter, fluffier ancestor is a question that has no answer (would a more modern tying have drawn the same fish?). Describing the flies in Year of the Spider as "not being true to the spider style" in terms of body/hackle proportions therefore makes no sense. There is no such thing as "true spider style".
Writing that the flies in Year of the Spider are poorly tied is equally empty of meaning. Perhaps they are not thin or sparse enough for modern tastes, but again, that is more about style than substance. They are effective - as evidenced by the images of the fish contained in the book caught by the very flies that are "poorly tied". Even if they were poorly tied, would that not be good news for the reader? Because if a poorly-tied fly can fool such fantastic trout, grayling and chub, then even the most inept tier has cause for optimism.
As for the writing and photography being "poor"; these are matters of opinion. I could argue that in my opinion they are wonderful, and the debate cannot realistically go any further.
The technique of spider fishing? Cast the fly across the current, let it come around and hang and then perhaps let out a little more line. If at any time during this process a bend should suddenly appear in your fishing rod, well, there you are...
To conclude; there is a tendency in some quarters to present fly fishing as an inaccessible and complicated sport only available to an elite few, allowing "experts" to bask in their imagined superiority and denounce other anglers as "novices".
It is a recasting of the Emperor's New Clothes.
Pay no attention to such people and enjoy your fishing. It is the only sensible response.