Shrimp are great because pretty much every fish that swims wants to eat them. This makes shrimp flies a good choice for multi species angling in salt water. There are also some types of fish that have a strong preference for shrimp, In Atlantic Canada these include sea run trout (either steelhead or brookies) and winter flounder, making saltwater shrimp flies a great choice for targeting these fish species.
I’ll show you how to tie a shrimp fly. The shrimp fly we’re tying today is an extremely easy pattern, and needs relatively few materials.
The material list is as follows:
- Monofilament fishing line. I used 40 lb test, but you can use smaller or larger test line if you want different sized eye stalks.
- Seal fur dubbing. Pink is what I used, but orange, tan, and white are all good shrimp colours.
- Your choice of flash. I used tinsel and pearl flashabou
- Lead-free wire.
- Brass wire.
- Strip of plastic. Scud back would probably be the way to go, but I’m cheap and used a strip of plastic cut from the packaging of a frozen pizza.
- Head cement or hard as nails.
- Your choice of thread.
Equipment needed includes the basic fly tying stuff like a bobbin, bodkin and a whip finishing tool. In addition to the usual equipment, you will also need a toothbrush and a lighter.
How to tie seal fur shrimp
Step 1: Secure hook in vise, mash barb before hand.
Step 2: Cut two lengths of monofilament, these will be the eye stalks. Take a lighter and singe the end of each monofilament piece. It can take a few tries to get it right. Try with a longer length of line than you need so you can cut the “eye” off the end if you’re not happy with it’s shape, and try again until you have an “eye” you’re happy with.
Step 3: Tie each eye stalk onto the hook shank. The fishing line I was using had a natural curve, tie the eye stalks in such a way that they curve upwards. I tie the eye stalks on either side of the hook shank rather than right on top, and this naturally parts them so they’re not to close together.
Step 4: Next it’s time to tie in some flash. This is really whatever your preference is, krystal flash would work well, but I went with pearl flashabou and tinsel this time. Tie them in so they point below the eye stalks. In addition to adding flash to the fly, this will mimic the little claws and legs at the front of a shrimp.
Step 5: If you are not using scud back, then cut a strip of plastic about half twice the length of the hook shank. The plastic should be as wide as typical scud back is. Cut the free end of the plastic or scud back into a triangle shape.
Step 6: Tie in strip of plastic so it extends just over a full hook shank past the eye of the hook. Try and make sure it’s wrapped down and around the hook shank to reduce crinkling of the plastic further along the process. Leave a little bit of room between the plastic and the hook eye.
Step 7: Tie in brass wire or other preferred ribbing material. The brass wire should be pointing the opposite direction of the plastic sheet you just tied in, and should be pointing the same direction as the eyes.
Step 8: *optional* Add weight as desired. Here I’m using 0.020 lead-free round wire. If you want the pattern to ride hook up, add weighted eyes to the top of the hook shank (similar to this pattern), just be sure to reverse the orientation of the eye stalks and scud back if that’s the route your going.
Step 9: position thread near the hook bend of the fly.
Step 10: Take some seal fur dubbing and dubb it onto your thread. Wrap the thread around the hook from the hook bend to the eye and try to reverse-taper the body a bit, you want the front end of the body by the eye stalks slightly thicker than the end by the hook eye. It’s hard to see in the picture above because it’s so buggy, but the body is tapered from the hook eye to the hook bend. Be sure to keep your brass wire free from the thread wraps.
Step 11: Pull the strip of plastic over the fly. The tip of the plastic should extend to about half the length of the eye stalks. If it doesn’t, you can trim it shorter. While you have the plastic pulled over the body of the shrimp, begin making wraps with the brass wire. Wrap the brass wire along the length of the fly and tie the brass wire down with your thread when you get to the gap between the plastic and the hook eye. The wire will lock the plastic in place, avoid the need for thread wraps at the head of the fly, and give the body some segmentation.
Step 12: Whip finish the fly and using a bodkin apply a small amount of hard as nails to the finishing thread wraps.
Step 13: After the hard as nails dries, take a bodkin and work some of the seal fur fibres free from the brass wire, especially near the hook bend.
Step 14: Take a toothbrush and brush the seal fur towards the head of the fly. You are trying to loosen additional fibres in addition to making the fibres face rearwards.
The water that I’m fishing has a pretty bare sand bottom most of the time, so it’s not very important that the hook rides upright. If I was fishing water with a weedy or rocky bottom, I would’ve tied this pattern with the dumbbell eye underneath so the hook rides upright.
This is an excellent fly for use in estuaries, and it’s shape closely resembles the grass shrimp we have in our area. As mentioned earlier, sea run brook trout, steelhead, and winter flounder all relish shrimp, and I have caught each species on this pattern.
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