By Seán Woods
I hope you are all keeping well and looking forward to the season ahead. Great to hear of a few fish being got from East Mayo already. Unfortunately, not living local, I haven’t been able to wet a line yet but a very welcome surprise came last week permitting intercounty travel from May the 10th….won’t be long now!
I have covered a few different styles of flies now but this time I will be discussing a long tailed shrimp style of fly, which is a little more advanced with a layered tail and more going on at the head of the fly.
To demonstrate it, I will do a little fly I made up last September for my last try to the Moy, the Copper Calvin Cascade, a real mixture of colours with all the right back end colours. I connected with a fish at Oldcastle within the first few casts with it…only to lose the fish. Hopefully it will be christened properly this year.
The dressing for the fly is:
- Tag: red wire
- Tail: short yellow artic runner, 2 or 3 strands of copper crystal flash, longer orange runner, 3 or 4 strands of gold angelina fibres, short red runner
- Rear 1/2 body: flat copper
- Front 1/2 body: mix of red seals fur (80%) and yellow lite brite (20%)
- Rib: red wire
- Wing: short pink fox pelt, few strands of gold angelina fibres, longer black fox pelt
- Hackle: sunburst yellow cock with hot orange cock over
- Head: UTC fire orange
So here we go…
First, we secure the thread on to the hook and lock in a length of red wire for the tag. Run the thread to above the hook points while securing the wire to the shank.
With the wire now secure, begin winding it towards the bend of the hook for three or four turns. On the final turn bring it through the two hooks and tie it in under the shank to create the tag. If you want, you can wrap the tag over the opposite hook to level the appearance.
Secure the wire by running the thread up the shank. Bend the wire back on itself and bring the thread and wire back to the end of the tag. The wire can now double up as your rib.
Next bring the thread up the shank again about 5mm from the tag to begin tying in the tail. The reason I don’t tie right at the tail is that the build up of thread will stop the tail kicking up against the tag. We will tie it tight to the tag later. For this fly, artic runner is used in three layers. The first layer is yellow runner. This layer will help support the other two so you want to cut the piece of runner and do not remove any underfur, just the guard hairs. Hold the fur in thumb and fore finger lightly and pull the longer guard hairs out. Now secure the fur to the shank with three turns down and three turns back, giving a length of approximately the same as the hook shank.
On top of this I add a few strands of crystal flash the same length as the first layer, which is quite stiff and will also help support the tail.
The second layer of the tail will be longer runner, about twice the length of the hook shank. You will need to hold the runner lightly,close to the main fur tips and pull out the underfur this time. You should now be left with the main fur and some longer guard hairs. The density of this section should be less than the first layer. Now secure this on top of previous layer in the same way.
On top of this layer, add some softer flash like angel hair or hanked lite brite. I use Angelina fibres as it is dirt cheap, has a lovely colour mix and is extremely mobile. About three or four strands will be fine and secure in with two turns up toward the end and then fold the strands backs on themselves, pointing towards the rear, and secure with additional turns. Now trim the fibres to the same length as the second layer, ensure it doesn’t look too uniform. I do this by holding the fibres and running the scissor blade up the last few millimetres which cuts all the fibres at different stages of the pressure.
The final part of the tail is the top layer of runner which is made of runner but with the guard hairs and underfur removed. This will only need to be a small pinch of fur, continuing with your layering of density.
Now that all the tail had been secured, hold the tail up and run your thread over it until you get to the tag. When the tail in tightened against the tail it will kick up. This is why we secured the tail further up. This will help prevent the tail wrapping around the hook when fishing.
Next, we cut the waste ends of the tail and run the thread close to the top of the shank. Now we run the thread back to the tail. If you didn’t keep the wire attached for a rib earlier, take the opportunity to secure in a length of wire. When back at the tail, take whatever wraps are needed to level out the diameter of the rear end of the shank ensuring the lower half of the shank is nice and smooth. The smoother the rear half of the body is, the easier it will be to wrap your mylar tinsel on.
With a level body, secure in a piece of mylar and run the thread to the midpoint of the shank. Now we want to run the tinsel up to the midpoint of the shank. Before laying the tinsel down, I paint a very small bit of superglue or varnish on the body to prevent the tinsel slipping.
Now we wind the flat tinsel up the body, in touching turns, until the mid point and then secure it with three turns forward and three turns back.
If you have the time, also put a layer of varnish over the tinsel and come back later. If you are making a few flies, it would be best to do these in batches which will add sheen and durability.
The final part of the body is a dubbed mix of 80% red seals fur and 20% yellow lite brite. This is fairly easy to mix by pulling and rolling the clumps until the fibres are well mixed.
Now we secure a rope of dubbing. Some just use wet hands and twist this on and some use wax to help secure it. However, I find it easiest to put a small length of spread out dubbing on the thread and then take a small turn of thread. The turn will help secure a few fibres and now you can twist your tying thread from below the dubbing while lifting the bobbin with you hand. This twists and locks the dubbing in, giving a secure rope. The only downside of this method is you must wind the dubbed thread on by hand to stop it untwisting. You can then run the dubbing to head area. Be sure to leave lots of space as the heady is quite busy on this fly. Play it safe, you can always have excess bare hook in front of the head as opposed to part covering the eye when securing the head, limiting the type of knots you can tie to attach your fly to the leader.
Now we run the wire rib over the tinsel and dubbing with an evenly spaced four or five turns in the opposite direction you wound the tinsel and dubbing. If your tail didn’t kick up well against the tag, you can always pass the first turn under the tail before winding up the body.
When the wire is secured, instead of wrecking your scissors and to prevent a bulkier head, you can twist and “jig” the excess wire while having a taught bobbin and the wire will break off neatly.
For the wing, I will use fox pelt, we will use pink/magenta under and black over. You will need to cut a selection of pink hair suitable for the fly size and prepare it before tying in. Hold the fur by the cut ends lightly and pull the longer stiff guard hairs out. Now we hold the end of the hair, again lightly, and pull any soft underfur which will prevent any bulk on the head of the fly.
You can just secure the hair and cut the excess off if you have very sharp scissors. Alternatively, you can measure up the hair against the hook and cut to size before tying in. The length of all these flies are personal preference, I usually have the wing extending to the rear of the hook. I now very lightly wrap a turn or two of thread over the ends of the hair and remove my left hand to see how it looks.
Sometimes small adjustments are needed but once you are happy with the position, you can fully secure with additional wraps. Now add a few strands of angelina fibres and tie in black fur for the top section of the wing.
You can add some superglue to the thread for a few of the turns closest to the eye, ensuring no glue gets near the exposed hair, which would significantly reduce its mobility and shape.
The final part of the fly is to add two hackles. For the first hackle, I will pick a feather that extends to the hook bend. Before tying in the feather, I make sure I have rubbed some tying wax on my thread which will help secure the hackle. I first break off the tip of the feather, and splay out two or four fibres. I then tie in the tip with the excess fibres pointing towards the eye. After two wraps, I fold the excess fibres back and take two or three wraps of thread on top.
Now we have a well secured hackle. Next, we prepare the hackle by holding the stalk and running the back of our scissors along the edge. This will point the fibres slightly downwards making it easier to double.
Now we can wind the hackle in overlapping turns, doubling the feathers back after every full rotation around the shank. The amount of turns is down to personal preference and hook size but for this one (size 10 Patriot if I remember right) I am doing two turn of each colour. On my first complete turn, I will pause and rip some fibres off but will keep enough for the second turn. This means I can tie it down neatly and will not have any rogue fibres pointing forwards.
Next, we repeat the process for the front hackle, which is usually slightly shorter than the previous on this style of shrimp.
With both hackles secure all is needed now is to secure the fly by building up the head with thread and tie it off using a whip finish.
Finally, the head receives two or three coats of clear varnish for added durability. The fly is now complete and ready for a swim!
Obviously, this fly is a bit busier than the ones in my previous articles, but definitely worth putting in the effort. This style of fly is similar to the set of flies devised by Ross Macdonald, most notable are the Park and Calvin shrimps. The tying principles are the same, so give them a go.
With the fishing season upon us, that concludes this series of articles. I hope you found them useful.
Tight lines for the season ahead