Monday, 17 December 2012

Shrimp Flies for Spring

I've been tying a few shrimp flies recently. The winter solstice is only a few days away which, for me, signals the beginning of the end of the winter (I'm a bit of an eternal optimist). The countdown for me to the 2013 season has begun in earnest so I'm busy stocking up the boxes. I must admit that I often find it difficult to find the motivation required to tie loads of the same pattern yet I tend to use the same patterns and probably catch 90% of my fish on 2 or 3 patterns. The Park Shrimp reigned supreme for me in 2012, followed closely by a small Red Frances conehead (top fly in 2011).
For many years the Bann Special Shrimp was my most successful pattern yet I have found myself using it less and less- I don't really know why. To be honest, I think I just fancied changing things round a bit. This season however I'll have plenty of Bann Specials ready and waiting.

Bann Special tied on Daiichi 2150 curved salmon hook.

A quartet of Bann Specials, with dyed hot orange GP tails.

Most of the rivers I fish are designated Catch and Release fisheries. If I'm brutally honest, I find myself drawn to catch and release rivers because they tend not to be subjected to the same intense hammering that other rivers get. I absolutely loath fishing in crowds and crave the peace and quiet. Anyway, I digress... I'll save my musings on catch and release for another day and get back to discussing shrimp flies. Legislation governing rivers in Ireland that are catch and release dictates that only single barbless hooks are permitted. The fly angler, therefore is faced with two options; use tube flies with single barbless hooks or use a flies tied on singles. I believe tubes used with single hooks provide the best hook hold. My mate Liam has used tubes with singles almost exclusively this season and has lost very few fish. Check out his blog where you can see the lethal carp hooks he uses on his tubes.
Shrimp flies tied on single salmon irons really look the part though. They 'spey' scene has really taken off in the US where steelhead have a cult following. The range of singles available in the US is far wider than here so I started ordering hooks from there. I personally love the buggy profile that the straight eyed Daiichi 2150 creates.
Alec Jackson Steelhead Irons are another really strong single. These look similar to the Partridge salar singles readily available  here only far stronger and minus the upturned hook point. They are available in bronze, black, nickel  and gold.
Shrimp flies tied on singles look elegant and to my eye, inspire confidence.

The Yellow Shrimp is a fly that I haven't used much before. I know however it is a favourite on the Foyle system. Yellow is a favourite colour for springers while the front silver badger hackle adds a touch of confidence inspiring translucency. Jungle cock is probably unnecessary since the fish can't even see it, but I think it looks deadly, so in it goes.
Yellow Shrimp on Alec Jackson  Salmon and Steelhead hook.

A trio of Yellow Shrimps, all set for an assault on next seasons springers.

You'll notice a sneaky Silver Wilkinson shrimp at the top of the picture above. This pattern was responsible for the capture of my first ever springer. I caught it at the top of the Graveyard Pool on the Finn. A May fish, it weighed 13lb and I caught it on a rapidly rising river on one of those magical evenings when almost every cast resulted in a pluck or pull. In hindsight I should have caught a load of fish that day but I was so excited I could barely cast a straight line for the rest of the session. Spend a few months on Irish Rivers and you'll soon realise that the Silver Wilkinson is one of those flies that anglers either swear by or avoid like the plague. No prizes for guessing which category I fall into. My brother Alan is another who no doubt has more than a passing affection for the Silver Wilkinson. He caught his first ever salmon, an August Reelan grilse on a     one. 
I realise however that I'm looking at the forthcoming Spring through rose-tinted glasses. The chances of there being the sort conditions in January and February that allow the use of size 9 shrimps, are somewhere between slim and none. the likelihood is that there'll be high water and rotten wintry weather conditions. "January?" I hear you say. Yes, January. Usually, due to the constraints of a hectic football calender, my Spring fishing is confined to opening day on the Drowes and a few days on the Finn at Easter. This year, as a result of a frustrating injury, it looks like I'll be 'flat out' after springers. The Lackagh in Donegal is open again for catch and release so I'll be up there in January and February. March heralds the start of the Finn and if there is water locally, I'll be on the Dee and Glyde looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. 
Next up therefore, is a selection of templedogs and tubes for springers.

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