How to tie Shrimp for all seasons

Circle shrimp

From late autumn until early spring the majority of bait fish around our coastline leave the shallows and head out for deeper water where they will be protected from the bitter cold of winter. Many of the species of shrimp that can be found on the other hand move into deeper tidal pools and onto shelves were the coastline is steeper.

Therefor shrimps are on the coastal sea trout’s menu the whole year round, and are found in great numbers all over Northern Europe’s coastline.  These are particularly important to fly fishermen because they mature in the shallows where we do most of our fishing, and all sea trout fishermen should have at least a couple of good shrimp patterns in there fly box at all times.

The most effective colours for shrimp patterns in my experience are Red, Pink, White and Orange.  Sometimes it can be rewarding to tie some very small shrimp flies in sizes 10-12-14 and in more natural mundane colours. Shrimps of all shapes and sizes are without doubt one of the most important food sources for salt water sea trout. Unlike other important seasonal foods like rag worms, sand eels and small bait fish, that the sea trout feed on throughout their first years in salt water.

 Where, When & Why ?

A perfect small translucent shrimp pattern fished blind, is not the most easy prey for a sea trout to notice in a large body of water. But if you fish something that   “ stands out in a crowd ” a little colour and movement,  increase the chances of it being noticed and picked-up proportionally.  Natural selection takes a favorable view of effective and adaptable feeding, a proficient predatory fish when feeding will maximize energy intake and minimize energy consumption. Predators quickly learn to avoid areas where there is little or no food. These rules also apply to the fish adapting their feeding locations and habits to the different seasons.  So its paramount that the effective fly fisherman is aware of this and adapts his techniques, flies and strategy to that of the sea trouts feeding habits. This is especially important during the winter months when food is few and far between. Look for the signs, deeper bays with vegetation and structure, where prey can have sufficient food and cover from predators. If there is ice on the surface, pockets of open water generally indicate warmer water or flow. Both these elements will attract prey and predators alike.

Fast or Slow ?

Shrimp have three very different ways of locomotion. When foraging for food or resting on the bottom they use their front walking legs (periopods) for moving short distances on vegetation and other structure. When migrating or moving over larger distances they use their swimming legs (pleopods) These are located under the abdomen and undulate (like a Mexican wave) when swimming, and can be used to propel the crustacean in all directions slowly. But when alarmed or fleeing from a predator they use a contraction of their strong abdomen muscle which results in a powerful rapid snap of the tail plates (uropods) propelling the shrimp quickly backwards.

With this in mind one has a better understanding of the type of retrieve required to imitate a swimming or fleeing shrimp. Your retrieve will not only decide the speed of your fly but also its action in the water. If you know your prey and choose the correct retrieve, your overall chances of connecting will increase. If you choose the incorrect retrieve even the right pattern may not result in a take or even a follow.

Secure the circle hook in the vice.


Run the tying thread along the hook shank until it hangs over the barb of the circle hook.


Tie inn two lengths of lead wire side by side on the underside of the whole of the hook shaft length. This will ensure that the shrimp fishes a little deeper and the right way up. Tie in a short bunch of Ultra hair as shown on top of the hook shank. This should be approximately 10 cm long. You can trim it down to the size and taper required later.


Once you have trimmed it down to size you can tie in a small bunch of twinkle or crystal hair to add a little sparkle. This should be a little longer than the Ultra hair.


Burn the ends of two lengths of mono and dip in black varnish and then coat with Bug Bond. These should be prepared before hand as they take some time to dry. Alternatively you can use fly eyes.


Tie in the eyes one each side of the ultra hair as shown. these should be about one third of the beard length.


Select two hackles for the claws. This detail can be left out if wished, but its a useful technique to know for other shrimp and crab patterns.


Strip off the fibers from the shaft of the hackle and carefully cut away the point of the hackle to form a claw shape of the correct size in correspondence to the hook size being used.


I use Bug Bond a UV cure resin to coat the claws. If you dont have Bug Bond you can alternatively use epoxy, it just takes a little more time to dry.


Coat the claws in Bug Bond and give them a few seconds under the UV light, until cured.


Tie in the finished claws one each side at the bottom of the shrimp beard as shown.


Cut a length of crystal chenille and tie in at the base of the shrimp head.


Wrap the chenille around the whole length of the hook shaft to form the body. You should take care as to comb the fibers forward each turn, so you dont trap them with the following turn and get a nice full body.


Tie off the Crystal chenille and trim off the fibers on top of the hook shank as shown.


Now tie in two long Ultra hair fibers, just behind the hook eye.


Tie in another bunch of Ultra hair fibers at the tail of the fly. These should be just a little longer than the existing bunch.


Firstly make a whip finish and remove your tying thread.
Now place a drop of Bug Bond on the Ultra hair just behind the hook eye. Unlike epoxy Bug Bond doesn’t dry unless exposed to a UV lamp of natural day light.


Give the Bug Bond a blast with the UV light for a few seconds. Now while holding all the long ultra hair fibers down with your left hand apply a small amount of Bug Bond or epoxy to form the shell back. Be sure not to use too much epoxy as this will make the pattern top heavy and fish up side down. You may have to hold the ultra hair in place a short while until it sets.
Repeat this process until the whole shrimp shell back is adhered to the chenille body and forms a nice transparent shell that tapers off just beyond the shrimps eyes.


To give a little extra touch to the pattern pull the two long fibers between your finger and thumb nail, as you would do with ribbon on a christmas gift to curl it. Your finished circle shrimp ready for the salt.

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