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Gift-wrapped Shrimp

By Barry Ord Clarke

Barry Ord Clarke uses decorative Organdie ribbon and uv-cure resin to create a simple, lifelike and devastating imitation

Dressing the Ribbon Shrimp

  • 1


    Cut a 15cm length of Organdie ribbon. With a pair of sharp scissors make a cut along the ribbon’s edges. You will now be able to pull out the short, woven lengths of Organza. Keep the edging strips!

  • 2


    Pull out enough to make a bunch of strands long enough for the shrimps beard.

  • 3


    Secure hook in the vice. Attach tying thread and run back so that it hangs between the hook-point and barb. Tie in approximately one-third of the length of fibres that you prepared for the beard.

  • 4


    Trim off and tie in the full length of the remaining fibres on top of the shorter ones. Trim these off to form a tapered beard.

  • 5


    Now use the two edge strips that you cut from the ribbon and tie these in for the feelers, one each side of the beard.

  • 6


    Take the length of ribbon and with long, straight scissors divide the ribbon diagonally from one corner to the other. Now you should have two triangular strips of ribbon from the one cut for two flies.

  • 7


    Pull out all the fibres that run the length of the ribbon to make a ‘hackle.’

  • 8


    Tie in the ribbon ‘hackle’ at the widest end, just behind the beard. This will create a tapered body, large at the front (hook-bend), and smaller at the tail (eye).

  • 9


    Position and secure both shrimp eyes, quite long. Secure with a little Superglue or varnish. Now you can wind on your ribbon hackle forward ...

  • 10


    ... to the hook-eye forming a Christmas tree-like effect on the body. Whip-finish just behind the hook-eye.

  • 11


    Coat the back of the shrimp with Bug- Bond and cure with the UV light. You may have to make two or three coats to build up the shell-back.

  • 12


    The easy to produce, but life-like result, ready for the salt.

Ribbon Shrimp
: Mustad Shrimp C47SNP-DT.
Eyes: EP Crab Eyes.
Feelers/Body: Organdie decorative ribbon.
Shell back: Bug-Bond.

From late autumn until early spring the majority of baitfish around the coastline of northern Europe leave the shallows and head out for deeper water where they will be protected from the bitter cold of winter. At the same time, many of the species of shrimp congregate in the deeper tidal pools or, where the coastline is steeper, onto shelves. Therefore, shrimps are on the roving coastal sea trout’s menu the whole year round, and can be found in great numbers, and are particularly important to early spring's coastal fly fishermen because they mature in the shallows where we do most of our fishing, and all saltwater sea trout fishermen should have at least a couple of good shrimp patterns in their fly box at all times.

Although it was designed as a sea trout pattern, shrimps are an essential component of many of our saltwater species' diets, including bass, pollack and mackerel, and thus this fly in various sizes can prove useful. Also, further abroad and into tropical waters, shrimp patterns in this style can prove very effective for both tarpon and snook.

Where, when & why?
You may think that a perfect small translucent shrimp pattern fished blind, may not be the easiest prey for a sea trout to notice in a large body of water, and if you fish something with a little colour and movement that stands out it may increase the chances of it being noticed and picked up. The most rewarding colours for shrimp patterns, in my experience are red, pink, orange and olive. Occasionally, it can be worthwhile tying some very small shrimp flies in sizes 12, 14 or 16 and in more neutral, mundane colours, such as grey and white. Shrimps of all shapes and varying sizes are without doubt the most important year-round food source for the saltwater sea trout that I can fish for off the coast. Unlike other seasonal foods like ragworms, sandeels and small baitfish, that the sea trout feed on throughout their first years in saltwater. I can fish this at any time. 

Natural selection favours effective and adaptable feeding, a proficient predatory fish when feeding will maximise energy intake and minimise energy consumption. Predators quickly learn to avoid areas where there is little or no food. These rules also apply to the fish familiarising themselves with the best feeding locations and habits that coincide with the different seasons. So it’s paramount for the effective fly fisherman to be aware of this and adapt his techniques, flies and strategy to that of his quarry’s feeding habits. This is especially important during the colder months when food is scarce. Look for the giveaway signs: deeper bays with vegetation and structure, or the classic ‘leopard bottom’ – dark-spotted patches of vegetation on a lighter backdrop of sand – where prey can have accessibility to sufficient food and cover from predators. The natural collection points of wind-lanes of all shapes and sizes are also worth working. These collect plankton and other small forage items that attract shrimps and baitfish. If there is ice on the surface, which is quite a common occurrence in the winter months on Scandinavian coastal waters, pockets of open water generally indicate warmer water or flow. Both these elements will attract prey and predators alike.

Fast or slow?
Most species of shrimp have three very different ways of locomotion. When foraging for food or resting on the bottom they use their front walking legs for moving short distances on vegetation and other structure. When migrating or moving over larger distances they use their swimming legs. These are located under the abdomen and undulate 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 propelling the shrimp quickly backwards away from danger.

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 with a fish will increase. If you choose the incorrect retrieve even the right pattern may not result in a take or even a follow.

After a few extremely frustrating days fishing last spring, where I had fish following the ‘regular patterns’ I started fishing small. When I say ‘small’ I refer to the hook size used and went down to patterns tied on a size 16 short-shank hook, the results where overwhelming, my best sea trout season ever: six days' fishing with 78 sea trout with 33 over the kilo mark.

Whilst tying flies at one of the large European fairs, I saw a similar material as Organdie being used for nymph gills. Organdie is Organza sheet in ribbon form, used for decorating parcels, gifts, dresses, etc. When I returned home it wasn’t difficult to find some at my local sewing shop just for a couple of pounds. I have also experimented with colouring the ribbon with waterproof markers, but the colour washes out for some reason in saltwater, but dyeing may be an option, that I have yet to try.

This is an extremely quick and easy pattern that only takes a few minutes to tie if you use Bug-Bond as the shell-back. If you use epoxy it does take a little longer in curing time.

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