Fish and Fly editor Tom Pero asks about Ally's Shrimp fly
- a favourite for salmon and steelhead

Fishing instructor, fly fishing tuition and fishing trips based in Scotland. Salmon and trout fishing advice, flies and articles.

Fish & Fly magazine editor Tom Pero asks Ally about his flies.

Ally Gowans design of prawn and shrimp flies for steelhead and salmon.

salmon with Ally's Shrimp
Salmon like Ally's Shrimp!

Tell us about when you first thought about tying a fly to represent a prawn.

I guess that most fly fishermen think about flies and like to experiment at the vice always trying to find the ultimate fly, the pattern that no fish can refuse to eat. Long may that goal elude us because choosing different flies like picking chocolates from a box is part of the amusement of fly fishing and wouldn't’t it be boring if all you had to do was to chuck in a fly and pull out a fish? Because the infallible fly is no more likely to be found than the end of a rainbow there is no harm in attempting to invent new flies even if most of them fall by the fly box. Anadromous fish spend most their lives in salt water for one reason only, to eat well and grow large. This helps them to produce lots of eggs and is an important part of their survival strategy. Prawn and shrimp form a major part of the rich oceanic diet for most species and natural baits of those types have long been in the angler’s armory so it is logical that the fly fisherman should try to produce something that he believes the fish will mistake for the real thing. Of course what the fish actually takes most any fly for, we can only guess.

Movement if not absolutely essential, is a great asset in a fly. Lifelike models of flies, nymphs, baitfish, shrimps, prawns or anything else can be constructed using all sorts of imitative materials and tying techniques. To our eyes they may look mouthwatering good but they don't fool the fish. An illusion of life however does fool them, the vibrating, mobile suggestive and constantly changing outline looks alive and fish are tempted to examine it in the only they can, by biting it. We will never know what triggers this reaction, at times it appears to be deliberate and considered, at other times it is almost as if something in the fish’s brain has snapped and it responds in that aggressive, bold and fatally decisive manner often termed the involuntary take.

I am often asked where my shrimp fly design came from because it was radically different from any others when I first tied it about 1980 and the answer is perhaps a little unusual. I joined an inshore trawler on a fishing trip around the outside of Loch Lhinnie on the west coast of Scotland. Our target species was the Norway Lobster for my deep freeze. When the nets were hauled up all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures landed on the deck, including some long, slim and very active prawns the likes of which I had never seen before. They were a semi-translucent whitish gray colour with a noticeable tinge of orangy pink through them and distinctive guts that showed up as a black blob. It was not so much the colour that fascinated me, but their shape and movement. They looked much longer than any shrimps or prawns that I had seen and in the water they had a sleek gliding movement. I just had to try to emulate that shape with a long slinky moving fly.

More about Ally's shrimps. See page 2. See page 3. See page 4.

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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.