Ally's Shrimp fly and other types of prawn fly
- designing a classic

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

Shrimp fly materials and styles.

Designing Ally's Shrimp flies for steelhead and salmon.

steelhead like allys shrimp
Steelhead like Ally's Shrimp!

What influenced your choice of materials?

Producing a fly with motion and illusion depends on the style and materials chosen for the dressing. Traditional feather wing patterns have benefited greatly from the use of hair wings and even more so when the hair is long and mobile. My shrimp patterns have movement due to the use of long collar hackles, gray squirrel hair and freely moving tails of fine bucktail. My interest in the creation of movement developed a long time ago, firstly with longhaired tubes, then with long hair-winged flies and finally with the Ally's Shrimp patterns.

My first attempt was the orange version that was soon given the name Ally's Shrimp by one of my friends and which later was voted the salmon fly of the millennium by EMAP readers and figured highly in “The World’s Best Flies” by NASF. Behind the dressing was the thought that it had to somehow imitate by illusion and movement, the key features of the beasties we trawled up. So the eyes, guts, feelers, legs and an accentuated colour combination (including a translucent effect) had to be incorporated. Feelers were easy just a few strands of long bucktail extending from the body. The eyes too came naturally because I had long imagined that a bunch of level GP tippets was suggestive of both eyes and shell. An overall shape and legs then had to be contrived. A dark gut was needed so half the body was made with black floss and the other half was made red. Gray squirrel wings top and bottom blurred the image and produced the movement and emulated the translucence noticeable in the "naturals". A long mobile collar hackle completed the design. It would cocoon the body into a shrimp like outline, represent legs and help to produce more movement. Later came the optional addition of Krystal Hair strands in the tails. Many anglers are taken by this but in my opinion it makes no difference to the fly’s effectiveness.

At the time, were you aware of other prawn flies?

Yes of course, shrimp and prawn flies have been around for a long time, some of them don’t look anything like either creature in my eyes whilst some of the old classics like the series of “Rangers” with their copious amount of tippet wing certainly remind me of a prawn shell and the general outline of Spey and Dee style flies with their low set bodies and long trailing hackles look very much like crustaceans. Various attempts at representing prawns have been made including the Red Francis and the GP (Golden Pheasant) prawns several versions of which exist.

What has impressed you most about watching live shrimps or prawns?

These animals have two basic swimming modes. Their normal feeding behavior is with a straightened body and propulsion from the legs which allows multi-directional movement and a great deal of control and maneuverability. When they need to move fast they resort to thrusting their powerful tails forwards which provides a rapid rearward acceleration to escape danger or move longer distances. In either case they maintain perfect balance and slinky smoothness. I expect that should they be threatened by danger they will quickly adopt fast mode and so fish will be accustomed to intercepting them as they seek to escape. This may explain the legions of stories relating to salmon jumping from the water to grab a natural prawn or taking them with some violence.

More about Ally's shrimps. See page 1. See page 3. See page 4.

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