Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ally's Shrimp Tube Fly: Dealing With the Autumn Leaves

Ally's Shrimp Tube Variation - .75" aluminum

     Albeit it short lived, the peak of autumn is the prettiest time of year in New England. A vivid mosaic of oranges, yellows, reds, purples and fading greens make a perfect backdrop for a day on the water. The resinous aroma of decaying leaves reminds us to make the most of our dwindling fishing time. It won't be long until many of us go into a sort of hibernation for the winter, diverting our attention from the river to the tying bench. As we fill our boxes with Blue Charms and Green Highlanders, for a season which seems to be an eternity away, we cling to the memory of our last autumn salmon to get us through the cold winter months.

Whoa now! In just one paragraph, I've exceeded the single post limit on flowery, self indulgent, overly romantic prose...

All joking aside, autumn might be my favorite time of year to fish, however, the beauty of the leaves soon turns to headaches and frustration once the leaves hit the water. Hooking leaf after leaf gets old pretty quickly. Unfortunately, there is no "magic bullet" to keep the leaves away and still maintain a fly's full effectiveness, at least none that I'm aware of. I have a trick I use when I can't deal with the irritation any longer. Of course, it's not 100% effective, but it does alleviate the problem a bit. 

When the leaves are at their worst, I use a shrimp or Flamethrower-type tube fly and a single hook. I rotate the hook 180º so the hook points upwards and sort of buries itself in the tail of the fly. To make the fly a bit more "weedless," I add an element of stiffness to the tail of the fly. I take a play of out of the Francis or Pot Bellied Pig playbook and use either stripped hackle stems or wild boar bristles, respectively. If I use stripped hackle stems, I use the lowermost part of the stem. You want something as stiff as possible and with a bit of an upward sweep to help push the drifting leaves away from the hook point. 

Like I said, this is not a "magic bullet," but I find it to be a great improvement over a conventional fly tied on a downward pointing hook. Fish are hooked just fine with the upward pointing hook. I haven't noticed any problems with the fly's orientation in the water. If you're really concerned about it swimming "true," add a bit of weighted tape to the underside of the front part of the tube (where legal). I don't really find this necessary, however. 

Ally's Shrimp Tube Variation w/inverted single hook

Here is the dressing for a converted Ally's Shrimp:

Ally's Shrimp Tube Variation

Tube: .5"-.75" plastic, aluminum, brass or copper
Rear Rib: Oval gold tinsel
Rear Body: Chinese red Uni-Yarn
Tail: 3 stripped hackle stems, dyed orange or grizzly/orange; pearl Krystal Flash; orange bucktail
Front Rib: Oval gold tinsel
Front Body: Black Uni-Yarn
Wing: Grey squirrel tail and golden pheasant tippet
Bottom Wing: Grey squirrel tail
Collar Hackle: Orange rooster
Head: Red

Junction Tube: Color of your choice
Hook: Owner SSW straight eye #2-#4, inverted


As a professional jazz musician, and in keeping with the tone of the introductory paragraph, I feel obliged to make some kind of corny reference to the classic song "Autumn Leaves." Of course, I might be expected to post a link the quintessential Julian "Cannonball" Adderly recording of the tune (from his 1958 album "Somethin' Else"). However, the tone of the tube fly posted suggests something more recent, so here's Orrin Evans, Eric Revis and Nasheet Waits playing it instead:

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