Super Shrimp!

In fly fishing there are things that seem to receive a whole whack of popularity for obvious reasons, especially fly patterns.  There once was a saying that the only three things sure in life are death, taxes and wooly buggers.  Certain fly patterns gain a good reputation because a lot of people fish them, a lot of people have confidence in them and if nothing else they downright work on a consistent basis.  Then there are some that fly (no pun intended) under the radar and can bail you out when the going gets tough, that is the purpose of this article.  Gammarus & Hyalella shrimp are the two common species found in our interior stillwaters, the latter being much smaller than the Gammarus shrimp.  When fish get keyed in on tiny (size 20 and smaller) Hyalellas it can be the equivalent of pulling your own hair out strand by strand, but luckily the fish are usually willing to eat a shrimp that is a tad larger than the natural.

I personally never had a sliver of confidence in them until one early spring day in 2010 with a friend of mine on an interior lake.  The lake had just iced off, after a pretty challenging day we pulled into a new spot and could see fish cruising the shallows with only an hour left before we had to head out.  Just when I thought I had tried everything but the kitchen sink, I spotted a row of flies in my box that I had never paid much attention to.  I had seen a couple shrimp swimming around the boat launch and figured I had nothing to lose.  I set my strike indicator depth at 24 inches, made a cast right onto the transition from shallow water to deep water and prayed to the fish gods.  It wasn’t 30 seconds before my indicator blinked once, then submerged under the water.  I put a solid twenty inch rainbow in the net, and put my fly back in the exact same spot.  They say one is a fluke, two is a theory and three is a pattern.  Well it doesn’t really matter how many big rainbows we connected with in our last hour of fishing but it was astronomically more than three, and I had learned a valuable lesson.

         Healthy bow caught on a shrimp

How, When & Why

  •  My favourite way of fishing shrimp imitations is under a strike indicator.  Shrimp elongate their body when swimming around, often in an erratic manner.  But when they stop, they curl their body up and drift or cling to vegetation underwater which is the action of the shrimp we are trying to imitate.  Most shrimp or scud patterns are tied on a heavily curved hook (Tiemco 2457 or Dai-Riki 135) to imitate this resting motion or lack thereof.
  • Most of my “shrimping” is done in shallow water (less than 10 feet) by setting my indicator so that my fly is roughly 1-3 feet from the bottom of the lake.  If there is a breeze, I will cast quartering downwind or even perpendicular to the wind allowing the shrimp to dead drift freely.
  • Another popular way of fishing shrimp is on a “naked” floating line (no strike indicator attached) or a clear intermediate sinking line which will sink at roughly 1 to 2 inches per second.  Upon my fly reaching depth, I will make a consistent series of short, erratic strips with an occasional pause.  Usually the fish will grab it on the pause or just as it resumes swimming motion.
  • Ledges are a great place to fish shrimp.  The transition water from shallow flats to deep water is where rainbows will spend a lot of time feeding.  Often you will see them swim up on the shoal from the deep water momentarily before heading back down.
  • While you want your fly near bottom, you don’t want your fly on the bottom of the lake itself.  Fish can look up and see the profile of your fly from a ways away, but leaving your fly to sit on bottom will result in nothing but weeds and frustration.  If you are fishing a strike indicator and your fly is routinely hanging up, shorten up in 3-6″ increments until you are no longer pulling up vegetation.  This will ensure that you are as close to the zone as you can get without being stuck on bottom.
  • While they will work at any part of the day, I will usually fish shrimp in the afternoon or evening after a good (or not so good) day of chironomid fishing.  If I am fishing just after ice off I will usually have a shrimp rigged on one rod at all times.GOPR0601-0003 (2)

Hopefully this short article will help ease the learning curve on one of the most productive methods for stillwater fishing in the interior of BC or lake fishing anywhere you may find yourself.  As always, if you have any questions on tactics or methods feel free to drop me an email and I’ll be happy to answer you.  Until next time happy angling & pray for spring to show its presence soon!


4 Comments on “Super Shrimp!

  1. Thanks Jordan for the info. Though I have often seen shrimp in the water I don’t use the patterns.
    That will change.


  2. Excellent post! I had a very similar experience with shrimp last fall. Threw one on as a bit of a last ditch effort and almost immediately started hooking into some of the nicest fish I’d seen from that lake. It made a believer out of me.


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