Soda Straw Shrimp Flies

Author’s shrimp pattern with straw carapace, monofilament eyes and chenille body.

Tying realistic shrimp flies can be a challenge, with antennae, multiple legs, eyes on stalks and the carapace. Some diligent tiers have come up
with tiny taxonomically correct sculptures. Every imaginable material from pieces of cut and painted latex gloves, hot glue, epoxy, RTV and more have been experimented with.

My carapace material of choice is the clear soda straw. It’s easy to manipulate, doesn’t require any tool but a scissors and can be found free of charge at most fast food joints. I get my supply from Costco along with my dollar fifty Polish sausage and Coke. A few straws go a long way. I however need a few extras since I give away quite a number of my shrimpy flies to clients and angling buddies. I’m delighted when others report good luck with my tie-up. The work is really the reward.

The vital leg-making materials range from strains of heavy braided line, common rubber bands sliced into segments and the high-end specialty colored plastic leg materials. I like the brushy effect of bucktail; it’s not a fancy solution but it’s handy and effective. You can tie as many or as few strands of your favorite color bucktail as you like. I like a bushy fly and bucktail stands up well under abuse and doesn’t dry out under storage. I’ll often tie in an overly generous clump of bucktail and think better of it later, trimming a few hairs, making for a svelter swimmer.

I like to hold my tie-ups to a light and examine the silhouette; that’s the real test. Most offerings will be perused from below or the side. A convincing silhouette is generally more important than realistic color and other design features. The old rules of dark on dark water and light in clear water apply but stick with the silhouette theory; that’s the prime triggering mechanism.

There are many suitable commercially available fly eyes around, from elaborate bead chain stuff to mono eyes on premade stalks. I’ve used lots of bead chain from Ace Hardware or Joann Fabric to make a mess of flies I sell to local shops; it’s quick and easy, especially if you want some added weight.

But if you’re a bit of a purist or artist, making your own eyes on stalks melting heavy mono, 30- to 60-pound stock, is another pleasing task. You can make these accoutrements with a lighter, small torch or even a birthday cake candle. I cut the stalk sections of mono perhaps twice as long as I estimate I’ll need to end up with the finished eyes.

The extra lengths allows for the melted mono to gather up nicely, developing the eyeball. Once you’ve got a formula, melt yourself a surplus. A pair of hemostats will help hold your eyeball stock in position for melting and help keep your pinkies out of the flame. You’ll need to move the melting mono around a bit to get and keep the eyeballs hanging in the right direction; kinda like a scientific glass blower. I like to bulk-up the mono eyeballs with a dab of hot glue. - FS

First Published Florida Sportsman May 2013