dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing, trout fishing

Green tinsel

I was given a fly the other day by a highly experienced local angler who has had some success with it on Carrowmore Lake. It is predominantly black and dressed in bumble style but the thing that caught my eye was the body material – green tinsel. For years I have found this colour of tinsel to be an excellent attractor of both trout and salmon.

My infatuation with green tinsels started a long, long time ago when, as a young lad I bought a book called ‘Clyde style flies and how to dress them’. This slim volume contained some great patterns but the main emphasis of the book was on the design of the flies and how to keep the dressings to a minimum on small hooks. Back in those days the smallest hook I could buy was a size 16 and I tied up lots of the patterns from the book on Mustads. The big attractions for me was the simplicity of the patterns and the readily available materials they required.

One of the flies which I tied was a thing called the Murray’s Blue bottle spider. There were a few variations of the bluebottle. They all had a small black hackle but the body could be made out of either blue or green lurex. There was even another variant which sported a couple of turns of pink lurex as a butt. In use, the blue bodied one did not catch me very much at all but the green one was a sure fire killer on the Don on summer evenings before the rise got going.

Not much left of this 50 year old lurex!

The big drawback with the small Murray’s spiders was the lurex itself. While it was very shiny it was also extremely delicate and rarely lasted beyond the first take. I spent so many frustrating evenings cutting off one damaged spider to replace it with a fresh one, only for it to be destroyed in short order by the next fish. I tried covering the lurex with varnish and this helped a little but the fly was inherently weak. These days I’d use epoxy to coat the lurex but back in the day varnish was all that was available.

I never found the blue lurex to be as effective as the green

A tiny dry version of the blue bottle spider is an effective pattern but I suspect it entices smaller trout ahead of their larger brethren. I can’t recall landing any big brownies on a dry Bluebottle but it used to catch me loads of small fellas.

Fast forward to a more modern era and the arrival of mylar as a tinsel. Much stronger than the outdated lurex, mylar also comes in a nice green colour.  Of course nowadays there are a profusion of different types of tinsel-like materials to pick from in just about any colour you can imagine but I like Mylar and use it for most of my tinsel bodied flies. We fly tiers get used to handling certain materials, become more dexterous with them in use and better able to judge just the right amount of tension we can apply.

A stoat’s tail with a green mylar body is a capital fly for grilse in pretty much any conditions. I rib the green body with oval silver tinsel to add some more flash and to protect the mylar a bit. I fish this fly fast, darting it across the lies so the fish don’t get too long to look at it. In the past I used to add a layer of pearl over the green which makes for a very pretty fly but I can’t in all honesty say this made the fly any more deadly.

I have tied  green shrimp pattern for the summer grilse fishing but it has yet to be tried so this one comes with no recommendations (yet). The silver tag and a wound GP body feather as a tail are standard. The body is in two halves, the rear being green tinsel ribbed with silver and front is red fur or silk, also ribbed with silver. A doubled badger cock hackle is wound at the joint of the body and another one at the head. You could add a couple of Jungle Cock eyes too if you feel the need.

it looks like it should catch fish!

So there you have it, green tinsel is a great addition to trout and salmon flies. In a world of increasingly complex patterns and ever more exotic synthetic materials the humble coloured tinsel can still be relied upon to give some action. Give it a try!

pools on an west coast spate river, ideal water for these flies


Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

A Claret Shrimp

Storm Brian is blowing a hooley outside so it felt like a good afternoon to tie up a few flies. I was in Ballina earlier and the Moy is huge and brown, barrelling under the town’s bridges in welter of foam and debris.

The high water got me thinking about the colour of patterns I like when the loughs are dirty. For me that means either black or claret. I possess an embarrassment of black patterns (way more than I need) and I guess there are enough claret ones in the box too. However, there is always room for a new fly and a claret shrimp seemed to be what was potentially lacking among the serried ranks in the salmon fly box.

On Lough Beltra I have a liking for a fly with an orange tail, something with a bit of movement but not so soft that it will tangle around the hook bend when fishing in a high wind. Bucktail fitted the bill nicely and I added just a pair of strands of gold flashabou as well. This is a material which seems to have dropped out of fashion as every more fancy ‘flashy’ plastics have hit the market. Us anglers are like magpies and any new material which is brighter than the old one gets added to our concoctions. I like flat Flashabou, it has proved it’s worth to me over the years so I stick to it, especially the gold one. It is a rich, deep golden colour (or at least the ancient hank I currently own is).

Tag under the tail

Under the tail I wound a number of turns of oval gold tinsel. Why bother? Well, the oval tinsel makes the tail ‘sit up’ slightly and helps to prevent the tail wrapping the hook in use.

This fly was always going to be a shrimp style pattern so the rear body was made of flat gold tinsel with an oval gold rib for protection from the fish’s teeth. I tie in the rib at the tail then run the tying silk up to the place where the middle hackle will be tied. There I catch in the flat tinsel and wind that down to the tail and back again over itself. This gives a neat body with no gaps in it. Three tight, open wraps of the oval gold complete that part of the fly.

The middle hackle is a claret cock hackle, doubled. About three turns is right. Tie in more oval gold tinsel for ribbing the front half of the body then dun the red silk with bright claret seal’s fur. Form the front body by winding he dubbed silk forward, leaving enough room at the eye for the cheeks and head hackle. Rib with the oval tinsel.

My stock of Jungle Cock is tragically low. In fairness it has been years since I invested in a neck and all I have left now is a few scraps of capes with virtually all the useful sizes of ‘eyes’ long since gone. Shuffling through packets contained within the sad little box marked ‘JC’ I found two decidedly moth-eaten feathers of the dimensions required for this size six fly. One was applied to each side of the hook before adding a long-fibred claret hen hackle at the head. A small head and a whip finish were all that was left to finish of  and, Viola!

The finished fly

As with all Irish shrimp patterns this one is almost certainly already in existence and has been named something like the ‘Ballina claret and gold shrimp’. I like the look of it, it seems well balanced and not too dark. I dressed this particular one on a standard size 6 hook but I’ll make more on smaller sizes, right down to size 14’s

There are some large feathers in a jar on the fly tying desk which I feel the need to use up! Macaw, GP tails, peacock and dyed Pheasant tail. Time to get tying again!

Heavy flow through the Ridge pool in Ballina


Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

A purple shrimp pattern

I have never really been happy with Purple Shrimp patterns. They also looked kinda ‘odd’ to me, especially those ones with badger hackles at the head. The mix of badger and purple hackles somehow did not look ‘right’. I can’t describe this really, it is more of a feeling than any scientific analysis. Purple has never given me more than an occasional salmon, all of them at the back-end and all of them (as far as I can remember anyway) were coloured. Other anglers swear by purple shrimps so they do work, just not when I tied them on to the end of my line. So I have tied this new pattern.


My new Purple Shrimp

I used Opal Mirage for the rear body and purple floss for the front. An oval silver tag and rib were added too. The tail is made of a slim bunch of purple bucktail instead of the more normal wound GP body feather.A centre hackle of a doubled cock hackle dyed purple is wound at the joint of the body sections and a long fibred hen hackle dyed black is wound at the head. I used red tying silk and left that showing at the head. the example in the photos is tied on a size 10 single hook.

One for the back end

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

Golden Olive Shrimp

A confession first – this is not one of my own patterns. It was devised by my boat partner and top salmon angler Ben Baynes a few seasons ago. Since then, it has become a firm favourite with anglers on loughs such as Beltra and Carrowmor. As shrimp flies go it is pretty simple to dress and all the materials are readily available.

I use red tying silk and the rest of the original dressing is as follows:

Tag: 5 or 6 turns of fine oval silver tinsel

Tail: Long, slim bunch of bucktail dyed hot orange

Rib (both halves): Fine oval silver tinsel

Rear body: Hot orange seal’s fur

Middle hackle: A cock hackle dyed deep golden olive

Front body: Seals fur dyed black

Head hackle: A badger cock hackle of a black cock hackle (both seem to work equally well)

Eyes (optional): Jungle cock, not too large

Head: red varnish


As you can see, this is a close relative of many other Irish shrimp patterns but the middle hackle seems to be key to the undoubted success of the fly. the shade of golden olive needs to be dark and intense.Think of the colour of olive oil and you are in the right ballpark. Finding capes or hackles this colour can be tricky as most commercially available cock hackles which claim to be golden olive are too light for this fly. I have tried tying the fly with lighter coloured hackles without success.

As always, I have fiddled around with the original pattern a little to see if it could be improved. Firstly, the tail can have a tendency to wrap around the bend of the hook, leading to poor results. I add a few fibres of stiff Polar bear hair under the bucktail to alleviate this. A couple of strands of orange or pearl flash can also be added to the tail. Don’t over do this though!


Finally, I mix some black lite-brite in with the black seals fur to add a bit of zing to the front of the fly.


So how do you fish this fly? It is a great all-rounder that can give you a salmon from the first day of the season to the last and on any position on the cast. It does sterling work when dressed on big irons sizes (4 – 6) on Lough Beltra in March and April and dropping down to an 8 or 10 it will still work later in the season there too. Carrowmore Lake requires small flies, so a size 8 or 10 is plenty big enough when drifting the Black Banks or Bog Bay. The Golden Olive Shrimp also works on running water. I only use this pattern on single hooks, but I guess there is no reason that it wouldn’t work when tied on doubles or trebles.


Close to the shore on Lough Beltra, the Golden Olive Shrimp is worth a throw on this lake.




fly tying, salmon fishing

The Crunchie Shrimp

I first tied this fly more years ago than I care to remember. I had read somewhere about using sweet wrappers to form the bodies on flies and experimented with a couple of ideas. This was pre-multi-coloured holo tinsel days and a box of Cadbury’s chocolates provided some pink, blue and red shiny wrappers. None of the resultant flies worked but the germ of the idea had been sown and I later hit on using Crunchie wrappers to make bodies. For those of you  not familiar with this particular confectionery the Crunchie bar comes in a brassy gold foil wrapping.

By carefully opening the bar and flattening the wrapper you can cut a few narrow strips which can then be wound as a body. The beauty of this material is the colour, it is a lovely deep, brassy shade. I will take you through the tying process of the Crunchie Shrimp.

  1. With the hook in the vice start the tying silk at the eye and catch in a soft dark ginger cock hackle

2. Next tie in a cock hackle dyed Fire Orange which is slightly shorter in barb length than the ginger one. Run the tying silk down to a point 2/5ths of the way to the bend.

3. Here you tie in another dark ginger cock hackle, again, shorter in barb length than the first hackle.

4. Now catch in a slim bunch of orange dyed Bucktail hair to form the tail which should be approximately the same length as the hook. At the same time tie in a piece of fine oval gold tinsel which will be used as a rib. If desired, tie in a tag of oval gold at the end of the body.

5. Take one of the narrow strips of foil wrapper you previously cut and whip this in. now run the tying silk back up to the point where the middle hackle is tied in.

6. Wind the foil up the body in touching turns and tie it in at the middle hackle. Cut off the excess. Rib with open turns of oval gold, tie in a remove the waste end.

7. Wind the middle hackle, 3 turns is usually about right. Tie in and cut of the excess.

8. Now repeat the foil/rib used on the rear half of the body to form the front half. As a variant you can use orange floss silk to make the front body.

9. Wind the orange hackle and tie off as usual.

10. The ginger head hackle is given 3 or 4 turns now and tied in in the usual way.

11. Form a neat head with the tying silk and whip finish.

12. I like to give the head a coat or two of red varnish to finish it off.

There you have it! Tied on sizes 6 – 14 this is a good pattern for salmon and grilse.

Happy tying!