begin after the bare stripped stalk to the tips of... Following is a detailed description of the usual way

Tailing an Irish Shrimp Fly
Following is a detailed description of the usual way
I tie an Irish shrimp fly tail. This is the most common
question I am asked about Irish shrimp fly tying. It is
always the most frequently asked question when I
am demonstrating tying at any Game Fair.
An exact reference set of finished tails should
be made by a tyer in the proportions (length) that
he prefers. A perfect sample tail should be tied
for each size of hook in order to have a reference
template. An angler must strictly maintain proportion in order to effectively step up or down in fly sizes
whilst fishing, and in order to determine which fly size
works best in various conditions, places or times of
the season. Therefore consistency in tying proportions is an essential.
Once they are made the reference samples
should have the shanks covered with red varnish so
that they will be easily identified, kept separate and
most importantly therefore not be tied on further by
mistake. it is sometimes a good idea to make the
reference set of tails from black dyed feathers for
ease of assessment.
Note: With longshank or fine wire hooks the bodies are made slightly longer, not the hackle or tail
Preferred proportions are up to the individual. Measuring the reference set of tails I
use on my Irish shrimp flies, measured from
the point where the tail fibres leave the rear
body to the tips of the tail fibres, the lengths
are No
14 E.D. treble - 21mm
12 E.D.Treble - 25mm
10 E.D.Treble - 30mm
8 E.D.Treble - 35mm
6 E.D.Treble - 44 mm
Trebles are V.M.C. code 9613 Esmond Drury
type trebles
Standard Partridge Double Tail Lengths
Std Partridge Double No 10 - 22mm
Std Partridge Double No 8 - 28mm
Std Partridge Double No 6 - 32mm
The average feather size range of a prepared tail
feather, (one which has been stripped of waste fluff
and most of the very short fibres ready for tying in),
on a No 10 treble would be 45 to 48 mm in height.
Measured from the point where the where barbs
begin after the bare stripped stalk to the tips of the
centre fibres. The tail feather will be tied in approximately 3 mm in front of the tag and not tight to the
tag. The tying thread will eventually be brought
back behind the wound stalk so that every individual fibre of the tail feather and the turns of stalk are
completely trapped by the tying thread (all eventually trapped under the rear body). The tail is safe
from damage or cutting by the teeth of the fish and
cannot ever unravel or break.
Five main tailing techniques used for Irish
Shrimp Flies
1. Standard, tied in by the stalk, doubled and
wound forward in touching turns
2. Paddy Bonner style, tied in by the stalk, tail not
doubled, wound moving backwards to the tag and
the turns then trapped by bringing heavy gauge tying thread over them.
3. A David Dowery style – A diamond shape preparation of a single feather or two feathers. Tied in half
feather sections to length and spread round with the
tying thread. An ideal technique for using up larger
4. Davie McPhail style – a rolled bunch tied to length
and spread by a mixture of tying thread tension and
finger pressure.
5. Larger fly style – the best sections of two feathers,
often both tied in by tips and doubled or sometimes
the first feather by the base and the second second
by the tips. Slightly shorter one tied in first, the longer
one next.
The Standard Tailing Method
Standard tailing is the technique most used on
medium and small fishing flies.
Note: Use only softer matt feathers for small
shrimp flies, i.e. 12 and 14 trebles and equivalent.
Fortunately the suitable small matt feathers also
have thin stalks.
Preparation: It is really best to have previously
prepared and graded feathers to size from Golden
Pheasant skins for Irish shrimp fly tails. Pull out
or cut suitable red breast feathers from a skin.
Strip the feather stalks of waste fluff and very
short fibres. Grade the feathers by size into different lots. Bag the feathers in appropriate sizes
for each hook. Mark the bags with the size of
hook the tails are suitable for. This means afterwards when tying that the tyer is not searching
through a skin each time for a suitable feather.
Tying Threads: I am often asked which tying
thread I used for Irish shrimp fly tying.
As a custom tyer I tie numbers of flies of the
same type at a time as it is more efficient. I most
often tie in stages, which is also more efficient.
The tying thread I use for lapping the initial bed
of tying thread on the hook shank, tagging and
tailing, making a whip finish and tying off afterwards is Danvilles mono cord 3/0 or an equivalent gauge thread. This is due to the ease and
speed with which the first bed of tying thread can
be placed or wrapped on the hook shank. It also
enables the use of pressure with which the tail
lumps or bumps can be bound down to form a
smooth bed for the rear body. The heavy thread
also fills any hollows with ease and flattens out
really well.
Sometimes I will also tie the rear body and rear
body rib with this same thread while tagging and
tailing then whip finish and use lighter thread to
finish the fly later.
If tying a fly straight through my favoured thread
is Sparton Professional. Steve Parton colour
codes his thread and it is the thread on the red
Starting Off
1. Place the hook in the vice with the upturned
eye on top and the hook shank level. With a double hook the vice also needs to be rotated slightly to have the hook shank on an even plane.
2. Start the
tying thread
at the front
of the hook
shank and
start to lay
down a bed of
tying thread
in touching
turns moving
towards the
back of the
hook. Use a colour suitable to the pattern. I will
almost always use a light coloured tying thread
as a matter of course. Normally pale yellow or
light orange tying silk.
When using a treble or double, care needs to
be taken when approaching the points of the
hook. The tyer may continue to wind the tying thread towards the back of the fly in touching turns but he must start to weave the tying
thread in and out between the treble hook or
double hook points as he does so. Care must
be taken not to cut the tying thread on a hook
Note: Some tyers may find that it is easier upon
reaching the level with the points of the hook to
make a couple turns with large gaps towards the
back of the hook and bring the thread around the
back of the hook bend. The thread then is trapped
and lodges into the splay of the hook. From this
point the thread can be moved forward in touching turns while weaving in and out between the
points of the treble or double hook instead of
moving backwards. This is done by some tyers as
laying down touching turns while moving forward
towards the eye of the hook is easier for them
when weaving in and out between the points.
Once contact is made again with the last touching turns on the shank that were previously made,
the thread can be moved backwards again for tying in the tag.
The tag will help splay the tail feather and is usually of fine to medium oval tinsel. On a No 10 treble
or No 8 Double hook the tag would be made from
three turns of Uni small or Veniards own No 14 oval
3. Move the thread forward and catch in the piece
of oval tinsel that will form the tag. Tie in the tinsel
loosely and slide it back so that the end is placed
where the middle hackle will
be wound so as
not to create
any unnecessary
lumps or bumps
along the rear
body. Bind the
tinsel back until
a space allowing
about three
turns of tinsel is left towards the back of the hook to
where the hook bends start to separate and splay
4. Wind the tinsel back to the rear of the hook in
three touching
turns and then
on the fourth
turn bring the
tinsel underneath and then
around the back
of the hook bend
that is held in
the vice. Bring
the tinsel up
vertically behind
the hook, between the splay of the hooks and
place it over the top of the tag and along the top
of the hook shank.
5. Trap the tinsel with the thread and then tie it in
to where the
middle hackle
will be wound
and cut off the
waste end.
This tagging
ensures that
later the leader
cannot become
wedged in the
area where the hooks splay apart as the tinsel
is there, blocking that space from trapping the
Standard Tailing
Standard tailing is when the selected feather,
stripped of waste, is tied in by the stalk end and
slightly in front of the tag. A small V of feather, at the
bottom end of the feather, will be tied in at a position on the hook shank that will eventually be the
mid point of the rear body.
6. A prepared Golden Pheasant red breast feather
is tied in on
the near top
side of the
hook shank. A
feather that has
been stripped
of waste, pre
graded for size,
if it is a small
feather for a No
14 or 12 hook
then one also
specifically selected for its brown matt softness. The
prepared feather is tied in by a V of feather fibres at
the bottom end of the feather. The thread trapping
approx 4 or 5 mm of feather fibres where they start
to splay out from the stripped hook stalk. The tying
in point on the hook shank is located at the place
where the mid point of the rear body will be. This is
usually about 3mm in front of the tag.
Fine tuning may take place with experience and a
longer feather to look at will be moved forward and
a shorter feather moved back slightly to suit
When the tail
feather is secured at its
base, seperate
the few centre
fibres at the
tip end of the
feather and
clasp them with
a hackle pliers.
8. The centre strands in the hackle pliers are held vertically and the
feather is then
doubled back
by the finger
and thumb of
the left hand.
The tips of the
doubled feather
fibres are held
back by the
left hand and
the feather
is wound in
touching turns moving forward with the hackle
About two and a half turns is normal and all that
will be available due to the short stalk length of
useable feather.
9. The centre fibres held in the hackle pliers
are trapped with the tying thread, brought forward as they are
tied in and the
waste ends of
both the stalk
on top, and
the tips below,
are snipped off
where the middle hackle will be
The hook has
then to be removed from
the vice to
straighten the
wound fibres
back as they will
have become
trapped under
the hook points.
11.Move every fibre back into the natural position
it should be in.
Lightly moisten
the finger and
thumb and pull
all the fibres back
making a small
twist at the tips
of the feather
12. Replace the hook in the vice
that you do not trap and nip off tail fibres between
the hook bend and the vice.
13.The tying thread is brought back loosely over
the wound tail feather to a position just in front
of the tag. Bring
the thread back
loosely, otherwise you will
possibly roll
round and clump
the fibres leaving bare areas.
When one loose
turn is made just
in front of the
tag then make several make tight turns. This will
flare the tail out against the tag.
Now rotate the vice to check for an even spread
of tail fibres. If necessary, remove the hook from
the vice to ensure that there is an even spread
and no gaps or bare patches. At this point the tail
fibres can still be manipulated by hand and should
be moved or spread into any gaps if there are any
before the final binding down. If everything is fine
and there is even coverage, or after manipulating
the fibres to ensure even distribution then bind
the tail down along the body.
As the tying thread has moved back well behind
the stalk, every individual fibre of the tail and the
stalk is trapped by the tying thread. The tail will
never break and unravel or become loose.
Fine Tuning
The feathers used have been selected for their
average length, and always on smaller flies also
for their softness. The length chosen in grading
for this standard tailing method is always slightly
longer than what is actually required in tail length
to allow for the tying in position in front of the tag
and the doubling process. As feathers will vary
slightly in fibre length and around the average
slight adjustment may be made to ensure uniformity with the reference sample or proportion.
With experience compensating slightly for some
extra length or slightly shorter feathers by moving
the tying in point forward or backward slightly
becomes second nature. In fact after some practice with this technique, a longer feather may be
tied in along the shank at any point to suit, even
at the front section of a hook, so that it will have
a tail length similar to the reference sample.
The selecting and grading of feathers for the various hook sizes also become automatic with a little
Other Feathers Used For Irish Shrimp
Fly Tails.
It is common to use a long dyed Chinese hackle
from the back of a cape for a tail feather on an
Irish shrimp fly and in the past long natural game
hackles were also used. For instance a red dyed
large, soft Chinese hackle for the Roy Wilson
Shrimp. Black or Claret dyed Chinese hackle may
be used for tails instead of Black or Claret dyed
G.P. body feather for shrimp flies like the Black
shrimp or Claret Tail Bann Special. Chinese hackles for tails are not tied in by the base or stalk.
Even though the section of feather to be used will
normally be located near the base of the selected
feather, as some of the longest and softest barbs
are near the base; the selected section of feather
should always be tied in by the side that was attached to the tip end of the feather.
When using large Chinese hackle feathers near
their base for tails the stalk will be an issue. Try to
avoid the thickest parts of the stalk and be careful
not to select Chinese hackle feathers with overly
thick stalks. Snip off the waste at the place where
the middle hackle will be wound and ensure a
smooth back body base is formed with the tying