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. General 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 lengths. Proportions 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 No No No 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 feathers 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 spools. 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 point. 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. Tagging 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 tinsel. 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 apart. 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 technique 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 leader. 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 7. 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 pliers. 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 wound. 10. 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 fibres. 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 practice. 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 thread.
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