The Otter Shrimp was developed 20 years ago on Silver Creek, Big Wood River, and Magic Reservoir, all of which are near Sun Valley, Idaho, where the Federation of Fly Fishermen will meet next August. Freshwater shrimp, or scuds are abundant in these waters and this fly is very effective there. It marked the culmination of a long series of experiments to design a fly trout would take when they were feeding on shrimp. Strangely, it often works on waters where there are no shrimp, too!
There are many ways to make dubbing (spun fur) bodies and many ways to tie artificial nymphs. I make no pretense that this is either the best way or the only way to do either. But it is one way to tie one fly that does catch trout.
I use this fly both weighted and unweighted. Winding the shank of the No. 10 hook with .019-inch lead wire. Leave plenty of room for head and tail, then attack the working thread and spiral it back and forth over the wire to hold it in place. Tie in the partridge hackle tail and build a taper at each end of the wire with the working thread.
I use shellac, rather than wax, on a piece of tan thread to hold the dubbing. The stick goes through a hole in the lid of the bottle, and I pump it up and down a few times when I start to work to collect some shellac on the lid. It begins to get tacky in about five minutes and I pull the thread through it.
Spread out the dubbing and press the sticky thread down over it. The thread will pick up all the fur. Roll thread and fur between the palms of your hands. Tightness of the body is determined by this step. I leave it rather loose for the Otter Shrimp, so named because the dubbing is tan otter belly fur. The body is tapered toward both ends by tapering the strip of dubbing as you spread it out.
It is a great economy of time to make at least a dozen of these “boodles,” as Polly Rosborough calls them, at a session. This also saves material. If I’m tying tens, for example, I invariably wind up with some boodles a little too large, which I use for eights, and others a little too small, and they go on No. 12 hooks.
Tie in the boodle near the tail, hold it with hackle pliers and wind it forward to the head. Take two or three turns of thread to hold it in place, then cut off the left-over end. The final step is to tie in the partridge hackle, which I strip off the feather between my thumb and finger and cut to proper length first.
Partridge hackle may have either a gray or a brownish cast, and I prefer the latter for this fly. Its overall appearance should be tan and I use pale tan working thread. The loose, fuzzy body, with a few guard hairs sticking out in odd directions, adds to its effectiveness. I have experimented by putting a little seal hair in the dubbing to add a glint to the finished product, but this apparently is no better.
A supporter of the FFF since its first Conclave, Ted Trueblood’s long association with Field & Stream magazine began in 1941 with the position of Fishing Editor. His popular columns were first featured in 1954, and were continued until his death in 1982.