Ben Bangham has been tinkering with his river patterns and, after some trials and tribulations, the result is his most effective fly ever – the Disco Shrimp!
For years there has been a pattern rarely selected from my fly box. The Shrimp. It has been a pattern that I have always underused, mainly due to my lack of confidence in it. I have read numerous articles and spoken to countless people about the amazing catches they have had on Shrimp patterns. However, no matter how hard I tried and how often I fished with them they never really produced the goods for me.
Over the years my box had begun to get clogged up with the various Shrimp flies that I have tried and subsequently retired to its darkest depths. In an attempt to clear out my boxes and rectify my ‘shrimpy’
problem, one evening I sat down and took all the Shrimps out to have a good look at them. I then picked
out what I thought were the key aspects of each. To help me I also collected a few natural shrimps from the local chalk stream, to have a really good look at them.
The main things that stood out to me were the shape of the shrimp and the colour. As most of my fishing with nymphs is done ‘dead drift’ style I concentrated on imitating a dead shrimp rather than a live one – live shrimps tend not to drift down a river motionless. When shrimps die they take on an orange hue, hence the many orange imitations found among fly manufacturers, so I took a Czech Nymph-style hook and orange body as my starting point.
Most of the flies that I use are either of my own concoction or from the warped mind of one of my
good friends. Over the years we have discovered that a great fly takes a lot of time and effort to get right. If you sit at your vice and tie something that seems to work the first time that you fish with it then you have a good start, but I guarantee that you could make it better.
The way that I tend to try and improve my flies is to take a feature of the fly and then change it. When you have the new variation, try to fish it in conjunction with the original and see if there is any difference in the catch rate. Obviously, if you catch more fish on the new fly then it’s a good change; if you don’t then go back to the original and the vice to create new variants. It may take months to get it just right but I can assure you that it’s worth all the hard work.
It was through this process that I came to create the Disco Shrimp, one of my favourite river flies. Many rib, dubbing and shellback changes resulted in what you see here. It now has a permanent place in my box and almost always goes on to the leader at some point during the day. After being ridiculed by a few friends for the look of the fly I thought it would be a hard sell, to be honest. After they saw the effectiveness of the thing, though, it didn’t take long for them to come begging for a few for their boxes
(they still haven’t stopped).
The fly got its name after I was out fishing with a fellow guide and we were commenting on how it looked like some kind of 197 s disco throwback. It fishes brilliantly as a single fly and also in a team, especially when teamed up with smaller, more natural-looking flies.
I think that the brightness of the fly
gets the fish interested and on the fin. If they don’t nail it, and to be honest that’s rare, then they’ll often take the little natural-looking morsel.
Fishing in Ireland in 2011 during the Rivers International I was using a team as described, tackling one of the competition sections of water. In truth it was tough going, at the very top of the competition water, and it was the hardest stretch to catch on for several reasons. It seemed to hold a lot less fish than the other sections and, crucially, it was in a town making it easily accessible, which meant that it was heavily fished all the time with spinner, bait and fly. This made it really tough going for the team and between us we were only picking up the odd fish. I thought that it was time to try something different… the Disco Shrimp. I fished the duo with a Disco Shrimp on the point and a large dry above. I winkled out five trout in double-quick time when all the anglers around me were struggling, proof indeed of its effectiveness.
So tie a few of these up and go catch some fish. Remember, when it comes to tying a true fish-catching fly it does take time. Don’t settle for something that is okay when you could be fishing with a fly that’s really special.