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Alaskan Fly Patterns The NATURAL Imitations

Brad Hanson's Mystery Shrimp

Freshwater scuds (Gammarus) are a food source found in a great many Alaska lakes and the rule is the more weedy a lake the greater the chance for a prolific population of these small crustaceans. They are a "low oxygen content" organism and are usually at their peak (blooming) population in late winter when ice cover on lakes has caused a depletion of dissolved oxygen. The continued decay of aquatic plantlife also uses available oxygen during the decaying process which helps create the conditions these little shrimp-like critters love.

For the resident lake populations of rainbows, char, grayling, and pike, this explosion of a food supply in early spring before ice out provides fish a much needed source of protein at a time when they are at their maximum stress from environmental conditions and low bodyfat content. Fishing the Mystery Shrimp in lakes just as soon as the ice opens up can be a very effective approach. Patterns in Olive/gray will be the most natural representation but other color schemes should be tied and tried as lake residents may have varying preferences from day to day.

1. Thorax - orange chenille
2. Thread - Orange
3. Hook - #8 Tiemco 200R
4. Eyes - Bead chain or lead dumb bell
5. Legs - orange saddle hackle
6. Shell - gift wrapping ribbon or swiss straw
7. Abdomen - Cactus Chenille
8. Rib - medium copper wire


  1. Cover the shank with thread from the eye to just past the bend to form a base.
  2. Wrap the thread rearward continuing well into the bend then tie in a small clump of orange saddle hackle barbs that extend downward past the bend as you would normally tie a tail. Although it looks like a tail at this stage the hackle represents antennae on the shrimp head and the shrimp tail material will extend forward toward the hook eye.
  3. Tie in a 3 "piece of orange ribbon well into the bend where the antennae starts then leave the excess extending rearward past the antennae.
  4. Tie on the bead-chain or dumbbell eyes atop the shank just rearward of where the bend starts. The tie in position will be directly above and to the rear of the hook point.
  5. Tie in a 3" piece of orange chenille at the same point as the ribbon, then wrap it forward covering the hook shank and back then build a bulbous thorax around the bead-chain tying it off just in front of the eyes.
  6. For thoracic legs, tie in an orange saddle hackle in front of the bead-chain eyes then palmer it 3 or 4 times before tying it off. Pull the hackle downward and to the rear then wrap the thread back onto the bases of the hackle to secure them in a rearward position. Hackles should point primarily rearward on the underside of the thorax extending well past the bend. Trim off any hackle that finished on the top or at unusual angles.
  7. Tie in a 2" piece of med copper wire for ribbing just in front of the hackle legs leaving the excess rearward.
  8. Tie in a 3" piece of orange "Cactus Chenille " at the same point as the wire ribbing then wrap the chenille forward and tie down just behind the hook eye to represent the abdomen appendages.
  9. Pull the ribbon forward over the thorax, bead-chain eyes, and cactus chenille abdomen then tie down just behind the hook eye leaving 1/2" extending past the eye which will become the tail.
  10. Wrap the wire ribbing forward over the chenille abdomen and ribbon shell then tie down just behind the eye.
  11. Grasp the 1/2 " of ribbon tail that extends past the eye and lift it allowing the thread to be wrapped underneath causing the ribbon to remain slightly raised. Whip finish under the tail then trim the end to a rounded 1/8" length.

Pattern by Brad Hanson
Photo by B. Hanson 1999

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