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Mill at Beat 8: Photo from http://www.thursoriver.co.uk/ The beautiful scene to the left is of the mill on Beat 8 of the Thurso, one of Ross McDonald's favorite rivers in his native Scotland. When Ross first shared his Mairi's Shrimp on this site, I was more than thrilled to invite him to join as a contributor because I have always been interested in the Shrimp-style flies from Scotland and Ireland. My knowledge of their origin and history is limited and Ross, is not only an expert tyer, but has a wealth of knowledge to share as you can see from his flies and his bio. Read what he has to say and see his flies to see what I mean.

I have been fishing since I was about two years old. My early forays were in the puddles in front of my house, using a twig as a rod. I no longer sit in puddles, but I remain captivated by all-things salmon. I got into fly-tying about 15 years ago, it is a hobby in its own right and one I enjoy more and more as the years pass. I sent Steve a few Mairi's Shrimps and following some transatlantic emailing I was delighted when he invited me to contribute to these pages. I hope you enjoy my contributions and have a go at tying some of my flies.

My favorite style of fly is the long-tailed shrimp, which I consider to be the most versatile of fly styles. I use it on tubes in spring and in summer I will use small versions- 12 doubles or 14 trebles. The overall length of these varies from about ?" to 3".

Scotland and Ireland are spiritual home to the shrimp fly. The Irish style is older, but the Scottish style has grown in importance from the 1970s onwards. The big bang was Ally Gowns' seminal fly the Ally's Shrimp. This came out in the late 80s and has spawned countless variants; the Ally's Shrimp is established a style which went beyond being a new pattern.

A slew of Ross Macdonald's Mairi's Shrimp More recently the style has been refined with the introduction of the Cascade, another treasure from Ally Gowans. The Cascade is often described as a Willie Gunn tied shrimp style as it shares the basic color scheme. Yellow, Orange and black are the main colors for many Scottish patterns. My own shrimp fly- the Mairi's Shrimp- is based on the long-tail style. I have made my own adjustments, but the template is the Ally's Shrimp and the Cascade.

There is a history of long tailed shrimps that predates Ally's Shrimp; prior to the Ally's we had John Cathcart's Black Shrimp and Graham McKenzie's Silver Shrimp. These two patterns remain common on the River Ness and elsewhere. They are tied with a shorter tail and are sparser tyings.

Since then, everyone has a shrimp fly variant. I have never knowingly used the original Ally's, mine have silver bodies and no squirrel beneath the shank; I am far from alone. The myriad variations of the Ally's and the Cascade are the reason I think it is so important. It has shaped the way we tie our flies.

Irish shrimps are also popular in Scotland. Most people I know have a soft spot for Curry's Red Shrimp- the first superstar of shrimp flies.

The most important part of the Irish style, in terms of my own tying, is the profile. Mairi's shrimp borrows heavily from this style by employing a dubbed body of seal's fur or synthetics. I think this is important- of course I have no idea why, but I like the dubbed body and have confidence in it. When push comes to shove, confidence in the fly is its most important factor.

I look forward to learning about steelhead and West Coast tying and am always keen to try out new ideas.

Tight lines

Ross

Mairi's Shrimp Silver Wilkinson Shrimp Gold Cascade Cascade Kylie (Variant)

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