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Polar Shrimp Tube Fly
By Faruk Ekich


I consider myself one of the most fortunate amongst fly fishers. Borne and raised on the banks of Vrbas, a beautiful limestone river that decorates the two millenniums old town of Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I grew up with equally long tradition in fly fishing, going back to its origins perhaps.

Author, Faruk Ekich

Braided horse hair lines going down to single strand tippet and hand tied flies on the stream to meet the whims of capricious prince - grayling ..., but about that subject, on other occasion.(For those that are interested, there is an article: "Faruk of the North," by Michael Simon in the Art of Angling Journal, Volume 2, Issue 4, that can be accessed on my web site under Links).

My good fortune followed me when, upon my emigration to Canada in 1966, I came to live in Smithers, British Columbia of all the places. There, I was tutored in to the art of steelhead fishing by the greats of that time like, Wally Booth, Ted Laboda and Hederingthon whose frequent guest was Roderick-Haig Brown. Later on, in 1970 I moved East where I waded into the Atlantic Salmon tradition in Quebec.

The last 23 seasons I was obsessed with the beauty of Salvelinus and sought the most remote places in Arctic regions of Canada, like Sutton River in Polar Bear National park for the sea going brook trout and Coppermine River for the char. It was during this period that a need to diversify from the traditional, hook mounted fly, came about.

There were many reasons for that. Staying for three weeks at a time in the land of midnight sun with daylight around the clock, one spends lots of time fishing - sometimes as long as 16 hours per day. With the abundance of feeding fish, anyone can land an embarrassing number of fish there.

The only challenge is, how to release them in the best shape possible. Using the strong and heavy leader helped in shortening the exhausting fights and quicker releases. But, the Salvelinus family has a problem with coagulation and the least amount of bleeding can result in a fish's fatality.

In my opinion, the traditional fly, with it's long shank hook has two major disadvantages for fish safety: long shank and point down keeling.

In the prolonged fight, the leaver of the long shank makes a larger hole (bigger wound) and the hook point down, often gets the tongue hold where the blood vessels are.

There is a third disadvantage that may be of detriment for fish safety:
In the pool that has been disturbed with previous fight, fish lies low and often, in an attempt to get down to them, one snags the fish's back. The ensuing fight exhausts the fish (as a fisher trying to recover it for the release).

Step by step, I developed this concept of the Tube Up fly with the fixed short shank hook held point up. In addition of reducing the fish injuries, it offers the following advantages:

  • Better holding then the long shank hook due to it's shorter leaver.

  • Better hook-ups, especially on the downstream hanging fly when the fish dives straight down after the rise. Closing it's mouth on the fly at that downward position, the full width of the upper jaw is at the hook's point reach, rather then just a possible tip of the lower jaw when using the standard, point down fly.

  • It reduces the frustrations of scrapped fly due to broken hook.

  • Enables you to choose the much lighter hook for the desired gap on the large dry fly, which allows you to have sparsely dressed fly with better float-ability.

  • Hook gets disengaged from the fly at the beginning of the fight and fly stays out of harms way of the fish teeth.

  • Tube Up, like the "keel fly" eliminates the bottom snagging.

Commercially available tubes did not have the range of sizes that I needed for my style of tying, at least at that time. I wanted to have a choice of the tubes with varying lengths, diameters and materials. I use the metal tubes found in hobby shops- made by KandS Engineering from Chicago.

Several sizes are offered in copper, brass and aluminum. I use mostly copper for the wet and Q-Tip for dry flies.

Both ends of tube are flared. Tail end to anchor the shrink tubing piece which holds the hook position- point up and front end to protect the head winding. For plastic tubing such as Q-tip, the flaring is easy - heat from a lighter. The metal tube needs to be formed into flared end. While it is possible to do it by gently tapping with the tapered tool such as center punch or just an ordinary thread tap point, it is a slow process.

I could not find the flaring tool needed for these small diameters. So, I made a prototype (shown below), which I still use, that accommodates two diameters: 1/16"(1.6mm) and 3/32"(2.4mm).


Flaring tool burnishes the surface of the flare into a smooth finish which eliminates the need for a plastic sleeve that is supposed to protect the leader from chafing. In my opinion and experience through the long use of sleeveless tubes, I do not believe that a tube fly with its small weight has enough force that could penetrate the leader's surface. Anyway, the flared ends assures that the edge does not contact the leader.

My Tying Desk

For this time I will describe the Polar Shrimp, the wet fly for the char fishing. It is made for the rigor of heavy duty Arctic fishing and refined for durability and simplicity, not the appearance!

(When it comes to flies, I think that the beauty is in the eyes of beholder). My favorite colors are: orange, green, purple, amber and white.

Paul Marriner, the author of many books and articles on fly tying and fishing, wrote an article in the May/July 2005 issue of The Canadian Fly Fisher about the Polar Shrimp and included it in the new book: A Compendium of Canadian Fly Patterns" (see: if interested). I hope that this concept can be of use to you as well.

Happy tying. ~ Faruk Ekich



    Hook: Short shank up eye such as Daiichi 4250 or Owners 5115 size 4.

    Thread: UNI 3/0 orange.

    Tube: Copper tubing 1/16"(1.6mm) O.D. X 1"(25mm) long - flared on both ends.

    Hook anchor: Shrink tubing 1/8"O.D.(3mm)X 1/4"(6mm) long color orange or white colored with permanent marker.

    Antennae, Carapace and Tail: Polar bear guard hair - color orange with two strands of Crystal flash.

    Eyes: Golden pheasant tippets section.

    Body and Legs: Polar bear underfur.

    Ribbing: Copper wire 0.010" Dia. (0.12mm).

    Publisher's Note: Legal Polar Bear fur can be obtained in the US from Bear Lodge Angler, a Sponsor here on FAOL.


Tools and Materials

Clock wise from top:

    bobbin with 3/0 thread

    tube holding mandrel set, (This one is made out of an Ejector Pin (see photo Special tooling above.) but any pin (such as paper clip or wire), with diameter that enters inside of copper tube and one end flattened and covered with heat shrink tubing for better grip, will do.

    In addition to that, a small section of copper tube covered in shrink tube is used to grip the other end of the tube as shown in next photo.

    flared copper tube and heat shrink tubing,

    polar bear hair,

    copper wire, Crystal flash,

    golden pheasant tippet section for eyes and flaring tool.


Tying in Ribbing

With the heat from a lighter, secure the section of the shrink tubing at one end of copper tube and place it on the mandrel as shown.
Apply pressure on the mandrel toward the jaws of the vise to create the holding friction between the jaws and the head of mandrel before closing the jaws. Contact between three points of shrink tube create enough tension that hold the tube in place for good thread torque. Attach the ribbing.


Tying in Eyes

Continue with the thread up on the shrink tube just before the "bump" created by the flare. (This "bump" serves well to spread the eyes and the hair).


Tying in Eyes

Start on near side with one wrap, then swing the other end to the far side and tie with second wrap.


Separating Fur

Polar bear section has three distinct lengths of hair. Cut the clump that has sufficient amount of guard hairs that will form the antennae, back (carapace) and the tail.
Hold the tips of the guard hair firmly while pulling gently on the other end of the clump.
You will separate the main, long guard hair.
Do the same now, holding the tips of the medium length hairs and you will separate the finest fibers that will be used for dubbing and the legs as shown.

Tying in Guard Hair

Attach the guard hair extending out 1-1/2 length of a tube, spreading it with the thumb nail around the top.


Forming Dubbing Loop

With griping "wax" such as "Wonder Wax" applied to the thread section place the underfur making sure that the tips are aligned to the left and that they extend farther at tying point going progressively shorter towards the end of the dubbing loop. This helps to create somewhat tapered profile of the legs.
(I double up the thread to form the loop but the splitting method can be used).


Applying Dubbing

Wrap two turns over the tying point while "training" the tips of the hair in direction facing the antennae. Lift the tail end of guard hairs and continue wrapping toward the head under the guard hair.


Applying Dubbing

Bring the dubbing to a position approximately one tube diameter from the flared end and tie down.
With your fingers, spread the dubbing hairs from the top of the buddy downwards to form the legs.


Applying Dubbing

Rib in the opposite direction(4-5 turns), spreading the guard hair with the thumb nail to form the back (carapace?). Tie in and form the tail fanning the hair out in as thin a layer as possible. Whip finish and protect with head cement of a choice.
Tail can be shaped and manipulated to serve as a lifting "fin," much like the Rapala lure, or it can be trimmed down if lifting is excessive.


Top View


Side View


My Camp

For the char and in higher velocity currents, I use different shooting heads to match the conditions, or High Density/High Speed Steelhead line of 275 grain for better mending capabilities.

My leaders are 5 foot(1.5m)-20lb abrasive resistant materials such as Stroft (or Maxima in the past). Strikes are expected at the drift as well as on the swing and with the char, they are awesome!

The photo above is of "MY" camp where I fished three weeks at a time for 14 summers.

Knowing that this concept may be too complicated for the tyers that have difficulties to flare the tubes, I will show my dry fly skater made on the Q-Tip or similar plastic tube, next time. It is much simpler. In any case, should anyone have some questions, I will be at your disposal.

Best Fishes, ~ Faruk Ekich

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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