Published Feb 25. 2024 - 1 month ago
Updated or edited Feb 25. 2024

Steel Pin Shrimp

A scud pattern with 26 individual legs is no task if you make this small, ingenious tool out of wire.

The Steel Pin Shrimp
The Steel Pin Shrimp
Nick Thomas

Adding individual legs to a shrimp can be fiddly, particularly if you want to add a decent number. Gammarus shrimps, or scuds if you are in the US, have seven pairs of legs, plus six other pairs of appendages for swimming and circulating water over their gills. So, if you wanted to tie a full-on imitation with the correct number of abdominal legs and thoracic appendages you would need to attach a grand total of twenty-six.

One way is to sew on the legs with a needle and thread as in the Stich Up Shrimp. The Stitch Up method does require a bit of patience and a steady hand however, but there is another way to add lots of legs which is quick and easy. You just need a helping hand, or a tool to be precise. A bent pin in fact. The pin is fitted through the hook eye and held in the vice jaws under the hook providing an armature for winding a series of loops that will form the legs. The loops are fixed in place along the body with UV-resin and then cut along the pin. Each loop becomes a pair, and thirteen loops makes twenty-six legs/appendages.

Recent research has shown that contrary to popular belief, fish can actually count and have about the same ability as a six-month old human baby. They don’t actually do maths, but they can distinguish between a few and many, which is an advantage when deciding which of two shoals to join to hide from predators. Their discrimination level whether for other fish in a shoal, or presumably the legs on a shrimp, depends on the difference between two numbers.

Standard vs. Micro
Standard vs. Micro
Nick Thomas

They can tell the difference between 1 and 2, 2 and 3 or 3 and 4, but not between 4 and 5. The bigger the numbers the greater is the difference required for them to tell them apart, they can do 8 and 16, but distinguishing between 12 and 16, the same ratio as 3 and 4, is beyond them. So, if you are worrying about how many legs to add then the science says put on more than twelve. With the Steel Pin Shrimp method once you are set up adding more legs is just a matter of making more loops, so go for it, 12, 16, 20 or more, whatever takes your fancy.

What you actually use for the legs is up to you. Fly tying or sewing thread would work but the ends tend to fray blurring the effect of adding individual legs. I use micro flex floss which is half the thickness of the standard stuff and allows you to get lots of legs out of one strand.

To make the armature you will need some wire that is thin enough to pass through a hook eye, can be easily bent into shape and has enough strength to withstand the tension of the loops of material wound around it. I use 54mm long and 0.58mm diameter Flower Head pins, which are made for holding material in place for quilting and patchwork. If there is a sewing or craft shop near you may get them there, if not, they are available online. I got mine from Amazon for less than £2 for a pack of 36.

Flower head pins
Flower head pins
Nick Thomas

You’ll need a pair of fine tipped pliers to bend the pins to form the winding armature. I tie shrimps on curved hooks with a straight eye and a right-angle bend allows the pin to be fitted through the hook eye with the bent section underneath. I bend the other end so that it’s out of the way when I’m winding and fixing the loops. If you are using a down eye hook, you’ll need to adjust the bends in the needle to suit the hook. My vice jaws have grooves to hold large hooks and I set the jaws so that they clamp onto the end of the pin while the thicker hook sits in one of the grooves.

The starting point for the body of the Steel Pin Shrimp is the same as my Steel Shrimp, which is tied with steel bead chain to give internal structure and add a little weight to the body. The spaces between the beads along the back provide locations for winding the loops of flex floss that will form the legs.

Hook and armature
Hook and armature
Nick Thomas
Steel Pin Shrimp
Pattern type: 
Scud fly
Originator: 
Nick Thomas

A gammarus (scud) pattern with distinctive legs made using a small DIY tool

Materials: 
Hook
Fasna F-120 #12
Thread
12/0 tan
Body
1.5mm stainless steel bead chain and natural pine squirrel dubbing
Legs
Fulling Mill olive Micro Flex Floss
Shell
3mm olive organza ribbon and UV-resin
Instruction: 
  1. Run on the thread at the eye and take around the bend in touching turns.
  2. Colour the ribbon with an olive marker pen and tie in along the shank with the free end hanging back over the bend.
  3. Tie in five beads of chain along the top of the hook with thread wraps between each of the beads. Colour the beads with a brown marker pen.
  4. Add a little dubbing behind and in front of the beads.
  5. Whip finish, remove the thread and give the exposed thread wraps a light coat of varnish or superglue.
  6. Set up the hook and armature in the vice.
  7. Attach the flex floss to the pin with a couple of overhand knots. Wind the flex floss forward around the fly body and the pin under tension. Secure the end to the pin with a fly clip.
  8. Apply UV-resin along the back and sides and cure to fix the leg loops in place.
  9. Cut the flex floss along the pin, remove the pin and reattach the tying thread.
  10. Fold the organza over the body, tie in and remove the waste end. Whip finish and remove the thread. Colour the head with an olive marker pen.
  11. Add a second layer of UV-varnish to form the final shrimp shape.

Steps 1-5 are the same as on the Steel Shrimp.

Floss wrapped
Floss wrapped
Nick Thomas

6. Attach the flex floss to the pin with a couple of overhand knots. Wind the flex floss forward around the fly body and the pin under tension. Secure the end to the pin with a fly clip.

UV-resin
UV-resin
Nick Thomas

7. Apply UV-resin along the back and sides and cure to fix the leg loops in place.

Cut and remove
Cut and remove
Nick Thomas

8. Cut the flex floss along the pin, remove the pin and reattach the tying thread.

Fold organza
Fold organza
Nick Thomas

9. Fold the organza over the body, tie in and remove the waste end. Whip finish and remove the thread. Colour the head with an olive marker pen.

More UV-resin
More UV-resin
Nick Thomas

10. Add a second layer of UV-varnish to form the final shrimp shape.

Finished shrimp
Finished shrimp
Nick Thomas

Finished shrimp (with 24 legs).

Small fly
Small fly
Nick Thomas

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