Polar Shrimp

Polar Shrimp Steelhead Fly

Hook: Tiemco 7999

Thread: Fluorescent Orange

Weight: .030 lead wire (wrapped twelve times around bare hook)

Tail: Red hackle fibers

Body: Fluorescent Orange chenille

Hackle: Fluorescent Orange Schlappen

Wing: Natural Polar Bear hair


The originator of the Polar Shrimp has been somewaht obscured by time. In the book, “Fly Patterns and Their Origins” (1950), Harold Smedley states (about polar Bear): “Possibly polar bear hair was used for flies before 1923, but I do not know of it. The first I know of was in 1923 when T. V. Sandys-Wunsch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the late F.A. Ashton of Vancouver used polar bear flies made from a skin brought out of the north by Mr. Wunsch.

“In 1925 polar bear hair flies were sold commercially by Harkley & Haywood of Vancouver.”

Deke Meyer, in his book, “Advanced Fly Fishing for Steelhead”(1992), quotes Les Johnson from a 1983 article in Fly Tyer: “ Clarence Shoff opened his small Kent, Washington, fly shop in 1922. Hitting the roads for weeks at a time he sold flies and hand-tied gut leaders at fishing camps on the banks of rivers from Washington to California. Being a totally gifted and smitten angler, it was not uncommon for Clarence to set up his vise at a fishing lodge and tie custom orders well into the night, then, rise early to fish a few hours on a noted pool before heading out to the next stop along his route. The Polar Shrimp, first tied by Shoff in 1936, caught on quickly with the California angling gentry on the Eel River.”

Trey Combs, in his book "Steelhead Fly Fishing and Flies", Third Printing, 1979, states: “The Polar Shrimp first gained widespread publicity on California’s Eel River in 1936, contributing to some outstanding late season steelheading. According to the late Jim Pray, the first of these flies he saw were supplied by Shoff Fishing Tackle Company in Kent, Washington."

Whatever the original source, the Polar Shrimp is an effective traditional steelhead fly. However, it should only be tied with "real" polar bear hair; anything else is another pattern and a poor imitation.