The Shrek Fly

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, MT

I am unaware of other trout flies named after animated movie characters (there’s probably a Mickey Mouse fly somewhere), but sometime in the last decade, Tasmanian angling writer and member of the Australian World Fly Fishing Team, Joe Riley, did just that. As I was researching fly patterns for our trip to Tasmania next year, the “Shrek” fly kept being mentioned over and over again. Once I found some good tying references for the fly, it was evident why Joe named the fly “Shrek”. It was typically big and green like the animated character in the Disney series. I am not sure when Joe Riley devised this fly, but it was clearly after the release of the movie (2001). Additionally, the name Shrek was loosely adapted from William Steig‘s 1990 fairy tale picture book Shrek! The name “Shrek” is derived from the Yiddish and German Schreck (Yiddish שרעק) meaning “fear” or “fright”. It is unknown whether Joe Riley originally intended the Shrek Fly to frighten the fish into taking the fly.

An Original Shrek

An Original Shrek

In reality, the Shrek is nothing more than a variation on traditional Woolly Buggers and is now being tied and fished in Tasmania in colors other than the original green. There are two distinguishing features of the original Shrek fly—a mylar body and a green hackle. However, many variations have emerged over the years to include using dyed green Badger hackle. The original also employed a bead head.

When I started tying some Shrek flies a few weeks ago, I had no idea how effective they might be. Designed for the Brown Trout in the rivers and lakes of Tasmania, I wondered whether or not the Shrek might be enticing to our Montana trout.

My First Shrek

My First Shrek

So far, as of this writing, I have had Shrek flies (my versions) on the end of my line on two trips to the Lower Big Hole River. This crystal clear river is a haven to brown trout. On both days, the Shrek proved to be extremely effective and accounted for a lot of fish, both browns, rainbows and whitefish. Fished traditional streamer style with a sink tip line, they were slammed hard by fish along the undercuts and deep in the pools. My original ties proved a bit weak on the durability front as the hackle tended to loosen up and break given there was no cushion by the mylar body. This was solved with the second set of Shrek flies which incorporated a counter-wrapped fine wire ribbing over the hackle.

Here’s my Shrek recipe.

Variations on the Shrek

Variations on the Shrek

Tying the Shrek follows typical Woolly Bugger steps. After wrapping a thread base, wrap 10-15 turns of lead free wire along the center of the hook shank. This eliminates the need for those rod bruising beads. Then tie in two layers of tailing material with your flash material in between. The most important thing when tying the tail material in is to start securing your tailing material just behind the hook eye. This will ensure an even and smooth body for the entire fly—essential as a good base for the mylar body. In the water, I much preferred the look of the Finn Raccoon tails, but the marabou and arctic fox worked just as well. With a smooth body formed, tie in the wire ribbing and your hackle at the base of the tail. The hackle should be tied in tip first. Then tie in a strip of lateral scale at the base of the tail. Wind the lateral scale forward to the hook eye with as little overlap as possible. If you are using any of the translucent lateral scale, the body will take on the color of the thread but still provide a flashy body. Solid lateral scale just provides a flashy body regardless of your thread selection. Wind the hackle forward to the hook eye with even spacing between wraps. The hackle will tend to slide into the edges of the lateral scale wraps. Then counter-wind the x-small wire rib. This reinforces the hackle and helps keep it from breaking prematurely. Form a nice head and whip finish.

In the water, the Shrek is indeed a striking fly. In the clear water of the Big Hole, the Shrek appeared bright with a lot of contrasts in the body and tail. The mylar body creates a very subtle translucency that really does appear like the body of a baitfish or fry. The dark center of the badger hackle not only creates the appearance of segmentation, but near the head of the fly creates a sense of bulk. In the forums on Australian and Tasmanian fly fishing, some anglers expressed concern that the bright mylar body might “scare” wily brown trout, but many agreed that for whatever reason, the Shrek was a “Go-To” Tasmanian trout fly. As of this writing, I’ve only tied a dozen or so Shrek flies and fished them in just one river. As the summer progresses, I suspect more variations will follow and I will test this fly in different Montana rivers. I hope to try some tube versions as well. If, as I believe it will, become a regular addition to my bugger boxes, I am certain my Shrek flies will do equally well in Tasmania next year.

Note from J. Stockard: Read about Mike’s plans to go “Down Under” here.

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