Charles Ritz- Prawn Fly [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Charles Ritz- Prawn Fly

11-27-2004, 12:01 PM
I am in the process of research for Joe Branham's and My Book on Classic Saltwater flies and I am now researching Charles Ritz ( The History of Saltwater flies needs a cross over from salmon flies and other Brackish water flies both British and American). In Ritz's book, A fly Fisher's Life, he refers to the use of a Prawn Fly... on the Alta in Norway... also he refers to it as "General Practitioner". Yet he makes no reference to it's make up. Can anyone point me to a source for the materials and receipe for this fly or is this term "prawn" a term of general catagory....that is,,,is this a description for a group of flies or a few... Thanks for the help..... any help of the fly , a bucktail called "Rusty Rat" also?

11-27-2004, 12:59 PM
Prawns are a type of salmon fly imitating shrimp. The General Practioner being one of the most famous of this type of fly. The Rusty RAT is not a bucktail, it is one of a class of flies called "hairwing". Also note that most properly the "RAT" is all caps as it is the initials of the man who designed this style of fly of which there are a good number including Poul Jorgensen's Blue RAT. Googling RAT, Hairwing, General Practioner, and prawn with "fly pattern" will give you hundreds of references.


11-27-2004, 01:21 PM
Thanks very much... very helpful.

11-27-2004, 03:49 PM
The "GP" is one of my favorite flies for fall Atlantic Salmon in the Maritimes, can be deadly in high cold water. I tie them on single and double hooks from #4 to 1/0, in black, orange or green. This year I built some with rabbit (ala leech flies), and they were attacked!! :smokin: But I digress,,,,,,,,

Bryant Freeman (a good friend and great New Brunswick tyer) has a good tying sequence for the standard GP on his website.

I've often thought of trying one in the salt, but never have....

11-27-2004, 06:39 PM
Thanks John..I will look that up and may use it in the sequesnce in the book... Thanks again.

11-27-2004, 06:54 PM

The Rusty Rat and the General Practitioner tying sequences and pattern can be found in Poul Jorgeson's SALMON FLIES: CHARACTER, STYLE AND DRESSING book.

Ronn Lucas
11-28-2004, 12:02 AM
Hi striblue,

Here is the Rusty RAT.

Also, here are a couple GP,%20orange%20lo%20res%20.1.j pg

This is the original dressing (except for the dubbing) and as desssed as in Bates' "Atlantic Salmon Flies & Fishing., g

This is my variation to simulate the Sand Shrimp.

If you want more info on these or any other flies, email me at

Happy Trails!

11-28-2004, 07:26 AM

The origins of the 'Rat' (sorry, no caps needed), namely the Rusty Rat, are still the subject of often heated and well-documented debate. Granted, Roy Angus Thompson played a significant role in the fly's popularity and history, but I maintain (as do several prominent and published experts) that credit is justly due to J.C. Arsenault for the fly's original design.


Maestro, impecable usual. You should have *your* hands insured! *g*


Hey, congrats and best of luck on your up-coming book! I sure hope you'll keep us posted on when it'll be published and earmark a copy for me.


11-28-2004, 08:45 AM
Thanks Guys... I need to start as far back as possibel...Radcliffes, Fishing from early Times, , I need to draw a connection from the early brackish water fishing for salmon and sea trout going back to Walton, Davy, and Grey,,,, then write about the subtle cross over from some of these flies that were used in saltwater...although not necessarily for pure salt water species. from these salmon and in some cases steelhead flies we see , in both the British and American schools... the use of basic and "gaudy" bucktails.... that moved slowly into the saltwater use..... I am researching Sea-Angling right now aroundd the late 1800's... I expect to complete my research by the end of February and start writing ... our deadline in October 1, 2005 for the first draft. In the meantime, we are gathering flys and interviewing the living saltwater pioneers. I will be driving down to the Cape next Saturday to finish interveiwing Al Brewster, Lefty Kreh and Art Buton sent me some incredible stuff, and I have finished my interviewing of Edson Leonard, who is 90+, Bill Catherwood, Cooper Gilkes, I am waiting to hear back from Russ Chatham.... Joe Branham will be speaking with Ken Bay and some other Florida individuals.... for the new classics we have on board and submitting flies, Joe Blados, Steve Able, Dan Blanton, Jack Gartside, Ken Abrames,Dick Brown, Mark Sedotti, Lou Tabory, Don Coleman, Dave Skok, Cris Windram...etc...If you watch e-bay in the Fishing Books section you will probably see my handle, "striblue" bidding on many early books. Win some ,lose some.

11-28-2004, 12:07 PM
As an Attorney myself, but not a patent attorney, my work will be a "History" and as such I have already discovered the "subtle prejudices" from my reeading aproximatly 20 books so far... and most in the 1800's and and the purist dry fly types are a staunch group.... even the good Lord Grey found shore fishing messy and cold and too much sea weed... and Davy poopooed the "cockney" shore fishermen... the history of saltwater flyfishing came up a "shadowy road" along side the more pleasant and scenic more travelled road of the trout and salmon fly fisher.... but History is History... and I will be reporting it from the books, interviews, magazines...even the late 1700's and early 1800's "country Life " stories from Britain to paint an evolutionary picture.... whatever comes out I have no doubt the stories will differ and it will be based on mistake from the reporter or some prejudice....Hopefully some will ne truthful reporting... I have all these 1950 books and have Bates 1970 and will report the various issues, but by the time I get to 1950, I suspect I will have left the area of streamers and other wet flies as described in the earlier part of the century. But even with all this and plenty of an attorney you know that two witnesses to the same event usually have a somewhat different view. This I will not be able to overcome. Anyway, I need to copy this thread tomorrow and will absorb what has been said here and figure a way to best describe it. I intend to photo these two flies and have them inserted in the History section of the well as others like the Oasark Weedless Bucktail, the early English sea trout Cuddy Fly, the basic streamer and Bucktail described in Tapply's book on Tying in 1949 as well as Major's simultanious work around 1947 on the Streamer and Bucktail, not to mention Sturges work.. all these to only name a few...all have a common demoniator as I see the movement from fresh water streamer bucktail to the saltwater evolution. It will not be about salmon flies or tout flies.... way beyond my capabilities..and uneccessary... but only to the extent that these can be "somewhat" traced back to the for runner of the saltwater fly we see today.

11-28-2004, 11:01 PM
Both Halycon and Igor are correct on some things regarding the Rat series of flies. And both are incorrect on some other things regarding the history of the RUSTY RAT.

Roy Angus Thompson was the originator and first tyer of the GRAY RAT, which is the prototype from which all others in the Rat series of flies came and it was first tied in 1911. Another fly known simply as the RAT was produced shortly after this, although Roy Angus Thompson's GRAY RAT was the first one. The original tyer of the RAT is not known. The difference between the GRAY RAT and the RAT was that the GRAY RAT had a body composed entirely of Grey fox underfur dubbing, while the RAT had a a two-part body: rear was flat silver tinsel and the front was black dubbing. The rest of the two flies was identical.

The BLACK RAT was produced by Roy Angus Thompson as a variation of his original GRAY RAT and it had a body composed entirely of black dubbing, with the same tag, tail, wing, and hackle of the GRAY RAT.

The RUSTY RAT came about when a Mr. Joseph Pulitzer II, a publisher and rather wealthy to boot (yes, he is of the famous Pulitzer family which created the Pulitzer Prize), was fishing a BLACK RAT that was tied by Mr. J.Arseneault started to have the body fall apart and expose the rusty orange thread he tied the fly with. Mr. Pulitzer found the BLACK RAT with the exposed rusty orange tying thread to be highly effective and on which he caught a 41lb salmon. This was in 1949 (Fortune magazine published an account of this in its October 1949 issue).

Since Mr. Pulitzer had the BLACK RAT that fell apart and exposed the rusty orange tying thread on the rear of the body tied by Mr. Arseneault, he went back to Mr. Arseneault and had the fly tied with rusty orange floss rear body and had some tied with black dubbing front body and some tied with peacock herl front body. Mr Pulitzer also named the fly the RUSTY RAT because it had a rusty orange rear body and was tied in the style of the GRAY AND BLACK RATS.

There was also an account of the origins of the RUSTY RAT in the ATLANTIC SALMON JOURNAL, Winter 1965 in an article authored by Mr. J. Arseneault " A Salute to Three Rats".

It was later found in Mr. Pulitzer's diaries after his death that the BLACK RAT with the rusty orange tying thread exposed was used on June 24, 1949 to catch the 41lb salmon. His diary also shows that his wife Liz caught 4 more salmon on July 6, 1949 on the new RUSTY RAT fly he had Mr. Arseneault tie for him. The BLACK RAT that was falling apart with the exposed rusty orange tying thread was tied on a #5/0 double salmon hook.

The three Rats (GRAY, BLACK, RUSTY) were also tied on long streamer hooks for fishing in brackish water at the mouths of rivers and these many times had wings composed of natural brown bucktail mixed with a little bit of white bucktail because bucktail was more readily available than grey fox fur.

11-28-2004, 11:23 PM
Interesting... also Ritz refers to Putliter I beleive as a fishing buddy of his... the timing of Pulitzers fishing forays seems to gell with Ritz's post WW2 excusions where the disclosure of the use of that fly is evident.

11-29-2004, 08:49 AM
Charles Ritz fished the Alta in Norway for some seasons as a guest of Pulitzer who rented the fishing for a period in the 1950s.

11-30-2004, 04:28 AM

I'm assuming your last post on the origins of the Rat was only your opinion, right?

I feel the difference between 'moderating' and 'pontificating' is qualifying or quantifying one's statements by using phrases like, "I believe..." or "It is my opinion that...", etc.

Wonderful concept, eh? Old, but good IMO. *g*


11-30-2004, 10:09 AM

Thank you for your post. I went back and re-read the Bates' book and found the referenced citations as you mentioned. As usual, my old brain did not remember the exact circumstances exactly :frown: I had mixed together the origins of the Rat series created by Roy Angus Thompson (Gray Rat and Black Rat) and the Rusty Rat created 38 years later by Joseph Pulitzer II and a 41 lb. salmon :wink:

The origins of the Rat series and the origin of the Rusty Rat are very clearly documented by the actors and their contemporaries that were involved in both events which clearly explain the circumstances and the originators of both the Rat series and the Rusty Rat member of the series.

With the passing of Poul Jorgensen on Sunday to heavenly salmon pools, it should to be mentioned that his Blue Rat created about 1970 is one of the most popular hairwing salmon flies today.


11-30-2004, 10:58 AM
With the passing of Poul Jorgensen on Sunday to heavenly salmon pools,

That is a sad bit of news.

11-30-2004, 12:13 PM

Yes, that is a bit of sad news hearing of Poul Jorgesen's passing.


As can be seen from Halycon's latest post, it was not my opinion as to the origins of the RUSTY RAT. Arsenueault himself credited the fly's origination to Pulitzer, including in his own published piece on the fly.

11-30-2004, 04:10 PM
One way or another... it appears that the fly Ritz was referring to was Pulizers fly. I think...

12-01-2004, 09:07 AM
One way or another... it appears that the fly Ritz was referring to was Pulizers fly. I think...

For the avoidance of doubt, the General Practitioner was not devised Pulitzer. Esmond Drury was the inventor, in the UK in about 1953; it derives its name from the bird that supplies most of its dressing - the golden pheasant.

The original version had several GP tippets along the back, alternating with red GP body feathers. It also used fibres from a GP spear feather for the tail, along with GP body feather fibres. There is a good pattern and illustration in Peter O'Reilly's book of Irish flies.

I think that using a single tippet, as in Jorgensen's book, Ronn Lucas's fly and the tying sequence linked by Macspey makes for a more streamlined fly, and this seems to be more popular these days. If I were using one I'd go for this style. But if you care about strict historical accuracy, I don't believe it is the authentic dressing.

Edit PS, there is another prawn fly in O'Reilly's book that might be of interest - the 'Yer Man'.

12-01-2004, 10:28 AM
This is all very helpful and I appreciate the information on these flies... Thanks again.

12-01-2004, 01:53 PM

Thank you for adding the development of the G.P. to the discussion. I should have done so for leaving it out does a great injustice to Col. Drury and the wonderful fly he developed in 1953, the G.P., which has become a favorite of many Pacific Northwest steelheaders.

However, it would appear that Colonel Drury used a single tippet with the center cut out and hot orange bucktail for the tail based upon the tying directions, drawings to accompany the tying directions, and sample fly Col. Drury provided to Col. Bates (Atlantic Salmon Flies and Fishing, 1970, Stackpole Books p. 288-289). In these pages Col. Drury instructs the tyer to use hot orange bucktail hairs for the tail and to use a single G.P. tippet with the center cut out (he clearly shows the G.P. tippet feather being so prepared in the drawings). Co. Drury says in step #10 of his tying instructions, "Prepare the eyes of the shrimp by cutting a 'V' from a Golden Pheasant tippet (see sketch). Tie this in to lie flat on top of feather 9".

Hugh Falkus, who was a friend and fishing companion of Col. Crury, also mentions the G.P. and how Col. Drury came about developing it (Salmon Fishing, 1984, H. F. & G.Witherby Ltd [paperback edition pub. 2002, Cassell & Co.] p. 197-198). Falkus quotes Drury as saying, "I originally desinged the G.P. for use on a small pool on the River Test, ...... Because of rhododendrons on the near bank and an overhanging willow on the far bank, with the bridge just above, it was virtually impossible to fish downstream with the fly-and the beat rule was fly only.

"The pool often held a fish or two.... But an orthodox fly lobbed upstream under the willow and allowed to drift down was regularly ignored. As I learned in Ireland, a prawncast upstream at about forty-five degrees from one bacck and allowed to drift down, can prove attractive to reluctant salmon and this knowledge led me to tie a 'fly' that could be fished in the Rhododendrons Pool like a drifting prawn. The result was the G.P.-and it worked like a charm.

"The first time I fished it upstream in the Rhododendron Pool, I had two salmon on it, and another one from a pool lower down where I fished it in the usual way.....

"Originally, I made the fly approximately the same size as a medium prawn, and dressed it only on size 2 hooks. Later, however, I found that in conditions of low, warm water, smaller sized could be very effective.

"I christened the fly 'G.P.' because most of the ingredients are golden pheasant. But I later changed this to 'General Practitioner' because ti proved so deadly!"

Color plate 8 in Falkus's book also has three G.P.'s of different sizes that were tied by Col. Drury and each of them it tied with hot orange bucktail and a single G.P. tippet feather with the center cut out. Therefore, it is rather clear to me that Col. Drury tied and fished the G.P. with hot orange bucktail and a single G.P. tippet.

The tying instructions and drawings of the tying sequence he provided to Col. Bates, and the three fies he tied that are pictured in Falkus's book may well have been reflective of some refinement he did on the original G.P. or may have been the way he originally tied it. At any rate, he was tying and fishing it with a tail of hot orange bucktail and a single G.P. tippet with its center cut out as found in Bates and Falkus. I must say it seems odd to me that Col. Drury would take the pains he did to make his G.P. prawn imitation as close to a real boiled prawn as he did and use multiple whole G.P. tippets tied on at each body/wing segment instead of the single tippet with the center cut out to represent the eyes of a prawn. G.P. sword fibers are not nearly as plentiful as hot orange bucktail, so I can easily see how he changed from G.P. sword fibers to bucktail for the tail, and probably did so fairly early on.

12-01-2004, 02:43 PM
This is another version of the GP that is used in Norway, originally made by the swedish fly tyer Mikael Frodin. Sorry for the quality of the photo. I was also out of properly colored tippets (they should be deep orange), but I guess it will work anyway :)


12-02-2004, 06:54 AM
Flytier, I bow to your excellent references. I was going largely from memory and some GP's I tied back in the mid-late '70s when I first started tying, based I think on instructions given in Trout and Salmon magazine. I believe Col. Drury was still alive at the time. As it happens, it's not a fly I like, so although I've tied some over the years they've almost all stayed in their boxes since then!

As I mentioned, the O'Reilly book suggests more than one tippet, and it is also shown on the following sites:

http ://
http ://

as well as the picture posted by knutalf.

Like you, I wonder what the thinking was behind the multiple tippets, and whether this was an early model or a later aberration. The single V-shaped tippet certainly seems a better eye imitation.