Shrimp in steelhead rivers [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Shrimp in steelhead rivers

12-23-2006, 08:39 AM
I notice a lot of steelhead flies imitate shrimp ('prawns'). What species of shrimp exist in steelhead rivers? Or else, what are these flies designed to imitate?

12-23-2006, 08:57 AM
they are pacific shrimp and sand shrimp

12-23-2006, 08:58 AM
Out west football field sized shoals of large krill color the ocean waters and salmonids gorge themselves on them and the smaller fish that come to feed on the krill. I've caught salmon with balls of small shrimp larger than a softball in their gut.

There are also shrimp similar to the ones harvested in Maine (small cocktail sized) which make an amazing shrimp louie salad if you are ever in Vancouver you can get the shrimp fresh on your salad.

Steelhead also run the shoreline and a species of sand shrimp are a popular (and deadly) bait for the gear guys. They are a mysterious pink color with mustard and red highlights when alive unlike the usual drab color until cooked. They have a strong smell of anise, as do the butter clams in the area.

I tie patterns to imitate both the ghost shrimp and more common shrimp and have done very well for pacific steelhead on these patterns.

12-23-2006, 11:06 AM
Are these actually riverine or estuarine shrimp? or do the same prey species inhabit the ocean AND rivers?

Would one use a fly imitating a saltwater shrimp while fishing rivers, relying perhaps on the fish's recent memory?

12-23-2006, 11:14 AM
The western shrimp species named above are ocean / estuarine species and do not inhabit the rivers. However the giant october caddis larvae are very shrimp-like and proliferate western WA streams and I have developed a hybrid shrimp / pupae pattern that has been deadly in fall fishing. Although it's pure conjecture I believe it appeals to steelhead in both memory and current opportunity that way.

But to answer your question, shrimp are only memories in the river. They are salt creatures. In western steelhead fishing it's almost purely about relating to the memory, in fact I base my fishing on that concept. Some of the memories I present (and often get reactions to) date all the way back to smolt and pre-smolt.

You gotta figure a fish that finds its way home over several thousands of miles of traveling has some kind of sentiment!

12-23-2006, 11:24 AM
Ghost shrimp are estuarine. Spirontocarid (sp?) shrimps are either estuarine or marine, depending on species. None of these is a freshwater species as far as I know.

Crayfish are found in freshwater, so steelhead as juveniles are well-acquainted with these as food.

As Juro points out, steelhead and salmon feed heavily on krill, and the memory of this goodie carries through on the spawning runs. The General Practioner and other prawn patterns are very effective steelhead and salmon patterns.

Seasons Greetings,


Jim Miller
12-23-2006, 03:19 PM
and although you won't be harvesting a "shrimp cocktail" from the Salmon River, NY.
..... it is amazing how those inland steelies will hit a shrimp/prawn pattern!
color .... shape ? not sure why?

12-23-2006, 08:58 PM
Inland steelhead eat shrimp for the same reason that people eat lobster in Montana or oranges in B.C...... because they feel like it!

12-24-2006, 05:44 AM
I now wonder if they're raising to a, say, spey shrimp fly because they recognize it as food, or as an attractor with vaguely familiar shape from their marine days.