In the past, I have imposed constraints upon things in a very random way. Although I have not been blind to my hypocrisy, only recently have I come to embrace it. I said, “whatever, bitches”. And the bitches whatevered.
If I may expand on said flaw: when I look at my floating prawn robot fly, called Ironman, I see a pattern that has withstood its complex evolution with the basics of the design intact. An Ironman is a very specific thing.
But then I look at my poor, innocent creation, Shawn. Half shrimp, half prawn, Shawn isn’t a pattern. He’s a concept, and more specifically, a presentation technique. I have by now had the pleasure of seeing a diverse selection of South African crustacean patterns labelled as ‘Shawn’. I hereby embrace this, and I am setting Shawn free into the great outdoor wilderness.
Unlike Ironman, Shawn is not iron-clad. Below is how I tie my current favourite version, Shawn Jr.
I’d have liked to tell you what makes a Shawn a Shawn, but I think it will be more useful if I told you how to Shawn instead. And not to give it away, you can Shawn without using a Shawn. And you can use a Shawn for things other than Shawning. Like Dré dragging his Shawn behind an Ironman on the Breede, and scoring. But I digress again. Let’s go.
For to Shawn effectively, you need sight-fishing conditions, and a small fly that lands like gossamer down, and which sinks slowly and, crucially, horizontally, while maintaining an even keel. This fly is fed to cruising and tailing grunts by leading the fish and making it look like the fly wants to get away from it. It is a surprisingly simple, active presentation; Shawn is often eaten while making rather a brisk escape. That’s Shawning. And the retrieve cadence is called ‘shawnting’.
A Shawn itself, is a shrimpish fly that gets this job done. That’s all. If you want to tie it differently to Shawn Jr below, go for it. Or, tie it exactly the same and call it Casandra if it floats your Ironman. But know that active sight-fishing to grunter in sunny conditions, with soft-landing, slow-sinking flies shall henceforth be known by experts, and also me, as Shawning.
I can hear it:
“How’s it going bru?”
“She chased me to the tip but I don’t know if I was shawnting properly!”
The original Shawn was simple, his first few so-called refinements less so. You can look at previous posts for more details and lies. Shawn Jr. is the result of a comprehensive simplification process fueled by a weirdly complicated and drawn-out mental shift towards real ‘minimalism’. Also, he now benefits from input and confirmations from multiple other blokes who took up Shawning. The idea of a small, pale ‘Shawn’ started for me when I shifted my attention to sandier substrates than the weedy flats for which the first few Shawns were tied. Subsequent flies tied by mates demonstrated it to be better than the comparatively gaudy, complex and darker original, everywhere it’s been fished. These mates include, but are not limited to: The bastard child of Elon Musk and Bear Grylls, a man called Smokey, and that so-called ‘Johann Rademeyer’. So not noobs, either, if you know what I mean.
The deer hair mouth parts are a constant in all my Shawns, as it creates drag above the hook bend and point, facilitating the horizontal sinking posture. For the same reason, the legs and antennae aim to balance the sculpting fiber body. I am looking for the perfect replacement, but have so far been happy enough with the size 6 B10S hook. One caveat: Combine that little hook with heavy tackle or too much pressure during the fight, and it will bend out. Even pressure, concentration, and well-matched tackle prevents this. I use 10lb fluorocarbon on a 7 or 8wt outfit.
Hook: B10S size 6, or similar. Avoid shiny silver hooks, as well as heavy wire ones.
Thread: 6/0 or 3/0 Danville, tan or yellow. Dress the hook and create a bump above the hook point to support the deer hair. Coat with superglue.
Coastal deer or elk hair, bleached or natural. Dry fly stuff, not bass bug hair, does the trick; the mottling creates a very lifelike mouth area on the fly. I stack the deer hair tips because it looks good, but it also probably helps to spread the drag it’s supposed to create, evenly. Science rocks.
Sili legs. Try to match the colour to the body. I don’t like the legs to be darker or brighter than the rest of the fly. Barred tan/clear is excellent, if you can find it. Make sure to tie the legs in so they point slightly upwards.
Craft fur or Egyptian goose flank feathers, or both, for the antennae. You can bar the craft fur with a marker.
Burnt mono eyes. Not too big or small, I also try not to cremate them. A bit of patience will make a translucent, brown eye. This looks more natural than black ones, and my own experience suggests that the grunts agree. Nice.
Body: Sculpting fiber, tan, camo, misty camel, in equal amounts, or slightly biased towards the tan side. I won’t detail the brush making here again, please check out the Ironman SBS (Grunter Gotta Eat Pt something or other) for that. Don’t make the brush too dense if using sculpting fiber. I recommend experimenting with colours and materials in the body, as the aforementioned chaps have done with great results. For a proper swim, trim the body material on the belly side of the fly as close as possible to the hook.
Shawn, tied with some hot accents like chartreuse, pink or orange, is deadly on scratch fish like stumpnose, although I avoid such colours when tying for grunter. With some experimentation and an open mind, though, he’s a very versatile little bugger.
Now, I need to get to the water. I have a revolutionary, never-before-seen pattern in my pocket and I want to see if it shawnts. Will report.