The General Practitioner fly – forefather locked in place 95 million years back in time – during the Upper Cretaceous period, when Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus, and Velociraptor roamed the earth. Early ancestors of the Atlantic salmon and steelhead has probably also been feeding on prawns like this one
The prawn they know so well
Pandalus Borealis – North Sea Shrimp, Northern Shrimp or Greenland Shrimp – The critter most fly tiers think about when they tie a General Practitioner fly
We have many names for the things we love…and this big prawn is a favored source of food for both man and Salmonidae.
This pink prawn is found at depths of 20–1,330 meters (66–4,360 ft) in both the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean – It lives in relatively cold waters with temperatures of 2–14 °Celsius (36–57 °Fahrenheit)
Both the Atlantic salmon and the Steelhead feed on these and many other prawns
Picture with courtesy of Biopix / Mr. Niels Sloth ©
Fish & shrimps are on the menu
Atlantic Salmon love shrimps flies. Studies show that a substantial percentage of their prey is shrimps. Here a General Practitioner was mistaken for the real thing.
Interesting studies into salmon feeding at high seas in the North-East Atlantic by; biologist Jacobsen, J. A., and Hansen, L. P. show that shrimps accounted for 95% of the food in number, but only about 30% by weight
Fish and crustacean prey accounted for 96% of the weight of all prey taken by salmon but the report also mentions a small percentage of Birds and bird remains as part of the salmon stomach contend !!
The menu card
Prawns have an absolutely hypnotic grip on the Salmonidae family and as a result prawn and shrimps are banned on many salmon rivers worldwide. Even the dried up head or thorax from a prawn can bring salmon and trout thrashing through the surface on a hot summers day… Is it the way that sunlight shines through the texture of prawns? – The silhouette? – Is it its ways in the water? – It is hard to tell but the prawns and shrimps in their many forms are very important food for salmon and salmon are very happy to see them both in river and sea.
Above: An original 1980s Frances fly from the fly tying shop of the late Mr. Peter Dean. The Frances fly an equally iconic and highly efficient prawn fly as the General Practitioner fly
The General Practitioner fly is must have prawn imitations
It is well-known that prawn-fly patterns like the General Practitioner fly work much better in some regions than other. The British salmon and in particular the Irish salmon seems to be more interested in prawn-flies than salmon in Norway … Saying this I acknowledge that it is hard to say if most of our sub-flies in fact, is interpreted by salmon as; prawns and shrimps and we as fly tiers unpremeditated work with the prawn-theme all the time.
Mr. Esmond Drury most likely had the Pandalus Borealis in mind when he made his famous General Practitioner fly and salmon seems to recognize the look of this prawn imitation well from its life in the Northern seas where it probably has been part of the salmon diet for 100 million years.
Modern research clearly shows that the prawn or shrimp is an important food in the life-cycle of the Atlantic salmon – not only big prawns like the Pandalus but also much smaller crustacean in the krill family.
Close to the gloom… All things turn magically red and orange… In this hour a prawn fly like the General Practitioner could very well look more alive – At least they seem to work better in this fine hour – But all flies seem to work better at this point. Salmon caught on # 4 General Practitioner fly
The General Practitioner story
The General Practitioner fly was conceived by the late Mr. Esmond Drury in 1953 – Mr. Drury is also known for the famous Esmond Drury treble hook that he creates in 1948
Mr. Drury designed the General Practitioner fly to fish salmon in a distinct pool on the River Test near Romsey. The pool had overhanging bushes and was impossible to fish in an orthodox way. Mr. Drury knew that a prawn lobbed upstream and drifted down on the salmon, would produce fish on the bank so he tied up a big imitation of a prawn that he could fish in this special way. The fly proved to be perfect for the job and Mr. Drury initially named the fly: the GP as most of it was made of Golden Pheasant feathers. Later Mr. Drury re-named it: the General Practitioner because it proved so deadly.
The original General Practitioner fly was tied on a very long shank # 2 double hook – Mr. Drury also suggested that one should tie smaller versions of the fly, especially for summer conditions and for occasions when the salmon was plucking at the fly.
Colonel Esmond Drury the fly tier behind the General Practitioner fly with a brace of salmon from the River Wye. Picture with courtesy of Mr. Jan Johansson – Photo from Mr. Johansson´s fantastic book: du underbare laxfluga
Tying the General Practitioner
General Practitioner shrimp fly Woodoo
When fishing the General Practitioner fly I have sometimes seen how before completely uninterested fish become very excited, like this fly was the fly they had waited for…I see them rush full speed to the fly… Just to stop immediately at the fly – and then rush back to their lie. A behavior I have only seen with the General Practitioner fly.
The General Practitioner fly can be scary
The General Practitioner and other biggish prawn flies can also have a downright negative effect on salmon – and if the water is low or many fish is stacked in a pool – I have seen how the salmon react scarred when the prawn fly comes close…
I preferred to tie the General Practitioner fly on double hooks # 6 or 4 I think it gives the fly the correct stamina and attitude. I want the fish to see the fly drifting towards them – preferably in a slightly sideways manner.
Tying the General Practitioner fly (the Fishmadman way)
Mustad 80525BL Probably one of the best if not the best double salmon hook in its class and the perfect choice for the General Practitioner fly. Make sure to find a hook that is uniform. The GP pattern does not take it easy with hooks that are unsymmetrical-thisa # 4 hook Add silver tag – Use red thread
Horns are made from polar bear. An exquisite fly tying material that has a strong effect on trout and salmon. The tie down of the horns is divided into two sections. 1) Cut a set of hairs of. Separate the under-fur from the longer and stiffer hair. Tie down the under-fur first. 2) Place the longer hairs on top
Eyes On the General Practitioner fly is made from a single hot orange Golden Pheasant tippet feather. Cut the center of the feather out, thereby creating a V-shaped feather. Tied down on top of the horns, this way an eye will be on each side of the horns (see picture)
Wind body of seals fur.
Tie in two Whiting Spey Hackles hot orange – ¾ of the way up the body and another feather at the topRun the two Spey hackles through the body. Secure with the silver tinsel – Pluck the fur out