How to Tie a Shenk’s Minnow
This is Shenk’s Minnow by Pennsylvania fly fishing legend Ed Shenk. I’ve also heard it called a “White Minnow” and a “Shenk’s Streamer”. Mr. Shenk originally tied the body by first producing a dubbing loop of rabbit fur, wrapping the loop and then trimming it. Here, I take a slightly different and somewhat easier approach. Friend and fellow New Jersey fly tier John Collins introduced me to baby blanket yarn as a fly tying material several years back. John ties some amazing sculpin imitations with the stuff. The yarn’s thick pile makes it extremely shapable.
To start, I set my vise to its rotary tying position which helps when doing the final trimming. For a hook I’m going to use a Lightning Strike SN3 in size 8. I get the hook firmly secured in the jaws of my tying vise, in line with the axis of rotation.
I’ll then reach for the superglue, here Fly Tyer’s Z-ment, and apply a light skim to the front third of the hook shank. .02 lead-free round wire is used to add some weight to the fly. While holding the bitter end, start taking wraps at about the midpoint of the hook shank. The adhesive will set with the pressure of the wraps so they’ll be locked to the hook shank. Try to keep the wraps tight and touching then helicopter to break the excess off close. This also allows you to easily tuck in the tail end of the wire without everything spinning.
For thread, I load a bobbin with a spool of UTC 140 Denier in white. Get the thread started on the hook shank between the eye and the weight and take a few wraps rearward. Then pull the tag over the weight and take wraps to lock it down, prior to snipping the excess off close.
Another light skim of super glue applied over the area followed by tight wraps of tying thread produces an extremely strong foundation for the fly.
I like to use a single marabou feather for the tail but I’m pretty picky about the one I choose. For me, the fluffier the better. I try to avoid the ones with the long, stringy tips. Strip off most of the lower fibers from the stem as only the fibers at the tip will contribute to the tail. Pinch the marabou in the fingers of your right hand and measure to form a tail about a hook shank in length, then transfer that measurement rearward to the start of the hook bend. Use your tying thread to anchor the marabou to the top of the shank, first back to the start of the bend then forward to the weight. At the weight, snip the excess butt end of the feather off close. Continue taking thread wraps forward to relocate your tying thread to a short distance behind the hook eye.
Cut a foot or so length of yarn free from the hank, this is enough to make many flies. Pull on one end of the yarn. If it easily pulls apart like this, go to the other end of it which should stay together much better. Once you have this correct end identified, place it on top of the hook shank behind the eye and take thread wraps to secure it, all the way back to the start of the bend. Then return your thread forward to behind the eye. Get hold of the yarn and begin making slightly overlapping wraps with it to build up a seriously bulky body on the fly. When you reach your tying thread, use it to firmly anchor the yarn then snip the excess off close. Take a few more thread wraps behind the hook eye, pulling any wayward yarn fibers back and out of the way in the process. You can then pick up your whip finish tool, do back-to-back 5 or 6 turn whip finishes, seat the final knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free.
Starting with large, straight-bladed scissors, trim the underside of the body off close to the hook shank so the hook gap isn’t blocked by material. Then, if you have them, switch to curved-blade scissors for the final trimming. This is where the rotary vise really comes in handy. Trim the body so it has a little taper both front and back. Resist the urge to trim too much.
Finally, reach for the head cement, here, Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, and apply an ample drop to the thread wraps behind the hook eye. When the cement dries, your Shenk’s Minnow or whatever you want to call it is ready to fish.
I have a couple of variations of the fly that have been working well, including this one on a jig hook with a silver cone and wire wraps for weight. This kind of yarn comes in a ton of colors so use your imagination. I’m also currently testing a weightless version that I saturate with floatant before fishing so it swims on the surface with sort of an erratic motion. I’ll let you know how it works out.