There are a million sculpin fly patterns out there for trout but when I began designing this fly, It was done so with smallmouth bass in mind. Sculpin are closely related to the invasive Round Goby that has been a major food source for many Great Lakes gamefish in recent history. A number of times, a goby has been snagged on gear while I was fishing in smallmouth bass territory and other than tube baits, I haven’t felt there has been a somewhat accurate representation of them in a fly….until now.
If you’ve ever watched sculpin or gobies swim, they kind of glide along the bottom, resting occasionally. I’ve been using the sculpin helmet from Fish-Skull and it adds realism to the profile and also provides enough weight to get the fly to the bottom.
I begin by starting my thread where the back of the sculpin helmet rests so I can accurately gauge where all of my materials will go. Then, I take my thread all the way to the back of the hook. The thread should rest between the point of the hook and the tip of the barb.
Taking a similar pair of marabou, I mate them and tie them on to the hook shank. The marabou should be slightly longer than the length of the hook shank. To add bulk to the fly, I tie in some of the marabou to where we began our thread on the hook and then trim off the excess.
Next, I tie in the polar chenille and begin making tight, touching wraps as I stroke the chenille fibers rearward. Once I get to the point of the shank where we started the thread, I capture the chenille and trim off the excess. It helps to wet your fingers and stroke the fibers back before making two wraps back on to the chenille to make sure all of the fibers extend rearward.
Because we are tying the fly inverted (the final fly will rest hook point-up) we first start with the tan laser dubbing. Pull a decent strand of laser dub out of the bag and pull the fibers apart, matching the ends as you go. Once you have a somewhat uniform length of dubbing, take one loose wrap of it with thread and make sure one end of the dubbing extends about half way into the tail of the fly. Fold over the dubbing and then make a few tight wraps to secure it.
Then, invert the hook so that the top of the fly is facing up. You’ll take about the same amount of brown UV laser dub and do the same thing. This time, the dubbing should extend slightly farther than the tan dubbing. However, it should not cover all of the marabou tail. Once the dubbing is folded over and secured, I put a couple half-hitches to save my work this far.
If you’re unsure of whether or not the sculpin helmet would fit on to the fly, now is a good time to test-fit it.
Taking a smaller grizzly marabou feather, I strip off the undershaft and am left with a pectoral fin. I take one loose wrap with thread over the stem and then fit the marabou where I want it. I like these to start right where the laser dubbing is tied in. Once the placement is correct, make two tight wraps of thread and then follow these steps for the far side of the fly.
Once everything is in place, I take two four-turn whip finishes and cut off my thread. Now, using some thick zap-a-gap, I apply three beads all around the thread head of the fly before slipping on the sculpin helmet. I push the helmet rearward so it is snug and hides the thread leaving enough of a gap between the helmet and hook eye so that I can build a secure head in front. Also, you have a few seconds to make sure the helmet is perfectly aligned to the rest of the fly.
I tie on my thread right behind the eye, trim off the tag, and then make a couple more whip finishes which builds a secondary head of thread preventing the helmet from coming off the front of the fly. When done, snip the thread and hit that head with some thin zap-a-gap.
Take the fly out of the vise and gently pull all of the fibers rearward. It might look messy now, but when the fly is wet, the profile will be spot-on. To fish this fly, the rod tip should be in the water and as you strip, mimic the way the goby glides along the bottom. A jigging motion here may alert the fish to something being off as goby and sculpin cannot climb and descend in the water column as other fish do.
Thread: UTC 140 – White
Weight: Fish-Skull Sculpin Helmet – Brown, large
Hook: 4XL – 2XH Streamer Hook
Tail: Brown Grizzly Marabou
Body: Medium Polar Chenille – UV Brown
Head/Belly: Senyo Laser Dub – Tan, Brown
Adhesive: Thick and Thin Zap-A-Gap