[Article and Photography by Ted Fauceglia]
SCULPINS ARE A PRIME ITEM ON A trout’s—especially a big trout’s—menu. Ranging from an inch to five inches in length, they’re a meaty, slow-moving, and often plentiful meal. Unlike the slender, torpedo-shaped bodies of most shinerlike baitfish species (see Natural Reflections in the November/December 2014 issue of American Angler), sculpins have catfishlike, compressed bodies that taper from a wide head with a large mouth to a narrow tail. They sport two oversized pectoral fins and heavily pigmented, scaleless skin. Lacking swim bladders, sculpins are nonbuoyant bottom dwellers that move in short, quick spurts, making them easy prey. While their underside is usually a shade of white, their mottled skin ranges from light tan to dark brown mixed with indiscriminate dark patches, which makes excellent camouflage among the streambed rocks and is the reason why hiding is their only real means of defense.
Rabbit Strip Sculpin
HOOK: Tiemco TMC 811S, size 4 (tied inverted).
THREAD: Olive Brown UTC 140 denier.
TAIL: Two-inch brown barred rabbit strip cut 1/8 inch wide.
COLLAR: Straight-cut, 1/8-inch-wide brown barred rabbit strip, wrapped around the hook shank.
FINS: Tan Hareline grizzly soft hackle.
HEAD: Small brown Flymen Sculpin Helmet secured with superglue and several thread wraps.
EYES: 3-millimeter gold or silver Jurassic Eyes.
When you are fishing sculpin patterns, mimicking the sculpin’s movement is critical. To match the actions of a panicked or foraging sculpin, I quarter my cast across and upstream, maintain a tight line and allow the pattern to sink to the bottom, then lift the rod and strip line interspersed with short pauses between each strip. The strike usually occurs instantaneously with an abrupt strip. Depending on the speed and depth of the water and pattern I’m fishing, I’ll opt for an intermediate or moderate sinking-tip line matched with a short leader. In slow, shallower water, I stick with a floating line and a longer leader. I have fished brown, crawdad orange, and black zonker-strip sculpin patterns with deer-hair heads weighted with barbell eyes for as long as I can remember. But with the introduction of Flymen Fishing Company’s Sculpin Helmets, I no longer use deer hair or barbells. Because three sizes are available (mini, small, and large), the addition of a Sculpin Helmet not only matches the exact shape of the sculpin’s head, but adds the proper weight to each pattern, as well—which means less time indoors clipping deer hair and more time out on the stream.