November Slam


Well, so much for only being off the river for a month. As it turned out, it was more like two, really long, painful months. So when the stars finally aligned, and I was laying in bed the night before, I couldn't sleep. I'm pretty pathetic like that.

Having tossed and turned the entire night, I was up early and my stupid ass was out the door and on the road by 4:45 am, with two months worth of stories, pictures and scenarios whirling through the recesses of my head like a category 5 hurricane.

Needless to say, I was the first one at the river that morning...and the first one to exclaim "It's f***ing COLD!" to no-one in particular (more than once). Yeah, I doubt the fish were feeling any sympathy for me - if anything, they were saying something like "Ah shit, that idiot with the scud is back AGAIN."

Flows (as expected) were down - and at the Family Pool (where I usually start the day) there was a nice, deep seam that had a lot of nice fish parked within it. So, being a man-child of ritual (and superstition) I started out with the Best Damn Scud Pattern. Period. My apologies to Fox sports.

And it didn't disappoint. One after another took that fly - with two of them being nice, large fish, which I got on video. I've posted the pattern because it's consistently proven itself deadly on a lot of tail-waters out here in the west - and it's just too good of a pattern to keep to myself.

Have I mentioned that I've caught more big fish on a scud than any other pattern? I have? Hmmm...

Anyway, the bigger fish were clearly visible in the seam, but what I didn't see, were quite a few smaller trout that were hiding along the sides. So, while trying to hit the larger targets in the current, I also managed to pull out quite a few of the smaller ones in the process. Scratch. A little bonus tossed in by the fish Gods.

By the time the sun managed to light the water, I had pretty much decimated that section so, as is my custom after the sun has risen, I changed out my fly. I chose to tie on a pattern that BIGERRFISH had sent me a while back - it is a well-tied fly, and an interesting change for me, being that I am not one to use flies with rubber legs and such.

I chose a shallow section of river, chock full of rocks with a lot of algae on the bottom - dark green, faster water, where I had seen an occasional flash, and tossed that fly down the middle. First cast, and I nailed a nice little Bow. This was turning out to be an epic late-November day.

After that, I wound my way upriver - but with the lower flows, there wasn't a lot of big targets to aim for. I spent the afternoon hitting a few smaller fish in some flats - and pulled a nice brown from beneath a boulder. About 1 pm I decided to start working my way back down the opposite side of the river, and found myself at the top of the Ice Box, staring into a deep seam, at two very large fish (in the 23-26 inch range).

Now, this time of year, this part of the canyon will be in shadows by early afternoon, and it's tough to see into the deeper runs. And it's in these deeper runs that you're going to find a lot of the larger fish - so being there with the sun still lighting the water was a blessing. Looking up to the sky, however, I saw that I had about 30 minutes or so before the water went dark and, if I wanted the benefit of sight-fishing to these guys, then I needed to get busy.

It took me a while to find the drift - I was casting around a huge boulder into a current that was moving away from me - plus, I had a hard mend to the opposite side to try and get the drift to flow diagonal to where I was standing, and after about 20 minutes and several fly changes, I was starting to think that getting a perfect drift was going to be impossible from where I was at.

During the time I was trying to throw my line, another fish moved up and parked alongside the other two - and it dwarfed them. It was massive and my pulse picked up when I saw it park and start feeding. No kidding...I was filled with nervous energy and it took a lot of control to keep from blowing the deal. Rifle hunters know this feeling all too well and many a trophy has been lost to Buck Fever. Well, I had Fish Fever.

I had sunlight that was about to disappear, and I was frantically trying to roll through my flies to find something (anything) that these three actively feeding fish would hit - and then it occurred to me - I needed to adjust my weight. Damn it! I was so focused on getting the drift going that I had completely forgotten the other critical component: depth. I've been fishing for how long now? I should get my ass kicked for that.

So I pulled in my line, changed out my fly to a San Juan, and added some more split-shot. While I was doing this, the sun disappeared behind the canyon wall and the water went dark. Ah well...I knew where they were parked, and I tossed my line. First cast through with the extra weight, and I nailed him. How do I know it was the big one? I just knew.

When he took off, it felt as if my line were attached to a dump truck - and he ran like a bat out of hell, making a total mockery of the drag that my reel was attempting to apply. And he ran upriver - under the boulder to my right and out the other side....my line dragging along the rough surface of the rock...and there was nothing I could do but wait for the inevitable.

As I sat there putting on a new section of tippet, split-shot and fly, I thought about how different it would have been had that tub ran downstream instead of up. To the left, the Ice Box is open water with relatively few obstacles - and with lower flows, it would be the ideal place to try and subdue a monster.

Yeah, what-if. Oh well, there is a 26-30+ inch fish in that section of the river with my fly in it's mouth, and I'm ok with that. After I retied my gear, I tossed a few more times in that stretch and managed to pull out a nice fish. I'm not big on blind-fishing, so decided to call it a day after that.

But what a day it had been.


Best Damn Scud Pattern. Period.

If I had a dime for every puzzled look I've received when answering 'Scud' to the question of "What are you using?" I'd have....well, not enough to push me into a new tax bracket, but it might be enough to buy me a double cheeseburger at Mickey D's.

Not sure why, but it seems like there are a lot of folks out there that, for one reason or another, have never heard of a scud, or have just never given them much thought. Which is a shame, considering that this pattern, in my opinion, deserves it's place among the heavyweights, such as the Pheasant Tail and RS2.

A guy I once fished with scoffed at the idea of using a scud. He was more of a dry-fly purist, and had a tendency to look down upon wet flies in general, but using something as gnarly and dirty as a scud? Uncivilized. Damn straight. I take pride in the fact that I'm one DNA base away from being a primate.

As it is, conventional wisdom and traditions are wonderful - but keeping an open mind is even greater. Plus, it will keep you from smelling like 'old man and sour butt' (which are Eva's words, not mine).

And yes, I really should get my ass kicked for using the word scoffed.

Anyway, for me, this scud pattern is the undisputed champ when it comes to big fish - I've caught more big'uns using this pattern, than any other fly that I carry - which isn't really saying much, since I only use a handful of nymphs to begin with. I guess it's the minimalist in me. Or maybe because I'm an idiot.

So what is a scud? It's a small, fresh-water crustacean that is prevalent year-round, in most tail-water systems, spring creeks and some large bodies of water, and they are an important component to a fish's dietary intake. Plus, when they go forth and multiply, they do it by obscene amounts, making even the staunchest of Mormons envious of their pro-creation skills.

Note: a scud is also a type of missile, and you should never, ever get the two confused, otherwise, bad things could happen. Really. Bad. Things.

For the most part, these ugly little bugs hang out amongst the aquatic vegetation. They are aggressive eaters and can swim quite well, using their 14 little legs to get to where they're going. While swimming or crawling, they tend to flatten out some, but their most common state while floating is in a curled configuration, much like the shrimp in your cocktail, or me, in the fetal position, after eating a Don Juan's combination burrito.

There are a lot of scud patterns out there, in different shapes, sizes and colors. One of the most popular being the orange UV Scud that Pat Dorsey ties - supposedly, this is the color of a scud that has bought the farm and is easy pickings for feeding trout.

Regardless, the colors I tend to use are an olive, olive/silver mix or a tan/yellow combination, and they've worked quite well for me on a lot of tail-waters out here in the West - in particular, the Platte, Taylor and the Blue.

As far as water conditions go, I've used it in all of the different types of water that a river can throw at you and I've had success in all of them - from drop pools to riffles, flats to deep seams.

Below is the BDSP version that I've been using exclusively for the past few years - and it's my personal ace-in-the-hole. It's the very same fly that I've used to catch most of those big fish in the pictures and videos.

And I give it to you freely. Consider this an early Christmas present. Or Pagan Offering. Or whatever the hell you celebrate in today's politically-correct landscape. Just be sure to remember where you got it from.

Best Damn Scud Pattern. Period.

Hook: #16 Tiemco 2488
Thread: 8/0 Red UNI-Thread
Tip/Tail: Pheasant Center Tail (4-5 from the tip)
Body: Creamy Yellow Dubbing (or Olive w/ Silver)
Back: 1/4 inch Tan Scud Back (or Olive)
Rib: Copper Ultra Wire (Hot Orange also works) / Silver Ultra Wire (with the Olive)

Step 1

Begin by attaching your thread to the hook and making a couple of wraps - yeah, this is the easy stuff.

Step 2

Place your wire along the hook and begin wrapping your thread towards the back.

Note: at this point, some of you may be tempted to add a few twists of lead, and that's fine. Personally, I prefer using split-shot on the line for more control.

Stop the wrap about 1/4 way around the bend of the hook and give the thread a few extra turns.

Step 3

Now wrap the thread back towards the front of the hook, stopping just behind the eye.

Step 4

Pluck, pull or gnaw 4-5 fibers from the tip of your Pheasant Tail and place them (tapered ends forward) along the shank of the hook. How much, you ask? Hell, I don't know. Look at the picture and guesstimate - be a rebel. Er...a sensible rebel.

Now that you've bucked tradition, wrap the thread towards the back of the hook and stop just shy of the few extra turns that you performed in Step 2. You did make a few extra turns, right?

Step 5

Ok, once again, wrap your thread back up the hook to about the midway point, and get ready for some serious fun. Now would be a good time to take a drink of that beer sitting next to you.

Using a lot of dexterity (and patience) attach the scud backing to the hook. I'll wait. And while I do, let me jaw your ear for a minute:

Go out and purchase some scud backing. Don't be a cheap weasel and use ziplock baggies or some other crap you find lying around the house. Backing is soft, pliable and you can stretch the hell out of it - it also holds it's shape well after repeated use. That's all I have to say about that.

After you've managed to get a few turns of thread around the backing to secure it to the hook, gently pull back on the skin and continue wrapping until you make it back to the place on the hook where you made the few extra turns that I suggested in Step 2 and mocked you about in Step 4.

Step 6

Here's an easy part - place some of the dubbing onto your thread, and begin wrapping towards the front of the hook.

When you're finished, it should look something like this.

Step 7

Remember the scud backing that we put on a few steps back? Go ahead and grab it and pull it forward, over the top of the dubbing and slightly down across the eye. While keeping constant pressure on the backing, quickly get a few turns of thread around that bastard to lock it down.

Now finish your beer and get another cold one ready.

Step 8

Now, take your wire and gently wrap it around the body of the fly, applying just enough pressure to create some detail. Once you've made it to the front, you can apply a few turns of thread to secure it, and then cut/helicopter twist the wire off.

Two things that you may notice at this time: one, is that the wire may slide all over he scud backing. If this happens, know that I am laughing with you, and not at you. Consider using a little less pressure on your wrap and that should stop the slippage.

Second, you may also notice that the scud backing is turning on the dubbing (be sure to look on the other side of the fly while you do this). Again, if this happens, you can use your fingers to twist it back into place. A little less pressure while wrapping your wire should solve this problem.

Step 9

Next, pull back on the skin just enough to stretch it - and then trim the excess.

Now, give your thread a few wraps around the front, with the goal being a nice smooth taper into the form of the body. Whip finish that bad boy and apply a drop of head cement.

Step 10

Now we can trim the tail. As you can see in the picture, I am using the scissors from directly above while pulling the fibers out and to the back.

Two questions that you may be asking yourself - how long do I make it, and how did he manage to say tail and trim in the same sentence?

Make the length of the tail long enough to stick out. Easy enough? I don't think I've ever had a consistent length on either end of this pattern for as long as I've been tying them, and the fish really don't seem to mind. As long as you keep the lengths somewhat close to what I have in the pictures, it'll work.

Step 11

Using your dubbing needle, pull out some of the dubbing from the underside of the fly. Don't be shy, get in there and pull some out like a man.

Finally, using your scissor, go in at an angle, and trim the ends of the dubbing (it should be longer in the front, getting shorter the farther back it goes).

You can actually take this pattern an extra step by applying epoxy to the back - it does look really good like that. But, does it make a difference in the long run, as far as effectiveness? I haven't noticed a difference.

So, what can this fly do? See for yourself. The very same fly being tied in the pictures above, was used, several days later, to catch the fish in the first two pictures below (along with a few others). The fish on the bottom was caught with the same pattern on the Taylor.

Hopefully it works as good for you, as it does for me. If you end up with some great pictures, by all means, send me a copy.

Jerry with a kick-ass 'bow, caught on the BSDP. April, 2010

One of several big tubs that fell for the BSDP. August, 2010

...and another. June, 2011

November, 2011