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Scud Primer

The Balcones Scud is easy to tie and represents something in the food chain that’s available all year.

By Greg Berlocher

At some point in their lives, most fly fishers will stroll into a fly shop and utter the universal question: What is a good pattern to use around here? Texas fly fishers are no different. One great choice for fooling Texas trout is a scud pattern.

Scuds are interesting aquatic creatures that inhabit rivers and lakes. A member of class Crustacea, order Amphipoda, scuds are distant cousins to crayfish, sowbugs and shrimp. Mistakenly called freshwater shrimp, scuds are indeed crustaceans, but they are more closely related to dry-land crustaceans such as pill bugs.

Scuds are tiny things, rarely exceeding three-fourths inch in length. They have a hard, segmented exoskeleton somewhat resembling an armadillo’s shell, two pairs of antennae and seven pairs of legs. Scuds molt several times in their lifetime, gleaning dissolved calcium from the water to create new shells.

Scuds breed prolifically; one adult pair can produce up to 20,000 offspring in a year. Biologists have documented densities of 10,000 scuds per square meter in vegetated lakes. Such fecundity is common in nature, especially in aquatic habitats. Species that live in areas prone to flooding help ensure their future existence by producing large numbers of offspring so that a percentage will survive and begin recolonization.

The Balcones Scud is easy to tie and a great fly for beginning fly-tiers. It represents something in the food chain that is available year-round, which is important when there are no insect hatches. Scuds occur in a variety of hues: green, olive, yellow, tan and brown. Although scuds aren’t naturally white, Guadalupe trout respond well to the coloration of this fly.

Scuds do not like bright light and seek refuge in the marl of the streambed or under obstructions on the bottom. Scud patterns work best at dusk, dawn and on overcast days. Dead-drifting your fly or crawling it back slowly are both good techniques; never hesitate to mix in a few 3- to 4-inch strips. Since scuds are found on or near the bottom, allow the fly ample time to sink to the right depth before retrieving it; a split shot can be added to your leader to hasten the fly’s descent.

Balcones Scud Recipe

Materials

  • Hook: Tiemco 2457,
  • size 14-20
  • Thread: White
  • Dubbing: Antron, white;
  • Hareline, cream
  • Dubbing wax
  • Shell: E-Z Shape Sparkle Body, pearl

Tying Instructions

  • Step 1: Mount hook in vise. Lay down thread base on hook shank.
  • Step 2: With fingers, mix equal parts of rabbit fur and Antron fibers. Apply dubbing wax to thread and, using thumb and index finger, twist dubbing mixture onto thread.
  • Step 3: Starting at the eye and working backward, build the fly body by wrapping dubbing around the shank of the hook. Remove leftover dubbing from thread when body is complete. Wrap thread forward toward eye of hook, creating segmented body. Whip finish and clip thread.
  • Step 4: With bodkin, make legs by picking out fibers from dubbed body.
  • Step 5: Trim fiber legs even with the bottom of the hook point.
  • Step 6: Add a thin bead of E-Z Shape Sparkle Body to back of fly to create shell. Use bodkin to shape and remove excess. Wait 15 minutes to handle.

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