Ahhh, the good old scud. Surely not the most glamorous of aquatic insects but let’s be honest, who cares. They’re a prolific food source and scud patterns work very well when fished correctly.
My fly box is full of scud and sowbugs like:
Sow bugs and scuds are often considered one of the same but they are in fact different. A scud looks like a miniature shrimp, almost cylindrical and uniform in shape. A sow bug looks more like the roly-poly that you’d find under the rocks in your garden; its body is more flat and wide.
Even with these differences, the tying patterns and techniques are nearly the same for scuds and sow bugs.
The first thing to take note of when fishing one of these fly patterns is timing. For starters, I typically avoid fishing scud patterns during any sort of major hatch that is going on. The fish will key in on the foods that are most readily available and during a hatch, the scud will fall to the bottom of the list.
Scuds are known to be light-sensitive, making them more active in the early morning and late afternoon and evening. Cloudy days are also optimal for scud activity. And obviously the more active the bugs are, the more susceptible they become to hungry fish.
Time of the year is also important. Spring and fall seem to be the most productive times of year as most hatches of other insects have not hit their peaks and trout are looking for a variety of food sources. Water temperatures are also lower and fish want to consume food that is rich in calories, which scuds surely are.
I always assumed that a scud should be tied on a bent hook, to better resemble the image that I can’t seem to get out of my mind of what a natural scud looks like. Turns out, it’s quite the opposite.
Scuds should be tied on a straight hook to imitate the scud darting through the water in an outstretched manner. A curved scud in the water is likely dead, making it look much less appetizing to a hungry fish.
Color and size are also important to consider. Because scuds can vary in size from a size 10 down to a size 18, it’s important to do a bit of legwork ahead of time to be sure that the scuds you are tying and fishing are approximately the same size as what is in the water you’re fishing.
The most common, natural scud colours are tan and light or dark olive. However, orange and pink can also be highly effective. A pregnant female scud will show an orange hue where the eggs are stored in the central part of the body and there are definitely times when fish will key in on only the pregnant females.