The Drag Sculpin is a pattern I use with one of the most effective (and easiest!) tactics for producing larger trout on the Yellowstone River: the “indicator drift, mend, and drag” technique which is most effective in July and August. I’ll cover this technique in more detail in a later post, but the basics are simple: fish a streamer with a small nymph on the dropper, aiming to run the fly on a “near dead drift” through good seams and soft spots behind boulders, especially just off steep shelves near the bank with turbulent water to provide cover and oxygen. When the water’s still up in midsummer, this is far more effective than stripping streamers away from the shore, since the fish hold in the “Y-axis” upstream to downstream slow spots and don’t like to move to chase food or smaller fish that get in their way. In essence, you’re looking for a “get out of my face” strike.
Drag Sculpin Intro
This is a basic jig-style pattern. The hard part will be finding the large 90-degree jig hook and large brass bead used. Even with the jig hook, you’ll lose quite a few. Thankfully, the pattern is quick to tie (when you’re not busy yakking into a video camera like I was) and uses a minimum of cheap materials.
The olive variation given here is without question the most consistent color for large streamers in the area, but other good baitfish colors also work: black, gold/tan, white, brown over yellow, etc.
Drag Sculpin Recipe
Hook: Eagle Claw #630, size-1. This is a 90-degree long-shank jig hook with few substitutes. You will probably have to order them online. NOTE: This hook tends to run dull, so expect to sharpen them before fishing.
Bead: 1/4″ brass. Here black, but gold or copper would also work depending on fly color.
Thread: 3/0 to match fly color, here olive.
Tail: Holo gold Ice Wing Fiber or similar fine gold flash. Gold or pearl will be the best colors regardless of the overall color of the fly you tie, except perhaps if you’re tying a black one.
Body: Gold, rootbeer, or pearl tinsel or other bright chenille. Here I believe I used Estaz, but it doesn’t matter.
Legs: Several barred rubber legs to match or slightly contrast the overall color tone of the fly. Here, mud brown barred chartreuse Wapsi Round Rubber.
Throat: Holographic red Flashabou or similar.
Wing: Magnum rabbit strip, here olive variant.
Head: Dubbing brush, here an Ep Foxy Brush in olive, though the precise material doesn’t matter. If the head appears too thick and full, trim it slightly flatter on top and bottom.