The scud is the lowliest of creatures, both on the food chain and in the water column, and possibly the simplest trout food to be imitated on a hook. A little bit of yarn or burlap thread and some wire is enough to pull off the illusion to the satisfaction of a trout’s stomach. They likely take up as much room in our fly boxes as they do in the trout’s diet—it’s generally said that scud make up about half of what trout eat—and while most anglers would much rather say they landed a trophy brown on a 18 Parachute Adams, we take little shame in fooling our quarry with scud-y looking things.
What is it with scuds and anglers, anyway? For such an uncomplicated creature we sure seem to add more than a few layers of mystery to them. If you don’t believe me, just ask an angler why they tie those orange or pink hot spots into the belly of their scud patterns. You’re likely to receive one of four or five different answers: their food changes color while in the gut; it’s a parasite that lodges itself in the critter’s stomach; it’s a brood of juvenile scud carried by the adult; it’s the color a scud turn after it dies.
The answer, of course, is that all of those are true. And the simplest response to that knowledge is, who cares, so long as it works. The fish sure don’t know why their candy is colored orange when gulping them down.
Ask an angler how they fooled a trout, and again you’re faced with a myriad of possibilities. Dead drifting scuds underneath a strike indicator. A twitchy retrieve just off the bottom to elicit the telltale puff of sediment that excites a fish to bite. Stripping slowly along the edge of vegetation. Swinging it down and across. If it were possible to load up a scud pattern with enough floatant to get it to ride the surface, you might not need anything else in your fly box.
Ask an angler what they used… and around here the answer is probably Pink Squirrel. Which looks more like a scud than anything else, hot spot and all. Winscher’s Wonder is another. Or a Killer Bug. Or any number of patterns tied simply with scud dubbing that, to my knowledge, don’t have common names but which would be easily identified on sight.
Possibly the best reason to like the scud is that it satisfies the Prime Directive of tying: don’t spend more time tying a fly than it takes you to lose it. The effort-to-result ratio of a simple scud pattern may be the best of anything you can make on the bench.
The tug is the drug. A good scud pattern is the gateway.