Last week you got to soak up some Alaska mousing knowledge from JEB Hall, courtesy of our expert rig post on how he approaches mousing at Alaska West. Today, our JEB trout series continues, with The Goods on how JEB fishes sculpin patterns. Read on!
- Sage 690-4 One
- Sage 4250 Reel
- Scientific Anglers Textured GPX WF6F
- 150 yards of 20 pound Dacron backing attached to the spool with an arbor knot.
- Fly line tied to backing with two 7 turn nail knots coated in Aqua-seal.
- Leader is 6 ft. in length with a 30lb Maxima Chameleon butt section built out to 20lb. Seaguar Invis-X Fluorocarbon tied onto the fly line with a 7 turn nail knot and coated with UV Knot Sense.
- Fly of choice is Jeff Hickman’s Flesh Eating Sculpin attached to the leader with a no slip loop and a small bullet weight placed just ahead of the knot.
Day in and day out. Pre-spawn, during spawn, and post spawn. Sunny days and rainy days. Rainbows on the Kanektok and the Arolik love Sculpins.
Flies that imitate these little olive delicacies account for more rainbows than maybe any other pattern fished at Alaska West. Like the mouse, motion is key to sculpin fishing. Motion is added to the Sculpin in a variety of ways. The most pure way is to swing the fly down and across from gravel bars. This technique is best employed with a switch rod and can be quite effective when the fish move off the high banks and into the soft spots after the salmon enter the river.
Sculpin patterns can also be swung across spawning flats to entice rainbows that have wised up to the bead or are just in the mood for a more substantial meal.
More commonly, the sculpin is stripped. This occurs either from a moving boat, or as an angler works a small side channel. In the early season, drifting the high banks is an effective way to find fish. During this time following up a mouse angler with a sculpin is sure to create some excitement, as the sculpin seems to have a magical ability for finding fish that the mouse can’t.
The sculpin is also deadly during between periods. For example, after the main chum spawn has passed, but before the sockeye go into full tango mode, fish fall back off the spawning flats and avoid water where sockeye are becoming ripe and are aggressive to all living creatures that cross their path. Drifting and stripping sculpins through holding spots such as ledge drop offs and soft snag lines can put ‘bows on the board when the river seems to be taken over by ravenous sollies, aggressive sockeyes, and hordes of silvers.
- Small bullet weights are great for fishing sculpins. Make them even better by painting them with powder paint and baking them in an oven so they don’t chip. Good colors of powder paint for bullet weights are Watermelon, Hot Pink, Hot Orange, and Fluorescent Red.
- Contrary to popular belief, sculpin patterns don’t have to be large and heavily dressed. Sparsely tied Olive Wooly Buggers and Pine Squirrel Zonkers in sizes 4 to 8 will catch more fish than larger flies that look like Martians heading to prom.
- Fish a floating fly line. Flies get more action when stripped from above than they do when stripped level as with a sinking line.