This is John Collins’ Skunk Pygmy Sculpin. The pattern is similar to his Snowflake Sculpin but smaller and not articulated. Fished low and slow, it’s a big fish magnet.
John begins with a Daiichi 1750 streamer hook in a size 10. After getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of his tying vise, he loads a bobbin with a spool of black UTC 140 Denier.
Start your thread on the hook shank about 1/3 of the way back from the eye and take wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. Continue taking thread wraps all the way back to the start of the bend.
The tail and pectoral fins of the fly are made from Frostip Crosscut Rabbit Strip, here the color is black with white frost tips, hence, the “skunk” in the name. Get hold of an 8-10 inch length so the fur is slanted rearward. Secure the front end of the strip to the hook shank right at the start of the bend and anchor it really well with tight wraps of tying thread. Then advance your thread forward to 1/3 of the way up the hook shank. Begin making touching wraps with the strip forward toward your tying thread, preening the fur rearward as you go. When you reach your tying thread, use it to secure the strip to the hook shank and then snip the excess strip off close.
John likes to use a small disposable dental brush to get the majority of the fur pointed rearward. As you can see, it works remarkably well and is easy to get into tiny spaces. Once the majority of the fur is brushed back, take wraps of tying thread rearward to pin it down. Apply a good bit of thread tension here to help compress the hide and fur beneath the wraps.
The body of the fly is created using a soft, fluffy black medium-sized chenille. An 8 inch length is about right. Place 1/3 of the length in front of the tie-in location and start making thread wraps to anchor it to the hook shank. Continue taking thread wraps to further anchor it all the way up to 1/3 of a shank length behind the eye. Get hold of the front segment of chenille and take wraps with it to create a nice little bulge that tapers down toward the rear of the fly. This will help to build up the fly’s final body shape.
Now, get hold of the rear segment of chenille and start making touching wraps forward, eventually going over top of that bump you just created. Continue making wraps with the chenille, all the way up to 2 or 3 eye lengths behind the hook eye. There, you can anchor it with tight wraps of tying thread and then snip the excess off close.
A black mini sculpin helmet with the eyes already attached is used to create the head of the fly. At this stage of the game, it’s a good idea to test fit the helmet. Take a few wraps of tying thread to create a shallow ramp from the hook shank up to the front edge of the chenille.
From the same piece of rabbit strip as before, snip two 1/4” lengths. These will form the fly’s pectoral fins. Lay one of the segments on the far side of the hook like so and take thread wraps to secure it. The chenille body will cause the fur to stick almost straight out. When you have this segment anchored really well, snip off the excess hide and fur. Then pick up the other little segment and repeat the process on the near side of the hook.
With everything locked down and snipped off, once again test fit the sculpin helmet. The hook eye needs to be able to protrude through the front hole in the helmet and the overall fit should be somewhat snug. When you’re satisfied with how the helmet goes on, clean the area up with a few wraps of tying thread and then do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish and snip or cut your tying thread free.
Reorient the hook in your tying vise so it’s upside-down from normal. When fished, this fly rides hook point up so this is actually its correct orientation. Test fit the sculpin helmet one more time, just to be sure. Then, add a drop or two of super glue to the thread wraps behind the hook eye. With a fair bit of pressure, seat the sculpin helmet rearward so the hook eye is exposed. To make sure the helmet won’t come loose and pop off, use your tying thread to build up a small collar behind the hook eye to hold the helmet back. Then, secure your thread with a 4 or 5 turn whip finish and snip it off close.
Now comes the fun part. Reorient the fly back to normal in your tying vise and, using long-bladed scissors, trim and taper the chenille body. You may find the process easier if you remove the fly from your tying vise. The idea is to give the body a relatively flat profile with a gentle taper going from front to back. You have to be a little careful throughout the trimming process so as not to snip off any of the furry tail or pectoral fins. In the end you should be left with something that looks about like this. As a final step, add an ample drop of head cement to the thread wraps behind the hook eye to ensure nothing comes unraveled.
JC’s pygmy sculpins can be tied in a wide range of both solid and mixed colors. They work especially well coaxed along the bottom using a sink tip line or sinking leader.