This is New Jersey tier John Collins’s Snowflake Sculpin. It’s a really cool streamer pattern that works especially well during the winter months.
To start, John coats a mini sized Fish-Skull sculpin helmet with white primer and allows the excess to drip off. It’s then set aside to dry. These are best done in batches. When the primer coat is completely dry, 3D eyes are adhered in the recessed holes of the helmet. John then dips it into a clear vinyl finish to prevent chipping, add some shine and to ensure the eyes stay in place. Once again, the helmet is set aside to dry.
While it dries, John gets hold of a size 6 Daiichi #2546 hook and firmly secures it in the jaws of his tying vise. He then loads a bobbin with a spool of white 6/0 Unithread. Start the thread on the hook shank behind the eye and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. End with the thread at about the hook point.
Prepare a 6-8” length of white Crosscut Rabbit Strip by snipping a point at one end. Place the point against the near side of the hook and allow thread torque to carry it to the top. Bind the rabbit down really well and then position your thread back up behind the eye. Begin by making slightly overlapping wraps with the strip all the way up to the hook eye, and then secure it with tight wraps of tying thread. Once secured, you can snip the strip off close, but don’t discard the excess, as you’ll use it later.
Take wraps of tying thread to smooth out the area going back about 2 eye lengths behind the hook eye. Then preen the fur rearward and out of the hook gap. Do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish and snip your tying thread free. This will complete the rear portion of the fly.
John prefers to form his own articulated shanks or frames from stainless steel wire. There are, of course, numerous commercial ones available. Slip one end of the frame through the hook eye and then remove the hook from your vise. Flip the hook upside down so the point is up and secure the rear eye of the frame in the vise. When the frame is closed down it will look like this. A rubber band placed around your vise and into the hook bend will help to keep the hook back and out of the way.
Start your thread on the frame in front of the hook eye and take nice firm wraps to bind the two legs together. Then snip off the tag end. Continue taking thread wraps forward, up the frame, closing the front legs of the frame as you go. A pair of flat pliers can be used to align the frame so the front eye is horizontal while the back eye remains vertical. Continue taking wraps, first up the frame and then back, to make sure both ends are completely bound down. End with your tying thread immediately in front of the back eye of the frame.
Cut two 1/4” segments from the excess rabbit strip you set aside and snip a point onto one end of the longer segment that remains. Place that point against the near side of the frame and take thread wraps to bind it down really well. Make 2 complete turns with the strip around the frame and then tie it off with your tying thread. Once it’s secured, you can snip the excess strip off and clean up the area with wraps of thread.
The body of the fly is made from baby blanket yarn, which is readily available in most craft shops and even some office supply stores. Snip a 10” length free from the skein and at a point about 2” back from one end, begin securing the yarn to the top of the frame. Make sure the material is bound down really well. Leaving some space behind the eye, take wraps with the yarn to build up a conical shape, like so. Then, get hold of the rear portion of the yarn and start making touching or overlapping wraps forward to build up the body of the fly. Go over the front cone shape and secure the yarn an eye-length behind the eye. With your tying thread, compress the material once again going back to an eye-length behind the eye. You can then test-fit a finished sculpin helmet. You want the fit to be snug, but not overly so, as there’s a bit more material to add before the helmet goes on for good.
Pick up one of the two 1/4” segments of rabbit you cut earlier and lay it hide side out against the far side of the hook. Take several nice tight thread wraps to secure it and then carefully snip the hide off close. Pick up the 2nd segment and repeat the process on the near side of the hook. These little bits of fur form the sculpin’s enlarged pectoral fins. Now, test fit the helmet one more time. Make sure the eyes are pointed up along with the hook. It often helps to flatten the wraps with a pair of pliers. The final fit should be snug but it should not take undo force to maneuver the helmet into position. Do a 5 or 6 turn whip finish and snip your tying thread free. You may want to give one more squeeze with the pliers to ensure everything is properly compressed.
John likes Loctite Ultra Gel to secure the head but just about any CA glue will work. Apply the glue all the way around the wraps and then fit the helmet over top. To really seat the helmet, slip your bodkin through the frame eye and use it as a lever to push the helmet back. To make absolutely sure the helmet stays in place, attach your tying thread behind the eye and build up a substantial thread dam, this will block the helmet from coming off, even if the adhesive fails.
Now comes the fun part. With sharp scissors, trim the body of the fly into a carrot shape, that tapers from the outside edges of the helmet down to the tail, and has a somewhat flattened back and belly. Once you’ve got it looking good, your Snowflake Sculpin is ready to fish.
John often uses a sink tip attached to the end of his fly line to really get the Snowflake down to where the fish are. He also imparts a fair bit of motion to an otherwise slow retrieve. It’s anybody’s guess why this pattern works so well in the late fall and winter. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding.