Published Oct 4. 2000 - 23 years ago
Updated or edited Jan 13. 2017


This forage fish feature (say that 5 times fast!) is a the third in a series of articles being created as a group effort by members of the Streamer List. There are over 300 species of sculpins, most of them are salt water or brackish water occupants, but several are found in North America.


This forage fish feature (say that 5 times fast!) is a the third in a series of articles being created as a group effort by members of the Streamer List to provide some background information on the species of forage fish we most commonly try to imitate with streamer patterns. Many thanks to Doug Saball for coordinating this effort, as well as the list members who contributed patterns and other information!

Sculpins (Cottidae)

This description of the Sculpins was submitted by Doug Saball.

There are over 300 species of sculpins, most of them are salt water or brackish water occupants, but several are found in North America. In the northeast United States there are three species, the slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus), the mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi), and the deep-water sculpin (Myoxocephalus quadricornis). The slimy sculpin is the most predominate species in the New England area.

Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus)

The Slimy Sculpin (Cottus cognatus)is a bizarre looking little fish with a broad flattened head, thin tapering body, and expansive wing-like pectoral fins. The eyes are located high atop the head, and the mouth is large and well provided with small teeth. There are one or more small spines on the preopercle (gill covers), and a patch of prickles is present behind the pectoral fin. The remainder of the skin is smooth. There are 7 - 10 weak spines in the first dorsal fin, 14 - 19 soft rays in the elongated second dorsal fin and 10 - 13 soft rays in the anal fin. The small pelvic fins are situated beneath the pectoral fins and have one hidden spine in the flesh followed by 3-4 soft rays.

The coloration is mottled brown to gray on the back and sides with a whitish belly.
Dark cross-bands is sometimes present on the sides. Often there are two dark, oblique saddle marks, one under each of anterior and posterior portions of the second dorsal fin. The first dorsal fin is darkly pigmented at the base and almost clear marginally. The second dorsal, caudal, and anal fins may be lightly barred. The pectoral fins usually have wide bands. The chin is uniformly pigmented and not mottled. During breading season, males become nearly black, and have a broad bright reddish orange border on their first dorsal fin.


The slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus) occurs widely throughout northern North America, and occupies more northerly waters than its close relative the mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi). It is found from Labrador Canada, to Virginia USA, westward through the Great Lakes to the upper Columbia River system, to Alaska, and on St. Lawrence Island in the Baring Sea. It is also found in eastern Siberia on the Chukot Peninsula and east to the Anadyr River.

Spawning occurs in the spring of the year. The procedure is basically
the same for both the slimy and mottled sculpin, and essentially similar to the spawning behavior of other members of the genus. The average temperature of 41 to 50 degrees F promoted spawning. The ripe male selects a spawning site under a rock or ledge, (there are also accounts of spawns under submerged tree roots). The female is courted and enticed into the nest and presumably after additional courting, deposits adhesive eggs in a mass on the ceiling of the nest, then driven off by the male. The nest usually contains eggs from more than one female. The male guards the nest and young even after the young have begun to feed.

Age and Growth

The slimy sculpin attains a length of about 41/2 inches although most adults are between 2 and 3 inches long. In the spring of 1998 I saw a male slimy sculpin in breading colors measuring 7 1/2 inches from the East outlet of Moosehead Lake in Maine. Little has been published about the growth rate of sculpins. However, a 3 year old female measuring 4 inches produced approximately 1400 eggs measuring 2.3 - 2.6 mm. In the Montreal River Canada, spawning occurred during early May at about 46 degrees F and the eggs developed about 4 weeks later.


The slimy sculpin occupies deeper waters of lakes and colder streams and occurs further north than the mottled sculpin (C. bairdi). It frequents rocky orgravely streams and lake bottoms, darting swiftly from place to place when disturbed. The slimy sculpin has been reported to be in abundant numbers accompanying the threespine sticklebacks in tidal pools of Ungava Canada. Although common in rocky shallows of lakes in the north slimy sculpins are frequently found in cold spring-fed streams in the south and east. In Lake Michigan studies concluded that it was more abundant in the northern part of the lake where it occurred from near shore to about 300 feet but was also found as deep as 420 feet. However, this study obtained these specimens from stomachs of lake trout and burbot and the depths are those at which the predators were caught. A US Fish and Wildlife survey conducted in the late 1950's and early 1960's concluded that the slimy sculpin was taken from 18 - 270 feet, with most at depth of 120 - 240 feet, while the deep water sculpin (Myoxocephalus quadricornis), occurred at deeper depths. In Lake Superior the largest catches of slimy sculpin were at 300 - 345 feet.

Detailed food studies for the slimy sculpin indicate that the primary food is invertebrate benthic insects. Studies conducted in upper New York state showed that aquatic insects, crustaceans, small fishes, and some plant material were consumed, but aquatic insect leave and nymphs made up more than 50% of the diet and often 85% or more. The more important insect groups were mayflies, caddis flies, dipterous larvae, stone flies, and dragonflies. Large fish tend to eat the larger larvae species.

A number of predatious fish, such as lake trout, brook trout, salmon, speckled trout, northern pike, and burbot feed upon this sculpin. Streams inhabited by the slimy sculpin are invariably good brook trout waters.


The use of the slimy sculpin as a bait fish for trout dates back to the mid 1920's when it was a favorite bait under the name "cockatouch" for brook trout in the Nipigon Canada waters. Many of the trout that won the "Nipigon Trophy" were caught on "cockatouch." The slimy sculpin is a common associate of both lake trout and brook trout and forms part of the food supply of both. Perdition by slimy sculpins on trout eggs were studied, but there was virtually no evidence that sculpins feed upon the eggs and only rare instances of predation on young brook trout.

Common names

Slimy sculpin, Miller's thumb, cockatouch, slimy muddler, common slimy muddler, muddler minnow, northern sculpin, stargazer, Bear lake bullhead.

Mottled Sculpin (Cottus bairdi)

The Mottled Sculpin (Cottus bairdi)is similar to the slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus) in overall appearance. The difference is that the eye may be a little larger, a slightly different teeth arrangement, the numbers of spiny and soft rays on the fins, and a slight color variation.The coloration of the mottled sculpin is light to dark brown with darker (sometimes almost black) mottling on the back and sides, becoming light or even white on the belly. There are two and sometimes three dark saddle marks under the second dorsal fin. The chin of the mottled sculpin (C. bairrdi) is usually irregularly speckled, but the slimy sculpin's (C. cognatus) chin is a solid color. The dorsal fin of the mottled sculpin is pigmented with a spot fore and aft, which becomes continuous in breeding males to form a dark band with a broad orange distal edge. The second dorsal fin is spotted and banded. The caudal fin is more or less randomly speckled. The pectoral fins are banded.


The mottled sculpin range is widely scattered throughout North America. It is found from the Tennessee River basin of Georgia and Alabama to Labrador Canada on the north and west to the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes basin. Other pockets of populations include parts of the Missouri River and the Columbia River in southern Canada, Utah, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.

Spawning activities of the mottled sculpin is the same as the slimy sculpin, (see above description). The spawning dates varies with geographic locations. Studies have documented females with nearly rip eggs on May 3 and 10, 1930, and spent females by June 14 on the Mad river in Ontario. On May 30 eyed eggs and small sculpins were found in brook trout stomachs. And on July 3, young-of-the-year (15 mm long), were abundant on a mud bottom at depths of 2 - 10 inches. Another study in upper New York documented spawning at 50 degrees F with 2 to 3 year old mottled sculpin. Although the sexes are approximately equal in size, males are usually darker, have a larger head, and higher second dorsal and anal fin than females. the largest specimen found is from St. Ignace Island, Lake Superior and measured 5.2 inches total length.

The mottled sculpin occurs in cool streams and lakes. A study conducted in eastern Ontario noted that the mottled sculpin was caught most often over a sand bottom in lakes and streams. Another study reported that the mottled sculpin was most often associated with brook trout and found in areas with shaded source waters with low
temperatures, small volume of flow, and many rapids. However, the mottled sculpin (C. bairrdi) does not usually occur as far up headwater streams nor as deep in lakes as the slimy sculpin (C. cognatus), which has a more extensive northerly range.

Like other members of this genus, the mottled sculpin is a benthic feeder subsisting mainly on aquatic insect larvae. Stomach contents from 2 inch mottled sculpins at the Mad River Ontario predominately contained chironomid larvae and mayfly nymphs. Where as larger mottled sculpins ate fewer chironamide larva and more larger nymphs including; mayfly nymphs, stonefly nymphs, caddisfly larva, and crayfish. Food studies of mottled sculpin conducted in upper New York also included crustaceans, annelids, fishes, fish eggs, and plant material to be consumed. A few studies have been reported of sculpins eating trout eggs but in fact they are not considered to be destructive of brook trout eggs, actually sculpins are known to form a part of the diet of large brook trout.

Common names

Mottled sculpin, millers thumb, Columbia sculpin, blob, gudgeon, and freshwater sculpin.

Deepwater Sculpin (Myoxocephalus quadricornis)

The Deepwater Sculpin (Myoxocephalus quadricornis)has a more elongated body than other sculpins. It had a latterly flattened head, and large pectoral fins characteristic of the sculpin family. The eyes are located on top of the head, close together, with a relatively small diameter in relation to the total head. The mouth is large with fine teeth in brush like bands on the upper and lower jaws. There are 2 dorsal fins. The first dorsal fin has 7 to 10 spiny rays, the second is separated from the first, and is elongated with all soft rays.

The key characteristic to identify the deepwater sculpin is the spines on the gill cover, (preopercular spines). There are 4 preopercular spines in all. The upper two are large and slender, appearing as one enlarged bifurcated spine pointing upward and posteriorly. The remaining 2 smaller preopercular spines point directly downward, which is not found in other known species.

The overall color of the deepwater sculpin is grey-brown to black on the upper sides, becomeing lighter about midline and light on the belly. The back and sides are lightly specled or mottled black with four to seven thin, dark, saddle-like marks. The pelvic fin is lightly pigmented with the other finage variously barred.

The deepwater sculpin occurs in two forms, one marine and the other fresh water. The marine population live in cold, salt and brackish water in the northern hemisphere.
The freahwater populations are found in Europe, Asia, and North America. In the Great Lakes region they extend southward to about the 42nd parallel of latitude. The population is distributed in deep waterbodies throughout Canada, but only found in the Great Lakes and Torch lake, Michigan in the US.

Due to the depths that this species is found, virtually nothing is known about the life history. Spawning probably is in late August or early September in Lake Ontario. This is surmised from adults that were sampled at that time of year nearly ripe with eggs. The species has been sampled at depths of 150-600 feet in the Great lakes. The greatest depth that the deepwater sculpin was sampled was 1,200 feet by trawl in Lake Superior.

Stomach content from deepwater sculpins contain copopods and chironomid larvae.

The deepwater sculpin is a significant item of food for lake trout and burbot as revieled through stomach content analysis.

Common names

Deepwater sculpin, fourhorn sculpin, scorpion fish, sculpin, lake sculpin, deep-water blob, and Great Lake fourhorn sculpin.

Other Sculpins

Spoonhead Sculpin, (Cottus ricei)

Spoonhead Sculpin, (Cottus ricei)is widely found throughout Canada. In the United States it is found throughout the Great Lakes including Lake Michigan, and Lake Charlevoix, Mich., and in lakes on Isle Royale. The overall coloration is light brown or tan in the lower Great Lakes, but distinctly darker when found northward. Darker saddle-like patches are on the back, often four in number. The first three occurring through the base of the second dorsal fin the fourth on the perduncle, (the flat area just before the caudal fin). But these markings are not always found on larger Great Lake specimens. The remainder of the back is variously speckled with light or dark spots that also occur on both dorsal and caudal fins, and sometimes on the anal fin. The pelvic fins and ventral surface generally immaculate. But populations on island lakes may exhibit scattered pigmentation on ventral surfaces including the chin and especially the caudal peduncle. Little is known about the spoonhead sculpins diet. However, it has been found is stomach analysis of lake trout, burbot, and whitefish.

Common names

Spoonhead sculpin, Rice's sculpin, and spoonhead muddler.

Torrent Sculpin, (Cottus rhotheus)

Found in the west coast of North America in the Columbia River, Puget sound drainages, and the North Thompson River.

Shorthead Sculpin, (Cottus confusus)

Occurs in the Pacific drainage area of North America, in the Puget Sound and Columbia River basins only.

Prickly Sculpin, (Cottus asper)

Ranges along the Pacific slope of North America from Seward, Alaska, south to Ventura River, California.

Coastrange Sculpin, (Cottus aleuticus)

Found from San Luis, Obispo County, California northward along west coastal streams to the west coast of Alaska's Aleutian Islands.


  1. Freshwater Fishes of Canada, Bulletin 184, Scott, W.B., E.J. Crossman, Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa 1973.

Whitlock's Multicolor Marabou Muddler #1

Submitted By Lindsey Grandison


Thread fluorescent orange
Hook TDE 4XL size 6 to 1/0; Mustad 79580. Weight the hook with 15 to 20 wraps of lead wire
Body gold mylar piping; underbody of curon; coat body with lacquer or epoxy to protect from unraveling when cut by fish teeth
WingS small bunch each of yellow, then orange, then brown marabou extending half length past hook bend; top with 8-12 peacock herls
Collar dark brown deer hair spun; tips should extend to hook point; trim most of the tips beneath body
Head dark brown deer hair spun and tightly packed. Trim head wide and flat like a toad or sculpin head. Darken top of head with a waterproof black pen
Comments curon was a synthetic, plastic material. It came in the form of cord and was pliable and stretchable. It could be used to form a tapered underbody

Whitlock's Multicolor Marabou Muddler #2

Submitted By Lindsey Grandison


Thread red
Hook TDE 4XL size 6 to 1/0; Mustad 79580. Weight the hook with 15 to 20 wraps of lead wire.
Body silver mylar piping; underbody of curon; coat body with lacquer or epoxy to protect from unraveling when cut by fish teeth
WingS small bunch each of white, then yellow then golden olive marabou extending half length past hook bend; top with 8-12 peacock herls
Collar natural dun brown deer hair dyed bronze green; tips should extend to hook point; trim most of the tips beneath body
Head golden olive deer hair spun and tightly packed. Trim head wide and flat like a toad or sculpin head

Whitlock's Salmon Muddler

Submitted By Lindsey Grandison


Thread black
Hook TUE single or double japaned salmon hook
Tag gold mylar
Tail short section of brown-speckled turkey wing secondary
Body gold mylar ribbed with size 18 silver oval tinsel or silver wire
Underwing black and white guard hairs from gray fox back or graysquirrel tail hair
WingS short sections of matched right and left speckled turkey wing quills
Collar natural dun brown white tail deer hair spun; tips should extend to hook point; trim most of the tips beneath body
Head coarse deer hair spun and tightly packed. Form a large dense head of hair
Comments When fished wet, completed fly should have a body one size smaller than hook size. For low water conditions trim head to a small size.

Whitlock's Midnight Muddler

Submitted By Lindsey Grandison


Thread black
Hook TDE, 3XL, size 10 to 1/0; Mustad 9672
Tail brown-speckled turkey wing quill
Body silver or silver-blue mylar
Rib silver tinsel, oval, size 18
Underwing black calftail hair
Wing matched right and left sections of turkey wing quills
Collar natural dun brown deer hair dyed black
Head natural dun brown deer hair dyed black spun and trimmed

Whitlock's Scotch & Water Muddler

Submitted By Lindsey Grandison


Thread white
Hook TDE, 3XL, size 10 to 1/0; Mustad 9672
Tail very light speckled turkey wing quill section
Body light amber seal fur dubbed on fuzzy
Underwing guard hairs from coyote back or tail
Wing matched right and left sections of very light speckled turkey wing quills
Collar light natural dun brown deer hair
Head light natural dun brown deer hair spun and trimmed

Whitlock's Brandy Muddler

Submitted By Lindsey Grandison


Thread orange
Hook TDE, 3XL, size 10 to 1/0; Mustad 9672
Tail very dark speckled turkey wing quill section
Body gold mylar
Rib fine gold wire
Underwing brandy brown calftail overfluorescent orange calftail
Wing matched right and left sections of very dark brown speckled turkey wing quills
Collar natural dun brown deer hair dyed brandy brown
Head natural dun brown deer hair dyed brandy brown spun and trimmed

Dave's Lemon Muddler

Submitted By Lindsey Grandison


Thread yellow
Hook TDE, 3XL, size 10 to 1/0; Mustad 9672
Tail light speckled brown turkey quill section
Body fluorescent yellow nylon tow
Underwing yellow fluorescent calftail under black calftail
Wing matched right and left sections of light brown speckled turkey wing quill
Collar natural dun brown deer hair dyed bronze green
Head natural dun brown deer hair dyed bronze green
Comments recommended for dark days or late evening fishing

Whitlock's Sculpin

Submitted By Lindsey Grandison


Thread yellow or orange
Hook 3XL or 2XL; size 10 to 1/0; weighted with 20 turns of lead wire
Tail none
Body creamish-yellow fur blend of seal fur and orlon wool
Rib gold oval tinsel
Underwing red fox squirrel tail one third longer than hook shank
Wing two well barred wide soft cree neck hackles one and a half the length of the hook shank. Each feather is tied flat over underwing and body.
Pectoral fins two barred breast feathers from mallard hen or prairie chicken tied on either side of body at wing base, flaring right and left
Gills red wool dubbing wrapped over base of wings and pectoral fins
Collar cream-yellow deer hair flared on lower part of hook shank; golden brown deer hair flared over top of shank; tips entend back to pectoral fins
Head cream-yellow deer hair on bottom and golden brown deer hair on top; spun and trimmed to a wide and flat shape

Searcy's Muddler

Submitted By Lindsey Grandison


Thread White
Hook Mustad 9672 or TDE 3XL in sizes 6,8,10.
Tail Small section of teal flank ¼ shank length
Body Light gray seal fur dubbed very fuzzy.
Rib Oval gold tinsel
Underwing Brown bucktail, small bunch extended past hook bend to tail's end.
Wing Two barred teal flank feathers extending to tail's end
Collar Natural deer hair a far size bunch spun and flared just ahead of the wing so the hair tips extend to the hook point or slightly longer.
Head Natural deer hair spun and trimmed relatively smaller than othe muddler types.

Arctic Fox Muddler

Submitted By Don Sturzenacker


Thread 6/0 or 3/0 uni thread
Hook 4-8 (3x long) tiemco 200
Tail Arctic fox under fur
Body Matching color fox fur with most of the guard hairs removed. Yellow or gray colors can be used for the body material.
Wing Arctic fox fur
Head Matching color deer hair
Don's Tying Instructions
  1. Form a thread base starting about 1/4 of the shank behind the eye of the hook.
  2. Tie in some under fur to the bend above the eye of the hook. I use the loop method, dub on one strand of the thread loop and twist together to form a tight body or twist on with a rotary vise. Leave less than 1/8 of an inch of thread exposed to tie in the wing material.
  3. Preparation of the fox fur for wing;
    • Cut fur next to the skin and remove the longer guard hairs to even the material.
    • Measure for length, remove the shorter length of hair and trim. Save the shorter material with some longer lengths for the body and tail.
    • Comb the hair at the cut end to remove the fuzzy material.
    • Tie in the wing material on the exposed thread base. Glue in.
  4. Spin on deer hair to form a collar with tips reaching about half way back. You will have to spin on one or two bunches of hair to complete the head. Glue in the thread after stacking of each bunch of hair. Each time you spin hair on, pack the hair down tight by hand, with an empty ball point pen (inside can be removed) or a packing tool.
  5. Rough cut the deer hair with a scissors or razor blade to form a head.

Generic Muddler #1

Submitted By Robb Nicewonger


Hook Kamasan B940 size 4
Tail Natural rabbit fur
Body Gold lite brite
Collar Sparse dubbing loop of rabbit fur
Wing Deer hair
Head Deer hair spun and trimmed with 2 black beads in front.

Generic Muddler #2

Submitted By Robb Nicewonger


Hook 4XL Streamer
Tail Sparse rabbit fur
Body Jan Siman dubbing brush, sparkle peacock
Collar Sparse rabbit fur in dubbing loop
Head Deer hair spun and trimmed

Standard Muddler

Submitted By Clark Lucas

  • Thread: Black 12/0; till deer head (spun): Uni-Thread A+
  • Hook: Partridge Bartleet Supreme Salmon Fly Hook CS10/2 1/0
  • Tail: Turkey tip
  • Tag: Red floss - head cemented
  • Body: Lagartun medium gold tinsel - head cemented
  • Throat: Red floss - head cemented.
  • Wing(lower): Squirrel, gray
  • Wing(over) Turkey, matched
  • Head: Brown/white tipped deer hair spun w/A+ and packed with gun 22 cal cleaning section. Clip hair to form collar and rounded head. Whip finish thread and coat with Loon hard head.

Marabou Muddler

Submitted by Clark Lucas

  • Thread: Black 12/0; till deer head (spun): Uni-Thread A+ black.
  • Hook: Daiichi 3/0 black steelhead: "Alec Jackson Spey Fly Hooks", or Partridge Bartleet Salmon Fly Hook: CS10 3/0
  • Tail: Red polar bear
  • Tag: Lagartun medium oval tinsel
  • Body: Lagartun medium silver tinsel over thread body, then head cemented. Criss-cross flat diamond gold braid over this.
  • Wing: Cream marabou. 2 spikes w/olive marabou spike sandwiched between.
  • Wing(over) Peacock sword herl - 4
  • Beard/Throat: White polar bear to tip of hook point
  • Throat/Gill: Neon red monocord
  • Head: Tied in with Uni-Thread A+, spun in 3 parts and packed with a 22 cal cleaning rod: 1st Section - Mule deer hair flared over wing. 2nd Section - Olive deer hair. 3rd Section - Black deer hair. Clip head in Dave Whitlock fashion by cutting flat on bottom, rounded on top, and flared out on edges. Whip finish thread, and apply Loon's Black Hard Head Finish.

Cone Head Sculpin

Submitted by Ron McKusick

Doug Saball is doing a sculpin feature on the streamer list. So I thought we should tie a few. The nice thing about being a fly tyer is that if you don't like what is available, you can make up your own
styles. So this is what I have done

Materials List

  • Hook: TMC 300 size 6
  • Large gold plated brass cone head
  • Decal stick on eyes size 1/8 inch
  • Brown grizzly marabou
  • Brown grizzly body feathers
  • Brown grizzly webby hackles
  • Red dubbing fur
  • Brown 6/0 thread
  • Loon Hardhead clear cement
Ron's Tying Instructions
  1. Take a hook and squeeze the barb down. Then take a cone head and put the hook point through the small whole. Slide it to the eye of the hook and put the hook in the vice.
  2. Start the thread behind the cone head and dub some red fur behind the cone head. Then run the thread to the hook bend and back to the eye, then back to the middle of the hook. Run a bead of thick cement along
    the thread windings.

  3. Pick 2 brown grizzly marabou plumes and size them to the hook. They should be as long as the hook shank. Take one and place it on the far side of the hook, you will tie down the thick quill end to the hook shank. Do the same to the near side of the hook. You now have 2 brown grizzly maraboy as a tail. Cement the wings with a thin coat of thick cement.
  4. Pick 2 more grizzly marabou and the tips of these should extend half the length of the first. Repeat step 3 with this shorter marabou.
  5. Pick a long brown grizzly body hackle or a wide webby brown grizzly saddle or neck hackle and tie this in by it's tip.
  6. Run the thread to the cone head and tie in a 6-inch length of brown chenille, run the thread over the chenille down to the tail and then back to the cone head. Cement the wings.
  7. Wind the chenille close together to the red gills and tie off.
  8. Wind the brown grizzly hackle to the red gills and tie off.
  9. Choose two round tipped body hackles, these will be the pectoral fins. These should be ½ the length of the body and kind of slanted down.
  10. If you are not satisfied with the amount of red dubbing that represents the gills, now is the time to add more. Whip finish the thread and cut it off.
  11. Put a coat of thick cement over the eye and cone head allowing it to seep into the red gills. Make sure that the eye of the hook is clear of cement.

Near 'Nuff Dumbbell Sculpin

Three of the flies use a brass dumbbell eye as weight. One uses fake fur for the tail and body. Just tie it down with thread and tie in another bunch. Then comb it back with an old tooth brush. All the sculpins use red dubbing near the head and eye to represent gills. These are to be fished on or near the bottom where natural sculpins live.

Dumbbell Wooly Bugger Sculpin

The other fly is tied like a wooly bugger for the tail and body and near the eyes, I added a pair of fins made of grizzly body feathers dyed brown. Then at the head I tie in a chunk of brown polly fur and combed it back then trimmed it.

Cone Head Wooly Bugger Sculpin

The last fly I used a brass cone head for the head and weight. I added the decal eyes latter and coated the eyes with cement. These are tied like wooly buggers with pectoral fins made of brown grizzly body feather tips and red dubbing for the gills. These are the easiest to tie.

Emerald Muddler

Submitted by Doug Saball

  • Thread: Green Uni-thread
  • Hook: Mustad 9672
  • Body: Silver tinsel
  • Tail: Florescent lime green squirrel tail
  • Wing: Florescent lime green squirrel tail
  • Collar: Bright green deer hair
  • Head: Bright green deer hair, spun and trimmed.
  • Comment: This pattern was given to me by Gayland Hachey of Veazie Maine in 1997. At that time it was productive in the Eustis Maine area. I've used this pattern in central Maine with some good fish caught. I think that this pattern resembles a dragonfly nymph more than any bait fish, but since this series is about muddler minnows, I have decided to include the Emerald Muddler as well.

Trout Fin Muddler

Submitted by Doug Saball

  • Thread: Black Mono-cord
  • Hook: Mustad 9672
  • Body: Silver tinsel
  • Wing: Orange marabou, then black marabou, topped with white marabou, extended to hook bend
  • Collar: Natural deer hair
  • Head: Natural deer hair spun and trimmed

Woolhead Matuka Sculpin

Submitted by Doug Saball

  • Thread: Brown Mono-cord
  • Hook: Mustad 9672
  • Body: Brown Uni-streach or floss
  • Ribbing: Gold tinsel five wraps
  • Tail/Wing: Body feather from a Buttercup hen
  • Cheeks: Body feather from a Buttercup hen,turned out
  • Head: Spun natural brown wool.
Woolhead Matuka Sculpin Tying instructions:
  1. Attach the Uni-strech about ¼ of the hook shank behind the hook eye.
  2. Wrap a layer of Uni-strech to the hook bend.
  3. Select two body feathers with feather material (no fluffy under fuzz)that extend one hook gape past the bend.
  4. Hold the feathers facing out with one hand and measure the tail/body area.
  5. Cut the lower section of the feather to create a tail, keeping the quill intact, with bottom of feather to fit around the bend of the hook.
  6. Attach the feather at the hook bend (where the "x" is in the above).
  7. Attach the tinsel at the bend of the hook.
  8. Wrap the Uni-streach toward the hook eye while holding the tail/wing quill above the hook. (I have found that a "gallows rig for tying parachute dry flies to work great for this.)
  9. Carefully wrap the tinsel toward the hook eye and secure with the Uni-streach. In traditional Atlantic Salmon fly technique, I like to make five wraps of the tinsel.
  10. Secure the front of the wing. This is the easy Matuka wing. The more traditional one requires the feather to be attached near the hook eye with the body and ribbing material woven through the wing. I have found that his technique distorts the coloration of the Buttercup feathers.
  11. Select two curved feathers for the pectoral fins and strip the excess so that a tippet that is approximately the same size as the tail is left.
  12. Place the pectoral fin feathers in the area where a cheek should go. Tie with the under side of the feather faceing out. This will cup the feather away from the hook shank. Position them so that they have a slight downward slant. Secure the quill, and tie off the uni-streach. There should be approximately ¼ of the hook shank visible before the eye.
  13. Attach the brown thread
  14. Put a small portion of natural brown wool next to the hook shank. Wrap the thread several times. Repeat with small portions of wool until the hook shank is covered from the feathers to the eye.
  15. Trim so that a laterally compressed head is formed. (Optional eyes can be affixed with cement.)

The desire of a trout fisherman is to closely resemble the food of pray. In my opinion this pattern is the closest to an actual Sculpin. I have found that different wing material can be used to achieve different coloration. Examples of other feather sources are; ruffled grouse in brown and gray, ring neck pheasants males and females, Reeves pheasants, and brown mottled turkey. Enjoy.

Salty Black Muddler

Submitted by Doug Saball

  • Thread: Black Mono-cord
  • Hook: Mustad, Salmon
  • Tail: Black Marabou, same length as hook shank
  • Body: Black Chenille
  • Ribbing: Silver tinsel
  • Collar: Olive deer hair
  • Head: Olive deer hair spun and trimmed
Salty Black Muddler Tying instructions:
  1. Tie this pattern the same as a regular muddler minnow.

This pattern is most productive near rock shores and jetties or breakwaters. It is a proven fly for sea-run trout, stripers and bluefish. When casting this fly keep it close to the rocks. Sculpin usually stay close to these areas and seldom venture out in open water.

Hornberg Muddler

Submitted by Doug Saball

  • Thread: Black Mono-cord
  • Hook: Mustad 9672
  • Body: Silver tinsel
  • Underwing: Golden Pheasant crest feather, pointing down & extended past hook bend to form a tail
  • Wing: Two Silver Pheasant body feathers
  • Collar:Natural deer hair
  • Head: Natural deer hair spun and trimmed
  • Comment: This is a combination of the hornberg body and the muddler head with common streamer material. Although it can be tied with the standard hornburg materials or teal flank feathers. Since this is a streamer fly I decided to use some of the common streamer feathers.

Al Troth's Bullhead

Submitted by Doug Saball

  • Thread: Black nylon
  • Hook: Mustad, Salmon #36890 sizes 10 through 3/0.
  • Tail: Mixed black & white skunk guard hairs for light appearance
  • Body: Cream Chenille (angora wool in original).
  • Back: Black ostrich herl tied in at collar and tail over body and extending to tails length
  • Collar: Natural deer hair trimmed thin on top and bottom
  • Head: Natural deer hair spun and trimmed wide and very large.
Al Troth's Bullhead Tying Instructions:
  1. Start the tying thread at the eye and wrap the hook shank to the tail.
  2. Select some skunk fur and comb out the under fur so that you have a small clump of mixed white and black guard hairs. (I save the under fur for dubbing other flies.)
  3. Attach the tail at the bend so it is the width of the hook gape.
  4. Attach the black Ostrich herl so the tips are even with the tip of the tail and can extend past the hook eye, but don't cut off the excess yet.You can hold this portion above the hook shank with a gallows jig used for tying parachute dry flies.
  5. Attach the Cream Chenille and wrap toward the hook eye leaving enough room to tie in the remaining material.
  6. Pull the remaining ostrich hurl over the back of the cream Chenille and attach it near the hook eye to create a "shell back."
  7. Spin the deer hair collar and head. Trim so that the collar is light on top and bottom and the head is wide and very large.

Jan Hansen's Yellow Muddler

Submitted by Doug Saball

  • Thread: Brown Mono-cord
  • Hook: Mustad, salmon
  • Body: Yellow floss
  • Wing: Yellow Kiptail (bucktail in original)extended past the hook bend
  • Collar:Natural deer hair
  • Head: Natural deer hair spun and trimmed

White (Missoulin Streak) Muddler

Submitted by Doug Saball

  • Thread: White Mono-cord
  • Hook: Mustad 9672 or TDE 3XL, sizes 10 through 1/0.
  • Tail: Very light section of speckled turkey wing quill (I used silver pheasant wing quill section).
  • Tag: Red Chenille
  • Body: White rabbit dubbing (I used cream Chenille)
  • Ribbing: Flat Silver tinsel
  • Underwing: White Kiptail hair under a few sections of barred mallard flank feathers (Teal in original).
  • Wing: Matched pair of very light speckled turkey wing quills.
  • Collar:Natural deer hair spun and flared in front of the body with hair tips extending to hook point.
  • Head: White deer hair spun and trimmed.
  • Comment: According to McClane's "New Standard Fishing Encyclopedia" this pattern is a Dan Bailey variation of the muddler minnow. It originates in the Threeforks area of Montana's Missouri River. It is effective on big fall-run brown trout.

Whitlock's Near 'Nuff Sculpin

Submitted by Bob Petti

Hook Mustad 3902B, #4
Eyes Dumbbell eyes, yellow w/ black pupil
Thread Olive
Tail A Pair of Olive Grizzly Rooster Body Feathers and two strands of pearl krystal flash outside
Body Olive 'Possum Dubbing
Hackle Olive Grizzly Rooster Body, palmered
Head Olive Dubbing

1950'S Muddler Minnow

Submitted By Lindsey Grandison For Gerry Cox.


Background On This Muddler

This fly was sent to us by Gerry Cox of Ithaca, New York. It is an example of the muddler flies that were commericially available in the late 50's. One of the popularizers of the muddler pattern was Dan Bailey who had a shop located at that time in Livingston, Montana. He was instrumental in developing many of the variations that evolved from the original. The fly shops around Yellowstone then offered the muddler as a standard pattern as they do now. As Gerry Cox recounts "In the late 50's, the principal fly shops in West Yellowstone were Bud Lilly's and Pat Barnes'. I probably got the Muddler from Pat Barnes, who had a small crew (including his wife) turning out flies on mechanized rotary vices. It replaced the one (on my allowance, I could only afford one) I lost in a wooded section of the Firehole when a huge brown surged up and took it just after I'd pulled it under on the swing. I can see his head and back to this day!"

This example is true to the classic pattern and is at the larger end of sizes encountered today. The lack of variation in style from this early example to the patterns availabe now probably reflects the effectiveness of the original pattern and the finding that all of the possible variations which have been attempted have not improved substantially on it.


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