Sheila's Sculpin: Multiple Species, Same Great
Whether you're fishing in Alaska for big rainbows, smallmouth in the midwest, Montana browns, or largemouth in the farm pond down the street, the Sheila's Sculpin is a deadly streamer that universally produces results on a variety of target species.
Sheilas's Sculpin was originally developed as a sculpin pattern for fishing for sea-run cutthroat off of the saltwater beaches of Puget Sound, Washington. Ironically, few people we've heard of actually use Sheila's Sculpin for that purpose. Instead, the fly seems to be used most for trout and bass in both rivers and lakes.
I've been a fan of Sheila's Sculpin for the past 15 years since I first introduced it into our flyshop in Mill Creek, WA. I started fishing the fly for largemouth bass and fell in love with the coloration and way it slowly falls when the retrieve is paused. One of the first times I fished it, a bug-eyed, post-spawn largemouth ate it on one of my first casts. Since then, I've fished it for Missouri River trout, smallmouth and largemouth and routinely reach for it when imitating yellow perch on our local lakes. Whether you're dropping the fly down a rocky bluff, crawling it on a boulder flat, or ripping it through braiding currents of a trout stream, the Sheila's Sculpin holds its shape and profile and never stops swimming and kicking that soft, pine squirrel tail.
Sheila's Sculpin has the most tantalizing motion when it sinks and falls. For bass, I like to fish it around docks on an intermediate sinking line and simply let the fly fall, keeping the line just tight enough and moving just enough to feel or see if a fish picks it up. Tying the fly on with a Non-Slip Loop Knot will help give the fly maximum motion on the fall. If you've ever fished docks with a Senko, you know what I'm going for here and you know the fall I'm trying to describe. The trick is to let the fly fall, but keep just enough tension on the line that you can feel the bump of a fish picking it up. If in doubt, a couple quick strips will answer the questions and will sometimes trigger fish to pick it up of they've been watching it fall with curiosity.
If the fish aren't up shallow, fish it on a fast sinking line and crawl it right on or near the bottom. If you can find a rocky flat with smallmouth on it, and they are feeding on perch, sculpin (or I would imagine gobies), it can be lights out.
- Michael Bennett