The Crystal Scud

Adding a degree of clarity to a bread-and-butter stillwater food source

Wes Penny is fascinated by the variety of prey stillwater trout feed upon, especially scuds. Blended with his fascination with the natural world, Wes also applies his creative and innovative tying skills to the challenge. His Crystal Scud is a perfect example.

Crystal Scud.

After observing natural scuds, Wes wanted to design a pattern that was easy to tie, durable, featured a clear body but was adaptable to match a variety of different coloured scuds.

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Inspired by resin-based scud patterns, Wes felt he needed a defined, segmented, exoskeletal look, something different from the dubbed body scuds most fly fishers use. Clear Stretch Magic bead and jewelry cord, .5 millimetres or .7 millimetres, available at most craft stores, provided the perfect body material for the segmented look Wes was targeting.

Using a lighter, carefully heat one end of a short, approximately three-inch length of Stretch Magic before tie in. Before it has a chance to cool, pinch and pull the end, creating a flattened pigtail that eases tie-in and reduces bulk. With the Stretch Cord tied in, wind it forward using close but open turns. It is crucial to leave a small amount of space between the wraps for the leg material.

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Strategic tension helps form a natural-looking scud body. Apply tension to the first three to four wraps to reduce bulk. As you get to the mid-portion of the shank, reduce tension to increase body size. Increase tension once again for the final three to four wraps. Before tying off, maintain tension on the Stretch Magic body material. Build up a small thread dam directly in front of the body to prevent it from slipping as you tie it off and remove the excess.

Although you can use white or olive mono thread, Wes prefers clear to keep the resin shellback clear and distinct. It is crucial to keep the natural, translucent look of the scud in mind. If you decide to use coloured thread, use minimal wraps. You don’t want to have too much colour within the finished fly. Wes builds up a subtle thread mid-section, that when covered with the Stretch Magic body material further suggests a scud’s natural profile.

Once the mono thread underbody is complete, Wes adds a splash of colour to the top only, using a light olive marker. You can also colour the finished Stretch Cord body if you wish, but don’t overdo it. The goal is to create a translucent body.

Scuds can become infected with a small parasitic worm that appears as a focused hot orange spot on its back. A strategic dab of a bright orange marker or UV resin applied to the thread underbody after the initial coat of olive helps suggest the parasite.

Tied in before the body material, Wes uses a single ostrich herl, wound between the body segments, to suggest the scud’s legs. A full, thick herl with lots of fibers works best. Avoid sparse, short herl. Ostrich herl is brittle. To mitigate herl breakage, consider tying in two herls. Should the first herl break, the second herl serves as a backup. If you successfully wind the first herl forward, remove the second. After wrapping the herl through the body, the fly resembles a small fuzzball. Moisten your thumb and forefinger and stroke all of the ostrich fibers down a few times to sweep them beneath the body. It is essential not to leave any stragglers, as they interfere with forming the UV resin shellback.

You can also use dubbing or antron yarn to suggest the legs. After forming the Stretch Flex body, drape small amounts of dubbing or antron between the segments and pull them down. While still holding the dubbing or antron beneath the body, tack it in place using UV resin. Forming dubbing or yarn legs is best done by doing two to three sections at a time. Remember, apply the dubbing or antron sparingly, as the legs are a cumulative build-up of material. This draping technique also works for adding Angel Hair or other flash materials within the herl legs. It is essential to use a minimal amount of UV resin to avoid choking and stiffening the ostrich herl legs.

Once the tying process is complete, it is time to form the UV resin shellback. Using a bodkin, place a drop of thick viscosity resin to the top of the fly. Carefully work the resin along the back and down the sides of the fly, concentrating the majority of it on the front half of the fly. There should be only a minimal coat applied to the rear of the fly. Let the resin self-level. Should the resin flow near the legs, rotate the vise so the fly rides upside down to keep it from clogging them. Once you are happy with your fly, cure the resin, add a pair of eyes and slip your finished Crystal Scud into your fly box.

How To Tie A Crystal Scud

Designed By Wes Penny

  • Hook: Curved scud pupa hook #10-#14
  • Thread: Mono
  • Body: Clear Stretch Magic beading cord, .5 millimetres or .7 millimetres
  • Hackle/Legs: Ostrich herl
  • Antenna: Coque De Leon
  • Shellback: Thick UV resin

Tying Instructions

  1. Place the hook into the jaws of the vise. Cover the hook shank with tying thread into the bend. Tie in the ostrich herl at the rear where the thread is now hanging. Using a lighter, carefully heat one end of a short, three-inch length of Stretch Magic beading cord. Pinch and pull the heated end to produce an easy to tie in, thin pigtail. Secure the narrow, pigtail end of Stretch Magic cord in place next to the ostrich herl.

    Crystal Scud: Step 1.
    Crystal Scud: Step 1.
  2. If you wish, build up a subtle thread underbody at the mid-point of the hook. With the tying thread hanging just back from the hook eye, use a permanent marker to colour the top of the thread underbody. If you wish to suggest the parasitic worm, use a hot orange marker or a dab of UV resin to create a focused hot spot on the thread underbody.

    Crystal Scud: Step 2.
    Crystal Scud: Step 2.
  3. Wind the Stretch Magic cord forward using slightly open turns to allow space for the ostrich herl. Pull and stretch the Stretch Magic for the first three to four wraps to reduce bulk. Relax the tension on the mid-portion wraps to add a degree of thickness to the body. Increase tension on the final wraps once again to minimize bulk near the eye of the hook. The goal is to create a neat, tapered body. Before tying off and removing the excess Stretch Magic, place a few thread wraps directly in front to prevent it from slipping forward. Tie off the Stretch Magic using several firm wraps and remove the excess.

    Crystal Scud: Step 3.
    Crystal Scud: Step 3.
  4. Wind the ostrich herl forward using open wraps to place it in the gaps between the Stretch Magic cord body. Tie off and trim the excess herl. Tie in six Coque de Leon fibers on top of the hook, with the tips facing forward, just back from the hook eye.

    Crystal Scud: Step 4.
    Crystal Scud: Step 4.
  5. Form a neat, tapered head that extends from the hook eye to the Stretch Magic body. Whip finish and remove the tying thread. Wet your thumb and forefinger and stroke the ostrich herl fibers down to suggest the legs of the natural scud.

    Crystal Scud: Step 5.
    Crystal Scud: Step 5.
  6. With the ostrich herl well stroked down, so there are no fibers on top of the hook, apply a coat of thick UV resin to the top of the body. Use a bodkin to work the resin along the top of body and down the sides. Be careful not to let it flow down into the ostrich herl legs. If you have a rotary vise, you can turn the fly upside down, so gravity keeps the resin from clogging the legs. Concentrate the majority of the resin in the middle to the front portion of the fly. There is very little resin at the rear of the body. Once you are happy with the body, let it self-level and then cure the resin. If you wish, use a fine point black marker or a small dab of black UV resin to create a pair of eyes just back from the hook eye.

    Crystal Scud: Step 6.
    Crystal Scud: Step 6.