The Wood River Sculpin is unique in that its home pretty much consists of the Big Wood and Little Wood Rivers. This dark olive bottom dwelling fish is not a target for fly anglers, but it is certainly a target of the biggest trout that live in the Big and Little Wood systems. The volume of Wood River Sculpin makes it a year around target of the fish and therefore a fly we cast all year long.
Imitating this Sculpin is not difficult and can be done with a variety of flies. Dark Olive Matukas, Olive Buggers, Sparkle Minnows and most olive colored articulated patterns work just fine. There is one fly tied as a specific imitation of the Wood River Sculpin, which is the Philo Beto. This fly is found at Lost River Outfitters in Ketchum and was developed by the owner Scott Schnebly and his son Blake in the early 1990s when Blake was a young boy. The fly is loosely named for Clint Eastwood’s character Philo Beddoe in the movie Any Which Way but Loose. Tied from the Philo Plume feather off an olive died Pheasant Rump, the Philo Beto Streamer is slam dunk when fished on the Big Wood, Little Wood or pretty much anywhere Sculpins swim.
Sculpin imitations are best fished with a bead-head, or some external weight. When I fish the Philo Beto I like to put a small split shot right at the head of the fly. This gives the fly a jigging action and also help me keep if from snagging on the bottom by controlling the depth right at the fly as opposed to several inches or feet above the fly. Try to fish the fly swinging across the river on a tight line, keeping the fly as close to the bottom as you dare. The true Sculpin will dart from rock to rock along the river bottom, trying to avoid being eaten, but plenty of them do get eaten and they represent a major calorie intake for wintering trout.
When fishing Streamer imitations fish them on Fluorocarbon Leaders so that when you strip strike the leader does not stretch, but instead buries the hook in the fish’s mouth. Fish a stout tippet, taper it to about 2X. Nine feet is plenty of length. Cast across the river and retrieve the fly with your rod tip on the water and the line coming into the tip in a straight line. Enjoy all the big fish you’re going to catch!
Happy Fishing Everyone!