How to Fish Shrimp-y Flies

In last week’s post I discussed tying a very productive freshwater shrimp (scud) pattern that I fish in spring creeks. This week I will be discussing how I fish the pattern.

The fly


In last week’s article I talked about how I tie scuds for fishing Rocky Ford and various spring creeks. The fly I fish today is the product of several patterns I’ve compiled in to one very productive pattern that’s easy and quick to tie, stands up to abuse, and just puts a lot of fish in the net.

The setup

The rod/reel

I like to fish a ten-foot, four-weight designed for European Nymphing because I have an extra foot of rod I can use to manipulate my flies with. I can also generate more bend in the rod without sacrificing the backbone that graphite provides. I’m not too picky about my reels. Most of the time I’m fighting a fish with line, so the reel is there more or less to hold the line. But it’s nice to have a trustworthy METAL reel with a good drag system and fast pick-up speed when fighting some of the bigger fish “on-the-reel.”

The line

Honestly any line that accurately matches your rod-weight is fine.

The leader
My leader system is simple: I start with a nine foot nylon leader that tapers down to about a 4x tippet, and then tie another 5-6′ of 5x fluorocarbon to the end of that. Longer leaders and fluorocarbon tippets is the name of the game here.

I usually sight fish to these wary trout for two reasons:

  1. I can control my flies as I see fit
  2. The fish get spooked when an indicator plops on the water and floats overhead

When I DO fish an indicator, I like to fish an adaptation of the 90º Nymph Rig because I can easily retie my tippet when necessary and easily adjust my indicator to match depth. I lean towards a small Air-Lock indicator or a small yarn indicator dosed in floatant or Albolene (yes, it works).

The flies

As a rule of thumb, I fish a double scud setup. I’ve found that by fishing two different sizes and colors at once, I can cover a greater range of what the fish may be keying in on. Rocky Ford fish are known to be quite picky, and seem to focus on different sizes, colors, and even entirely different patterns from one day to the next.

My point fly is generally a size 14 olive/orange scud followed by 8-12″ of 5x tippet to a size 18 orange scud. I’ve come to find that orange has been a new “go-to” color, as it has produced more fish for me in the last year than about any other color combination. I will adjust as I see fit, but I find that fishing these two colors and sizes puts more slime in the net.

A size 14 olive/orange and a size 18 orange

The presentation

I’ll break this into to sections:

As I stated earlier, I primarily sight-fish for Rocky Ford trout. The water is so clear that I can see fish feeding and staging, so I know where to place my flies so that they work their way in front of the fish. I try to place my cast a long distance in front of the fish (10+ feet) so that by the time the fly is at the fish’s level, it’s tumbling along, or just above, the bottom. Scuds often swim in weedy and rocky structure along the bottom. I don’t want to make the fish work very hard, so I place my flies so that they will fall right in line with the fish, often flowing right into their toothy maw.

Sometimes a simple dead-drift and tumble along the bottom isn’t enough for these fish. Sometimes they need a little more temptation to elicit a bite. On a recent trip to The Ford, I caught a nice size rainbow by casting my fly into shallow weeds and working it into the main current in front of the fish. This is a much more realistic and active approach to fishing a scud, but sometimes you need that to make pressured fish bite.

I believe sight-fishing is the most productive way to catch fish when possible because you limit the amount of “stuff” you have in and on the water to potentially scare fish or alert them of your presence. Plus, there’s really nothing better than watching your fly disappear in a large fish’s mouth.

Indicator fishing
When I’m fishing in faster water with current that distorts my image of the fish, or casting out of sight of the bottom, I’ll go ahead and attach an indicator to my line. I like to have my line and leader adjusted so that the flies barely tick along the top of the rocks and weeds, causing the flies to act like scuds scurrying their way around the water column. Fishing an indicator limits the amount of control I have over the flies, but is often necessary when fishing for fish you just can’t see.

Time to hit The Ford!

I hope that the last two articles have provided some more insight on how to fish scud (freshwater shrimp) patterns, most specifically at Rocky Ford Creek. You can most look forward to future posts on the topic. Follow my page so you can keep updated when new posts drop!

Please feel free to share your catches with me and let me know how your fishing is going! I love to see fishing pics and I’ll gladly talk fishing all day.

Just some pictures of fish that fell to the scud

Keegan Carlson:@keegellis
Jesse Mena:@hesse_mena
The author (Kyle Wilkinson:@flybum_101)
The author (Kyle Wilkinson:@flybum_101)
Jesse Mena:@hesse_mena

One thought on “How to Fish Shrimp-y Flies”

  1. It is an excellent article, showing great knowledge of the author. Thank you very much Kyle for your generosity. Patricio Scorza, Argentina.


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