Scud Life by Mark Usyk

I stood at the Jeep, a fly box on the hood opened up displaying my tools to the fishing gods while I struggled to tie on a size 16 scud. A red squirrel sat on a rotten limb leaning against the base of a tree, watching me with indifference as it rolled something over and over in its paws, gnawing away feverishly and filling its cheeks. If the truth was told, we were probably both in the same frame of mind. Better get this done now while we still can. A forty-five degree day in December is nothing to take for granted. I rig up a fly rod. The squirrels search out and store away more food. We all have our priorities.

I don’t normally come to this spot. I don’t enjoy it as much as some of my regular fishing spots. But the regular trout season is closed, so I’m left with the special regulations fisheries. The handful of fly only, catch and release only waters scattered on the map. It’s not a bad stretch of creek as creeks go. It’s actually quite beautiful. Clear water, a colorful gravel bottom, downstream not far from here a thirty foot wall of shale flanks one side of the creek. Its linear patterns proving to me that Mother Nature is the original artist and humans merely try to copy her. The creek winds its way through woods, bending left and right, and on this stretch several drop off shelves of smooth shale bottom create small but picturesque waterfalls. It’s just too easy to get to. Too easy to fish. Which means you’re almost never alone here.

Today I’m early enough that I’m the only one parked in the angler parking area so far. So I don’t waste any time. Iron Maiden’s The Trooper played in my head as I tied on the fly, but now as I make my first casts, the guitar riffs and drum beats begin to fade out. The quiet white noise of everything around me takes over. I haven’t fished this 3wt rod in months. After a couple beautiful casts I wonder why. I quickly realize it’s that I have too many rods to choose from. Damn my first world problems. It casts so nice, effortlessly almost. The scud is gracefully rocketed to intended targets where it lightly lands and sinks below, disappearing in the current. Carried by it, unseen but felt from my vantage point. It bumps along the bottom, at every pause of the line I lift the rod tip hoping to feel a vibrating resistance. Most times there is nothing there, it’s simply the scud catching the bottom. But a couple times within the first twenty minutes when I do lift the rod tip in hope, the line sings with tension and the life at the other end makes its presence known.

I move upstream, fishing along the way as I go. I cast to every seam where foam and moving water converge. I cast to every deep run where in my mind I can see trout stacked up like firewood on the bottom facing upstream waiting for a meal to hit them in the face. I drift the fly underneath every deadfall tree I come to, in front of and behind every large rock and boulder I find. Most casts have nothing at the end but a little hope, but a handful of them do produce fish. If I’ve caught one fish for every thirty casts here today, then I’ve made a hundred and fifty casts for those five small, but pretty little trout. It sounds like a lot of work for a few small fish that I simply release, but it’s the proof to what I already know but seem to forget on a daily basis anymore. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. And more so, anything that comes too easy loses its luster pretty fast. But something you have to work for is all the more rewarding when it finally comes to hand. Especially when that fish came to hand on a fly you could barely see the hook eye on to tie the knot.

As a streamer junkie, I have to say there might be something to this scud thing. It might be time to add a fly box to the stack in the Jeep.

Mark Usyk is the author of Reflections of a Fly Rod, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and signed copies ready for purchase here on