Craig ties Mick Hall’s Scruffy… and adds a couple of his own little touches.
Even though many of my clients had recommended the Scruffy, it was one of those flies I just hadn’t tried; perhaps because it was so simple in design and tie. Could such a basic pattern work well? My prejudice meant that, for many years, I missed out on what’s turned out to be an extremely effective and versatile fly.
A couple of years ago, my car was broken into in town, and all my fishing gear was stolen. It occurred during October, one of the busiest times of the season for guiding at Millbrook Lakes. Items such as waders, rods, reels, lines, etc are relatively easy to replace. But what proved the greatest inconvenience, was replacing the flies. It wasn’t as easy as buying commercially-tied replacements, as many of my flies are tied just the way I like them, or else they’re not available commercially at all. And I simply did not have time to tie new ones at that point of a busy season.
My friend and renowned fly tier, Mick Hall, came to the rescue. He had heard of my loss and offered to tie new flies for me. A few days later, he presented me with a new set of my most-used Millbrook flies, and added, “By the way, I’ve thrown in a few of my Scruffys as well, you may find them useful.”
This was the start of a love affair with Mick’s Scruffy. It has been an extremely versatile fly, catching trout in many different fishing situations. My clients and I have used it successfully when fish are feeding on Gambusia, pin fry, stick caddis, mayfly nymphs and damsel fly nymphs. And it doesn’t just work in Victoria; last season, it was my best nymph on Little Pine Lagoon. I suspect it worked so well there because the cool summer in the Tassie Highlands had the fish looking down and feeding on stick caddis. It also took some excellent fish at Lake Leake.
Clearly, the Scruffy fits the brief for what an effective fly should be; and in this respect, it’s quite possibly better than any fly we have previously featured in this column.
Thread – Olive or black #8/0.
Hook – Size 12 long shank TMC 100SP-BL or similar.
Tail – Brown fibres from a cock hackle.
Rib – Medium metallic green wire.
Body – blended 50/50 dark olive and black rabbit fur.
Bead – small glass chartreuse, green or yellow.
- Blend your body of dark olive and black rabbit fur. This can be done using a coffee grinder; or by hand blending – this involves pulling the fibres repeatedly through your fingers to create a uniform blend. I make a fair bit of blend at a time and keep the surplus in a zip lock bag. (A good tip is to write the blend formula on a card and place in the bag. It can be very frustrating when you want to make more dubbing, sometimes years later, and you are unable to recreate the original blend!)
- Put the glass bead on the hook. Mick uses a chartreuse bead, but if this colour can be difficult to find, I have also successfully used yellow or green.
- Tie in a generous amount of cock fibres for the tail. (Mick’s original had a tail of straight black possum fibres, two-thirds the length of the hook shank.)
- Next, tie in the wire ribbing. I like metallic green. (Mick’s original had no wire rib; however, I like the little sparkle the green wire gives to the fly.)
- Tightly dub a slim body three-quarters of the way up the hook shank.
- Wind the wire back using uniform turns in the opposite direction.
- Dub in some more dubbing behind the glass bead and whip finish off behind the bead.
- Finally, use some Velcro to scruff out the fibres, sweeping them down towards the tail.
Because Mick’s Scruffy can be used in many different situations, there is no one way to fish it. If I’m fishing a team of nymphs, I normally tie it on the point – having a glass bead, the Scruffy anchors the team well. However, I often fish it on a dropper with a Magoo or similar fly on the point, on a floating or slow sinking line. Simply alter your fishing style to suit the trout’s feeding behaviour. Or if this can’t be observed, let the presence of trout food guide your fishing method.
In any event, don’t make the mistake of overlooking this fly for as long as I did. If you visit the shallow, fertile trout lakes of Victoria and Tasmania, it should have a permanent place in your fly box.