As I mentioned, the sculpins in my aquarium didn't move unless there was food involved. Thus, I'm not exactly sure how available they are to trout. For all we know, the sculpin patterns do not really represent a sculpin to the trout but because they catch fish, we figure they must.
The daily bag limit in MT is five fish per person per day. I probably kill 6 or 8 fish per year. Almost always for ritual breakfast on river camping trips. I never kill or eat a big fish. I know it's dangerous to talk about eating trout in polite fly fishing society. But I don't think it hurts to whack a few small browns each year. Browns almost always have the remains of a sculpin in their stomachs. Or a crayfish. And then the usual bug soup too. But they sure do like those sculpins. The stomach tells no lies.
Rainbow followup: I do whack a fair number of stocked rainbows on various reservoirs. On Canyon Ferry Reservoir in Montana you occasionally catch a native rainbow. There is some spawning in a few creeks up near Tosten MT. I always throw the natives back. But feeling obligated to return stockers is silly. I get most of them smoked. They average 18" to 20" long. And fat as a house. There are billions of crayfish in Canyon Ferry. The loons eat them non-stop all summer long. But the (stocked) rainbows seldom have crayfish in their bellies. In fact I've never seen it. They seem to survive on the occasional small minnow, and on a gooey soup of nearly microscopic zoo plankton.
I don't know much about native river run rainbow stomachs. Because I always put them back. They're too easy to catch. But I do have a different attitude about small pan sized browns. The frequency of brown trout stomachs that contain sculpins goes beyond common. They are the majority.
While the sculpins in my Aquarium didn't move much, I'm sure that in the wild they must move around in search of food... besides, if trout can manage to eat crawdads (which also hang out on the bottom of the fishery) then sculpins must be an available food source.
At least, that's why I'm tying sculpin patterns to try in stillwaters. I'll let you know how they work in a few months. If they don't work, I'm writing a nasty e-mail to Hareline for selling the Sculpin Helmets
Seriously, I'm fishing buddies with some of the guys at Hareline and they've told me the product works great for imitating sculpins... we'll see.
I've used sculpin patterns in the local rivers and for saltwater beach fishing, and they have worked out just fine in those environments. Haven't really fished 'em much in lakes, but I'll bet they'd work in any stillwater that has sculpins living in it.
I'm set up to tie the Wounded Sculpin, which looks like a relatively simple sculpin pattern. Those helmets do look like they'd make for an easy tie, though.
If I got some, I'd try to copy Roger Stephens' tube versions. I like the looks of those.
Thats a cool looking pattern. I had some salt water sculpins in an aquarium or two back in the day; they are cool little fish and rather hard to catch. But they seem to hang out where searuns like to lurk, so I like to keep one or two in my box. Nice thread.
I published this one--the Knucklhead Sculpin--in Fly Tyer back in the mid 1980s, as part of a "Fast Sinking Steamers" piece. It's similar to contemporary scull head versions. The head is lead wire squashed with pliers, soaked in CA glue and then covered with floss (and then more glue). The other fly in that piece was called the Sockeye Shiner. I still make them both. The Knucklehead hasn't changed much. But the Sockeye Shiner has morphed considerably since then.