Sow Bug? What are those? Their scuds? Right? Nope, Sow bugs and scuds are two different creatures. Sow bugs are much smaller than your average scud. Sow bugs are a major player in tailwaters, spring creeks and stillwaters. They tend to live in areas close to vegitation where they feed on plant matter and debris. If you are fishing healthy tailwater and have not fished a sow bug I think you’ll like this pattern.

how to tie a sow bug

I fish this pattern primarely on the Missouri river. The MO is full of sow bugs and the trout love them. It dosen’t work everyday but it is always part of the program. How do you tie a sow bug pattern? It’s a super simple pattern to tie and you can bang them out pretty quick. Keep a few things in mind…. Make sure the you don’t dub the body to thick. This pattern is most effective when tied sparse. Dub the body to tight and it seems to be less effective? Really? I think so but maybe it’s just me. Red thread is another key feature to this fly. If you dub the body sparse the red thread will show through and give the pattern some depth. Female sow bugs carry their eggs on the undersides of their bellies, orange in color. This would be a great argument for tying this pattern with an orange thread and would explain why the red thread is an important part of the pattern. Just like most animals, they are most vulnerable when reproducing. This pattern does have times when it works great and times when you couldn’t buy a fish on it. I’m not an entemologist but I think it has to do with their reproduction cycle and their vulnerability. I like to tie this fly on a Dai-Riki 125 or a TMC 2488H sized 18-22. I like the hook gap on these hooks and I feel it is easier to get a hook set on these small flies.

I have three variations of this pattern. All have to do with the shell back. I tie one with mottled Thin Skin, One with Krystal Flash and one with Pink Midge Tubing. I call the later Trout Smack…. It’s a play on Charlie Wilson’s pattern… Trout Crack. It works better when the pink bite is on, imagine that?

tying a sow bug
Enjoy the video and fish these guys next time your on the MO or your favorite small bug water!


  1. I really like the simplicity of these three flies and the fact that it’s sort of a 3-for-1 deal. I went out and got the stuff needed to tie them (just starting tying, so little stock). But I was wondering if adding a little weight to the hook shank would help the fly get down where it seems it needs to be? At least I think of sow bugs as bottom bugs. Or is the hook weight sufficient?

  2. Hey Dave, weight on the hook shank will definitely help the fly get down, the fly will be bulkier but get down… I think it depends on the scenario you’re fishing. I just use split shot to get this fly down where I want it. Tie it both ways for how you need it. Not sure if that makes sense?

    • Yeah, that makes great sense. I had not used weight except for Alaska. Thanks for your reply. I’ll carry on per your instructions and tie a few with lead wraps under. Thanks for your reply.

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