Don’t Be a Sleep at the Wheel When Fishing Egg Patterns

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Always practice quick hook sets with egg patterns to decrease gut hooking trout. Photo: Louis Cahill

Egg patterns are a staple in my fly fishing and guiding.

Stocked trout are suckers for them, but even wild trout will gladly snack on them if you correctly put it in front of them most of the year. Several different egg imitations and sizes are available for fly anglers to fish with. Y2K’s, glow bugs, sucker spawn and nuke eggs are just a few of the variations out there. I’m all for using these effective egg patterns on the water, but there’s one very important thing fly fisherman need to understand about fishing egg patterns, and it needs to be respected. When trout eat egg patterns, they usually do so with total abandonment, and if you’re not quick to set the hook, you’ll find trout will end up getting hooked deep in their throat or gills a high percentage of the time.

I’ve noticed this a lot over the years with the clients I guide. They’ll be asleep at the wheel during their drift, and the strike indicator will bounce three or four times, and then take off before they finally get around to setting the hook. If you’re going to fish egg patterns, do the fish a favor and be ready to set the hook at the first sign of a bite, no matter how subtle it is. This will greatly cut down on your egg patterns being swallowed by the fish in the process, and you’ll be practicing respectful catch and release. If you aren’t willing to take this approach, keep your egg patterns stowed away in your fly box.

Some of you may be saying, “wait a minute Kent, it’s reasonable to think the same thing could happen with other fly patterns if you wait too long to set the hook, right?” Yes, but I’ve found the frequency of it happening is far less than when you’re fishing egg patterns. Just the other day on the water, I put this very argument to the test. My client had a banner day. We landed a great number of fish, of which, many came on our nuke egg dropper. My client was doing a brilliant job of making good presentations and fighting the fish, but he was regularly setting the hook too slow. The delayed hook sets contributed to multiple eggs being swallowed and/or hooked deep in the throat by the trout. I had no choice but to snip the flies off, or risk injuring the trout further trying to remove the fly. After a while, I decided to stop fishing the egg patterns all together, and informed my client it wasn’t anything personal, but the slow hook sets were causing us to harm the fish, and since we respected the trout so much, we needed to stow them away for the remainder of the day. My client agreed 100%. He had already landed plenty of fish, and he admitted it was a serious problem we needed to eliminate. So I took off the egg dropper, tied on a soft-hackle and we continued fishing. Bites came, slow hook sets remained, but every fish we landed in the net had the soft-hackle lodged directly in the corner of the trout’s mouth, not in the throat. If this isn’t strong evidence on how differently trout take eggs over other fly patterns, I don’t know what is.

Maybe we can Rig our egg patterns like our trout beads

Lastly, I’m going to start experimenting with rigging my egg patterns similar to how I rig my trout beads pegged above a bare hook. My hopes is that it will decrease the chances of gut hooking trout rigging them this way. I’ll try cutting off the hook on my egg pattern and tying it onto my tippet, but I’ll leave a long tag after tying my knot. I’ll then use the tag to tie on a small scud or egg hook (size 14), securing the hook about 2 – 2 1/2″ inches below my hookless egg. I’ll be reporting back with a comment in about a week to let you know if it performs the same as my trout bead rig, where a trout eats the bead and when we set the hook, it slides the bare hook into the corner of the trout’s mouth.

Remember this post next time you’re fly fishing for trout with egg patterns. Keep your eyes on the strike indicator at all times and set the hook the instant it signals a possible strike. The fall and winter are great times of the year to fish egg patterns. Spawning fish put them on the daily food menu of trout and the cold water temperatures seem to increase their effectiveness further.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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21 thoughts on “Don’t Be a Sleep at the Wheel When Fishing Egg Patterns

  1. just waiting for the pegger hate. Honestly if it keeps from killing fish i don’t have a problem with beads. I look forward to hearing how your experiment goes.

    • Tbone,

      Trout beads are by far the safer route to go, however, There are times when the fly tying material eggs will out fish them. We will see. Will try the new rigging technique out on Wednesday with my clients. Thanks for the comment.


  2. I’ll be heading up North at least once this year after Lake Runners and I’ll get U some data on your idea. Can’t believe we aren’t gathering up there this year. My Ya’ma’s will go unheard.

  3. “Fishing egg patterns responsibly” Whooops! When there are so many other ways to catch trout, fishing eggs (especially during pre-spawn and spawn) is a low blow to our fishy friends. If there is a big threat of trout sucking a glo-bug down there throat, then why even risk it? Avoiding spawning trout is the best tactic for both the angler and the present and future longevity of the population.

    Fish barbless hooks. Fish nymphs, dry dropper, streamers. There are so many other tactics to safely catch and release trout safely in tough fishing conditions. Let the Alaska junkies run their bead rigs, but keep them out of our lower 48 streams and rivers!

    • Gigaglo,

      I hear your points clearly and respect them completely. The fall, winter and spring happen to be great times to fish eggs and other bright attractor wet flies. Whether or not you believe it’s ethical or not to fish pre-spawn fish with egg patterns, it’s going to continue to happen in great numbers around the country, because people are going to gravitate towards fly patterns that work better at catching fish certain times of the year. Because of this, I thought it would be helpful to inform anglers about the cautions of fishing eggs, how important it is to set the hook quick to keep them from being swallowed by trout, and finally try to brainstorm and find a way to rig them, that will cut down on this from happening. Pegged trout beads have proven to be a great way to hook trout in safe places in the mouth and why shouldn’t we experiment with fishing glow bugs and other tied versions of egg imitations the same way, if it will work.

      Furthermore, I’ve never looked at pre-spawn fishing to be unethical. It’s not like your sight-fishing to trout on the beds during the spawning process. The only way around this that I can think of, is not fishing at all, and that’s not going to happen for me. I’ll pinch my barbs, land the trout quickly and release them gently as possible.

      Trout beads and eggs are going to continue to be sold and fished no matter what side of the fence you’re standing on. I give credit to my fellow Alaskans for inventing a rig that hooks salmonids safer. There are many days when a egg patterns doesn’t need to leave the box for you to catch fish. But when fishing gets tough, most of us throw that out the window and change flies until we find something that works. Egg patterns are often the saving grace for my clients that stayed up the entire night before tossing and turning, because they were so excited to get the chance to catch their first trout on a fly rod. I won’t be depriving them of this memory, if all it takes is me tying on bright piece of yarn. For the record, the brown trout in the post was taken post spawn.

      Have a great day and thanks for commenting on the post. It’s good to hear other people’s points of view.


  4. I’m wondering if anyone has ever used small circle hooks for trout, and if this could help offset this? I know that some companies do make super small circle hooks, but also know that they work better for some species than they do others. Being more of a warm-water angler, I don’t have a lot of trout experience, so I don’t really know how well they work for trout…

    I’d also assume that big guide companies, such as those in Alaska, have also experimented with this, and if they have come up with a better rig, that’s probably the one they’re using.


    • Dan,

      I’ve got a friend, Michael Cole, that has lived in Alaska his whole life and guided over a decade there. I will reach out to him and see what he has to say. You can’t peg a tied egg though like you can a trout bead that has a hole in it. I will be reporting back after my trip on Wednesday and when I hear back from Michael.


  5. For a guy who has only been fishing with a fly rod for a short amount of time, this is a good read! I now know when I throw an egg pattern to be aware! When in doubt, set the hook!

    • Chester,

      You were a jedi on the water last and you’re quickly mastering the advanced skills that will bring you continued success for the years ahead. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I wish you would have been with me on the water the next day with my client, which ended up giving me the idea for the egg post.

      Hope to fish with you again soon.


  6. What about going to a pegged tube fly? I think a little more time at the vise can reproduce egg patterns that are very accurate and then you have the adjustability of a bead rig. Of course in waters where tubes are allowed.

  7. Kent:

    I am interested to hear about how the “trailer” hook egg works out for you. I think I will have to find another option to try this on some of the water I fish.

    One river in particular, prohibits pegging beads above a hook in the special regulation areas. Those areas are fly fishing only, and the definition of a “fly” exclude the pegged bead.

    I am thinking that if your experiment works, I could tie on an actual trailer hook to the egg hook. Then tie the egg, and then cut off the front hook just below the bend. Doing this would solve the problem of meeting the definition of a “fly” while also working to decrease the potential deep hooking of fish.

    Tight Lines,


    • Michael,

      Tying the trailer hook off the eye of the hook worked. I will admit it was a pain to get the hook positioned (in terms of distance from the egg) exactly where I wanted it.

      I think you’re correct that it would make more since to tie on a trailer hook when you’re tying the egg pattern. Then just snip off the front hook. I will tie some up like this and will be on the water Wednesday. Will let you know.


  8. Kent:
    We have spoken of Jigheads after a earlier article you wrote. Tie the egg pattern on the jighead and rarely will you have the fish swallow the hook

    • Mark,

      Interesting. I’m going to try this for sure. Thank you very much for sharing this. There you go folks, if we all put our two cents in we can figure out solutions to problems on the water.


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