A few have just started staging and are starting to dig their redds. Resident rainbows and steelhead will soon be staged behind them ready to gobble up protein from stray eggs drifting downstream where they wait. It is almost the time for the “Egg Bite” to ramp up. In this and a following article, I will discuss how to get ready for the “Egg Bite”, flies to use, how to rigg them and the techniques to present them.
When the salmon are in the system in seems like the trout and steelhead know it before we do. They just sense the opportunity. When drifting the Lower Yuba I have noticed the trout get on the egg as early as August. There are usually a few “springers” still in the system and the days are starting to get shorter. The fish know its coming.
First a word on Wading Etiquette
For fishermen, fishing the redds creates a dilemma. We’d like to take advantage of the staging of the trout and steelhead, but when fishing with egg patterns, we must stay off the redds. We need to understand that by wading through or on top of the redds we may be destroying the salmon’s future offspring. Look before you wade in. If you see bright clean gravel devoid off larger stones, Stay Out! Fish from the shore and cast below spawning salmon to where the trout and steelhead should be. Some people say it’s OK to wade the ridges of the redds, but I and many of the guides think it’s better not to. It’s too easy to push gravel down on top of the salmon’s eggs or let the current push you down inside the redd itself. Better safe than sorry.
OK, enough of the sermon, I just stepped off the pedestal.
There are basically three main types of eggs patterns (1) Glo Bugs (2) Beads, or (2)Alevin Patterns. The first two are used to imitate the eggs dropped by the salmon and the Alevin is to imitate the hatching fry still attached to the egg, sort of a salmon polliwog. The use of Trout Beads is somewhat controversial, abd has to do with th length that the hook trails behind the egg.
Today in this article, I’m going to focus on “Glo Bugs” and “Pettis” or “Surreal Eggs”.
Glo Bugs or Yarn Eggs
You can tie or purchase Glo Bug patterns in a multitude of colors and sizes. They are tied using egg yarn.
The photo shows a box with every color of the rainbow, This is typical in Alaska, not quite as important here in Northern California. I usually carry about 4 or 5 colors in three sizes. Typically from about 6mm to as 10 mm. I’ll usually start with a 8mm egg. The fish can get selective to a very specific color and its a game of experimentation to find out which color works on any given day. The newer the eggs the darker in color.
Some of the popular colors are champagne, peach, salmon egg, Shrimp pink and Steelhead Orange. They are available at almost every fly shop around. You can get tying instructions easily on the web. They are easy and fun to tie. Here’s a photo showing some examples.
Pettis and Surreal Eggs
My favorite egg pattern is the “Pettis Egg”. The Pettis Egg is tied with “Cascade” Egg Yarn. If you are going to tie this pattern buy the “Cascade” egg yarn, you will be disappointed if you don’t. This pattern is often sold as a “Surreal Egg” which is the same pattern.
I tie the “Pettis Egg in the following colors with Cascade Egg Yarn. Baby Pink, Salmon, Yellow Roe, Champagne, and Flame. You will need to find a dark red or dark orange bead that the yarn is pulled over. These beads are also available from Cascade. The yarn provides sort of a halo around the dark bead. This is what makes it different and special.
Selecting the Right Color and Size
When trying to select the right color and size of egg to use you need to match the eggs of the Salmon in our Northern California Rivers. Salmon enter our rivers and spawn in seasonal waves. A spawning salmon may dig a redd in November, but there may also be drifting salmon eggs that were laid in the gravel weeks before. The trout will have a preference for a certain stage of the egg.
The only way to pick the right egg imitation is by experimentation, although early on the darker shade typically work well. You should carry lots of different eggs and sizes to cover all possible scenarios. Once you find a working solution, you’ll need to stay alert because trout may change their preference during the day or on a different part of the river.
You can present eggs in 4 basic ways. (1) Dead drifting in runs under indicator (2) High sticking eggs at pronounced drop offs (3) Tight lining through the redds behind spawning salmon or (4) High sticking in the redds under indicator.
(1) Dead Drifting in Runs Under Indicator
For fishing in runs, I’ll rigg up with a deep indicator rigg. I’ll tie on a 7 1/2 foot or 9 foot 3x leader and place a large thing-a-ma-bobber about 18 inches down from the end of the flyline. Next, I’ll tie a tippet knot about 6 feet down from the indicator to hold my shot. Finally I’ll extend a 3x tippet to an egg and then trail the egg with a couple of nymphs. This is my basic deep nymphing rigg that I use all the time. The depth is changed by adding or subtracting tippet or raising or lowering the indicator.
Fish it dead drifted from a boat or from a stationary position from shore. The takes when fishing eggs are seldom subtle. This is opportunistic presentation and the fish in the runs often can’t resist an egg dead drifted in the water column.
(2) High Sticking at Pronounced Drop Offs.
For fishing drop offs, you want to rig up with shot and indicator and set your indicator to above 1 1/2 times the depth of the run below the drop off. Use enough shot, more than you think, to get the flies down.
You will first be fishing this rigg on a tight line after making a straight line cast and then transitioning to a deep nymph dead drift presentation and finally holding the line and letting the flies swing up in the current.
Look for areas where there are pronounced drop offs of 3 feet or more. When salmon are in the system and moving up stream they often stop and rest at these drop offs. The resident rainbows and trout will be there with them.
Station yourself just opposite the drop off or slightly down stream from it and cast your flies up above the drop off, the cast wants to be more of a straight line cast. Hold up your rod tip to keep as much line off the water as possible and let the flies drop down into the drop. Don’t mend when the flies land, just let them tumble down. Make sure you have enough shot to get the flies down deep. There can be takes right as they drop. Watch you indicator and the tip of your nymph line for any movement. Set at anything suspicious.
Once the flies drift down to just slightly below where you are positioned throw a big upstream mend or a stack mend and feed line downstream keeping a slight hook in you line, like a small “C” , and work the water below you.
Once you have dead drifted the flies as far down as is stll manageable clamp off the line and let the flies swing up in the current. This often brings on a strike. Fish it out until the flies swing below you. Let them hang and then re-cast.
Use the Borger Shot Gun method and methodically cover the water working from closer to farther out.
(3) Tight Lining Through the Redds
When the salmon are staged on the redds the resident rainbows and steelhead will often be waiting directly behind them waiting for stray eggs. Steelhead are know to actually come up and bump the salmon trying to shake loose some eggs. The key is to focus on the area behind the salmon. If you try to run your flies through a pod of salmon you will snag the salmon which is illegal. It’s hard, but don’t do it.
To rigg for fishing the redds with the tight line method you can shorten up your leader, use less shot and shorten the distance between your flies to about 12 to 14 inches. Often use two eggs of similar or different colors. Use a small thingamabobber or just use a Rio Nymph Line with the orange tip. Adjust the weight so the flies don’t hang up and they just roll them through the redds.
The redds will be a series of rollers with gravel ridges with drops behind them. Position yourself slightly downstream or directly across from the targeted area. Cast to the ridges with a straight line cast, if salmon are not present, and and lead your flies through with your rod tip leading the way. If your indicator or the end of the line moves, set in a downstream direction. If your flies are running into a pod of salmon pick them up and then move downstream and fish behind them. If you do snag a salmon, shake the flies off as fast as you can. The thing is really try not to fishing amongst the salmon.
Back on my soap box. Please don’t wade the ridges of the redds and definitely don’t walk through them. End of lecture.
(4) Fishing the Redds with Indicator and Shot.
The alternate method for fishing the redds is to use a small indicator and light shot with a single or pair of egg patterns. You need to adjust you indicator so the distance from the indicator to the shot is equal to the depth of the deepest part of the redd. Any deeper and you will just hang up.
The technique is very similar to fishing the drop offs, the redds are basically a series of small drop offs. High stick the flies through the redds with a minimum of line on the water. Pick up if the rigg hangs up and re-cast.
This method works best on longer salmon redds with less ridges.
Be careful when fishing and wading around redds. The “Egg Bite” can provide some of the most fun and fast fishing the year.
Surreal Eggs from Iydlwilde
Here’s some photo of “Surreal Eggs” that are available from Idywilde Flies:
Surreal Egg – Shrimp Pink
Surreal Egg – Steelhead Orange
Surreal Egg – Salmon Egg
Surreal Egg – Peachy King
Surreal Egg – Pink Lady