In my quest for steelhead knowledge, I have found some interesting patterns, from complex streamers to simple nymphs. Stocking the fly box has been both rewarding and exciting as my arsenal takes shape for my trip to the shores of Lake Superior this spring.
The most enjoyable box to compile has been the one containing various egg flies. This is due, in part, to the simplicity of the egg patterns and their bright hues of pink, orange and yellow. What follows are three of my favorite egg flies, learned this off-season, which are simple, fun and proven patterns for the North Shore, which I have been told no angler should be without.
Thread: 3/0 or 6/0 to match pattern, or white
Hook: Curved hook such as a Scud or Egg Hook size 10-14, 2X strong
Body: McFly Foam to match the spawn, from pink to peach to chartreuse
Of all the patterns, this one has been the most engaging. How a simple material turns from a stringy mess into a perfect pom-pom is beyond me, but it sure produces some great looking egg flies. McFly Foam is inexpensive and is available in multi-color packs for under five dollars, meaning you can tie dozens of eggs in a variety of colors for what you would pay for five of them from a catalog!
Anchor your thread on the hook shank and build a small base. Select a length of McFly Foam, and separate it into halves or thirds and surround the hook shank with it. Secure the material to the hook with a wrap over it, clinching tight on the pull down, and on the way back up. Make another wrap exactly on top of the first wrap, and then a third wrap on top of that one.
Lift the foam out of the way and advance the thread toward the bend of the hook making two tight wraps under the material, as close to the tie-in point as possible. Then move the thread back in front of the material and make two or three wraps. Whip finish and tie off.
With your thumb and forefinger, grasp the McFly Foam and pull up, making sure all of the material is pulled up from the shank. Keep tension on the material while taking your scissors in your other hand. Trim the McFly Foam while still applying pressure. If you cut high, the egg will be big, if you cut near the hook shank, it will be smaller in diameter. Many Glo Bugs use a 90/10 color mix, with the lesser color acting as a yolk or blood spot to add some realism.
Thread: 6/0 color to match body
Hook: Nymph or curved nymph hook, size 10-14, 2X strong
Body: Medium Estaz in pink, orange and chartreuse
Tail: 10-15 strands of Krystal Flash.
Weight: 6 wraps of lead wire
This simple pattern looks like a shooting star and adds some sparkle to the standard egg presentation. Start by wrapping the lead wire in the center of the hook. Then secure the lead with your thread. Advance the thread to one hook-eye length behind the lead wraps. Here you can tie in a Krystal Flash tail, about one hook-shank in length. Next, tie down a three-inch length of Estaz material at the back end of the lead wraps and advance your thread to the front of the lead wraps.
Cover the lead wraps with the Estaz material, forming a round profile by wrapping back over the center a couple times. Once the egg reaches a round proportion, tie off the Estaz near the front of the hook, whip finish and trim. Add a small bit of head cement. The weight will get the fly down in the column, and the flash should trigger strikes in all egg-seeking fish.
Thread: Red 6/0
Hook: Scud hook, size 10-14, 2X strong
Body: Medium pink chenille
Weight: 6 wraps of lead wire
Named for the renowned Alaskan lake that is as famous for its trout and salmon fishery as it is for the monster that is believed to live beneath its surface; the Iliamna Pinky is a simple egg pattern that has been proven on big steelhead in Lake Superior. While it may not necessarily look like an egg, it is hard to deny this fly a spot in any egg box.
Start by securing the six lead wraps to the shank with your thread. When you reach the back of the lead wraps, tie in a three-inch strand of pink chenille. Vary the colors to cover the whole spectrum, but pink is a must-have.
Wrap the chenille forward with an edge-to-edge palmering that covers the lead wraps entirely. Make one final turn of the chenille in front of the lead wraps, and secure it. Trim the chenille and tie a small thread head in front of the body. Whip finish and cement, and you are done!
These flies are fast, fun and fill the box quickly! From the words of one adviser, if you don't have at least five-dozen eggs in your North Shore box in a variety of colors, you're probably under-stocked. The patterns work on more than just steelhead too. Try them out in the spring on your favorite trout pond, when ice has just lifted, or in the fall on spawning-run browns. Make it an egg-cellent season this year...in our outdoors.