Steelhead Winter Egg Patterns
by Matt Chapple
Egg imitations have proven to be very effective when fishing for winter steelhead in the Great Lakes tributaries. In the winter, steelhead metabolism is slow due to extremely low water temperatures and steelhead will not move far to take a fly.Dead drifting flies along the bottom is the most effective technique used to fish for steelhead in the winter months. Many flies can be lost on the rocks and obstructions that comprise the steam bottom. This has led to the simplification of egg imitations to the point of very minimalistic inexpensive — almost generic — flies.
Eztaz Eggs are one of the best and most in-expensive quick-to-tie patterns:
|Thread:||6/0 to Match Colors.|
When fishing for these majestic lake run fish I have always found hooking and landing one more satisfying when using a fly that exhibits some beauty and grace of its own. The first steelhead I ever hooked was on the Salmon River in the lower fly fishing zone by what was called the "old farts" bench in the run just below the cemetery pool. I hooked the fish on a nicely tied egg sucking leach imitation that was tied by my friend Rich Michels, and it was an incredible experience which I will never forget.
We arrived into Oswego County at about 10:00 am and were greeted by heavy snow squalls and almost 2 feet of accumulated snow. After enjoying a hearty breakfast at the C&S diner we headed up-river to the lower fly-fishing only section. I had heard lots of good things about this section. Most important was that it usually held fish.
We pulled into the parking lot at the south side of the river along route 52. There were five cars and three drift boat trailers. That is where we suited up and we decided to walk upstream.
After a short walk we decided to fish a run of moderately fast water. The water ran down over a riffle and down into a short pool and back eddie. I looked to be about 4 feet deep in the tail where I decided to fish. My friend Tom decided to fish the upper slower section and the back eddie.
I pulled out my box which contained some brand new flies. I had tied some, some where bought at local fly shops and some were tied by my boss and fishing friend at the time. I elected to try a #6 egg sucking leech, black with a red egg. It looked pretty sweet. I tied on the fly and was ready to cast. I had just purchase my steelhead fishing equipment so I was just getting acquainted. I decided to cast at a 3/4 angle upstream. I made two bad casts and did not get a good drift on either. On the third cast I fired a nice cast 40 feet out or so and began to mend line. The current was fast and the fly ended up drifting about 10 feet in front of me in some pretty heavy water and the line stopped. I tightened the line quickly and shouted up to my friend " I got a fish!" I really could not believe it! The fish took off like a rocket across the river as my reel spun like crazy, and I had no idea what to do. The fish had made it almost all the way across the river and then I applied some more drag pressure. That is when the fish jumped and I got a glimpse. My heart was pounding and I began shouting to Tom for help or at least advice). Then the fish jumped again flapping and twisting across the top of the water. Tom had set his gear down and was now coming down to help. The fish stayed stationary in the current for a little spell and I had good pressure and was getting the fish closer. The fish glided slowly upstream for about half a minute and then turned and swam aggressively downstream and made it into the heavy water tail out of the pool and I began to chase the fish on foot. The reel was screaming and I hoped to catch up to the fish but came to an area that I could not pass. I was well into the backing and the fish broke off. I did not get another hit all day.
|Egg Sucking Leach|
||Hook:||Salmon Hook Turned Up Eye #4-#12.|
|Tail:||Black Marabou with a few strands Krystal flash.|
|Body:||Dubbed black hare mask fur with flash blended in.|
|Hackle:||Black webby hackle palmed forward.|
|Head:||Red/orange/pink fine chenille in a small egg shape.|
The pattern I used to hook that first steelhead had a red egg and this still remains the most effective and attractive pattern.
|Double Egg Sperm Fly|
||Hook:||Salmon Hook Turned Up Eye #6|
|Thread:||Fire Red 6/0|
|Body:||Orange Chenille egg/Silver tinsel/Orange chenille egg|
This is the fly I used to hook and actually land a large steelhead for the first time on the Salmon River. It was at the stone pillar just above the 2A bridge. I think the guys I was fishing with thought I was nuts for fishing this stretch as they concentrated on the larger deeper pool at the 2A road bridge. Maybe they were right. I have not hooked a fish there since.
Eztaz Egg Variation
|Eztaz Egg Variation|
||Hook:||Wide gap hook #6|
|Body:||White Eztaz/Orange chenille egg/white Eztaz|
This fly isnít much more elaborate than the Eztaz Egg but it looks pretty cool and I have had success with it in the depth of the winter. I used this fly at the lower Trestle Pool to hook what seemed to be the largest fish I have hooked (thatís what they all say). It was the morning of December 13th after a 2 foot lake-effect snowfall and the walk in was very good exercise to say the least (good thing there is breathable gear). I fished this area for a few hours without seeing another angler. It was a very peaceful day and the fight from the massive fish was one of the best I have experienced as I played my way through various reel screaming runs and acrobatic jumps. The peace was broken for a few minutes, but the fish prevailed as the hook set must not have been too deep and I watched the fly pop out as I had played the fish to within10 feet.
Have Fun Fly-fishing for steelhead! It is a wonderful adventure...