You can get a trout’s attention with a host of different patterns. Bright beads, flashy materials, wiggly legs and sheer size all stand out in the drift, and trout take notice. But interest and curiosity do not necessarily lead trout into the net. In fact, many of the attention getting materials we attach to a hook simply turn trout off, giving them a reason not to eat the fly.
On the other hand, while drab and flat patterns have their moments, it often takes a little sparkle, a little color, flash or wiggle, to turn trout on. The trick then, is finding the right elements to seal the deal — a simple combination of materials that is just enough to convince a trout, but not too much either. Enter: the Sucker Spawn.
The simple Sucker Spawn has been my go-to egg fly since I started nymphing. The guys at Fly Fisher’s Paradise introduced me to its effectiveness sometime in the late nineties, and I promptly added it to my lineup. It’s my number one winter fly, and I use it as a change up pattern throughout every other season. Trout of all sizes eat eggs, but a non-escaping protein package is exactly what larger trout are looking for. I’ve caught a lot of big fish on a Sucker Spawn.
Hook, yarn and thread is so stupid-simple that most fly tyers want to add materials to the shank to spruce it up. And while you may think the fly needs more, it doesn’t — not for trout, and not in my favorite streams. Sparkle braids, Krystal flash, and other additions to the fly proliferate in magazines and fly shops (and they have their moments). But for wild trout in these wild rivers, nothing beats yarn on a hook. But it’s not just any yarn. Let’s get to that . . .
The Sucker Spawn Recipe
Hook: Daiichi 1120 (or similar scud hook) #12, #14, #16
Thread: Uni-Thread 8/0 Fire Orange
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft — Sunshine, Soft Pink or Robin’s Egg | Caron One Pound — Sunflower, Peach or Cream | Red Heart Super Saver — Pale Yellow, Lemon or Saffron
Be sure to select 1080p for high resolution in the video settings below.
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A 1X or 2X-strong scud hook is my choice for egg patterns. Scud hooks have a wide gap and short length too. Combine all of that, and you have an excellent hook for big trout. In the last few years, the Daiichi 1120 has become one of my favorites.
I tie Sucker Spawns in a narrow range of sizes. The 12’s are about twice as large as the 16’s, the way I tie them. And I use the 14’s most often. I don’t find trout to be all that picky about egg size, but I do tend to use smaller Sucker Spawns in low clear water and larger eggs in dirty water.
I strongly believe that an egg fishes better without built in weight — no bead, no lead wraps. And here’s my theory about why . . .
Eggs have no ability to move. They can’t swim like a mayfly or caddis. So their flow in the current is much more predictable to a trout than are the movement of a stonefly in the same current. Trout need a really good looking dead drift on an egg to buy in. Eggs are also fairly neutrally buoyant. Sure, they sink, but not like a tungsten bead. And an unweighted fly with split shot (fished well), has a soft glide to it. Unweighted eggs work with the currents and simply drift more like the real thing. An unweighted egg just catches more trout.
More thoughts on that, and details about my favorite egg rig (with an illustration) are in this previous article . . .
For many years, I matched the thread color to the yarn. But when my yellow spool ran out at the vise one night, I reached for orange on a whim. I’d seen other egg patterns incorporating a nucleus effect, and it just made sense. The trout agreed, and I never looked back.
Years later, I landed on an Orange Nuke Egg as a very effective alternative to a Sucker Spawn. And at times, the super-orange circle just caught more fish than the yellow of my favorite Sucker Spawn. So I changed the standard orange thread in my Sucker Spawns to a bright orange thread that matched the color of the deadly Nuke Egg. Again, the trout agreed, and I never looked back.
When wet, the Fire Orange Uni-Thread seems to glow through the yellow yarn, lending a very realistic nucleus effect.
The right yarn is what makes the Sucker Spawn effective. Natural eggs have a shine and a translucence to them, so I prefer yarn that emulates that look, and acrylic fibers give this effect. Other yarns, like angora or cotton, do not. Also, poly yarns are too stiff, while acrylic has the right texture and durability.
The weave of the acrylic is important too. Good Sucker Spawn yarn has small fibers that separate a little from the main strand. Enough of these cause a halo effect and add to the translucence of the fly. The right acrylic yarn has a bit of shimmer when turned in the light.
So what about colors? These days I carry only one color of Sucker Spawn in my main fly box (the yellow yarn with orange thread featured here). I have some other colors in secondary box with colors that have also been hot for me over the years, but I rarely fish them.
Yellow with orange thread fools most wild brown trout, but I don’t expect you to believe me about that. I wouldn’t either. And tying up simple flies like these in a variety of colors for experimenting is half the fun.
— Here’s are the yarns I like best —
Caron Simply Soft — Sunshine, Soft Pink or Robin’s Egg. This yarn is a touch thinner than the others, softer and a little more delicate to work with. It ties wonderful looking eggs.
Caron One Pound — Sunflower, Peach or Cream. “One Pound” is both the name of the yarn, and the measurement of the skein. Do you need a full pound of Sucker Spawn yarn? I don’t know. How often do you fish?
Caron One Pound is slightly more coarse than Caron Simply Soft, and it comes in different colors.
Red Heart Super Saver — Pale Yellow, Lemon or Saffron. You can see my preference here for yellows. But I certainly encourage you to see what works for your trout. This yarn is a touch stiffer and thicker then either of the Caron yarns. And it holds its weave a little stronger.
All of these yarns give off that characteristic shimmer and break-up of good acrylics.
I’ve used a lot of different yarns and colors for Sucker Spawn. But if I have to pick just one, it’s the Caron Super Soft in Sunshine. That’s what’s in my fly box.
These yarns come in four strands. Cut off about seven or eight inches to work with, and then separate the four strands into two — that’s two pieces of two strands each (as seen in the video above).
I’ve learned a few different ways to make the loops of the Sucker Spawn, but the method I use in the video is the quickest, and it looks the best to my eyes.
Be sure to lock in the “tail” with a couple thread wraps on the shank behind it. Otherwise the yarn may slide down the hook after landing a fish or two.
Tied this way, the sucker spawn is a very durable fly that holds up to a whole bunch of abuse from hungry trout.
What about . . .
. . . Yeah, I know. You probably like neon eggs, white eggs, hot pink, chartreuse, purple, etc. Maybe you like antron, glow bug yarn, or even plastic beads.
Of course, everything works.
I went through a long period of experimentation. And for the wild brown trout in my favorite waters, I eventually narrowed it all down to the yellow Sucker Spawn and an Orange Nuke Egg. Rainbow trout sometimes take a pink egg better than anything else. And if you’re nymphing for steelhead, it might pay to carry Sucker Spawns in a few other colors too.
But whatever colors you choose, the simple platform of hook, yarn and thread is absolutely killer.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N