Troutbitten Fly Box — The Sucker Spawn

by | Jan 9, 2019 | 33 comments

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.

Hook, yarn and thread. Easy like Sunday morning.

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.

READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing in the Winter (Series)

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.

 

** Note ** The links to products below are affiliate links. Meaning, at no additional cost to you, Troutbitten will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So, thank you for your support.

Hook

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.

 

Buy Daiichi 1120 Hooks Here

No Weight

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 movements 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 . . .

READ: Troutbitten | Fly Fishing in the Winter — The Go-To Nymphing Rig

Thread

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.

Buy Uni-Thread Here

Yarn

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.

Buy Caron Simply Soft Yarn Here

 

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.

Buy Caron One Pound Here

 

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.

Buy Red Heart Super Saver Here

 

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.

Good enough to eat.

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 few 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 sometimes.

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 as well.

But whatever colors you choose, the simple platform of hook, yarn and thread is absolutely killer.

Fish hard, friends.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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33 Comments

  1. Thank you, Dom. This is an excellent post about an excellent fly.

    Alex

    Reply
  2. Very nice pattern and article, Thanks

    Reply
  3. Great tutorial, and as an added bonus, it sounds like Townes Van Zandt made a song about fly tying. Thanks again for a great site.

    Reply
  4. Dom,
    Very nice video and a simple pattern. Do you use the same color thread on the pink pattern for rainbows? And do you use the Caron Simply Soft soft yarn in soft pink ? Thanks!
    Alton

    Reply
    • Hi Alton. Your choice of pink, really. But yes, the soft pink or strawberry is the color I use. With pink patterns, I most often use red thread.

      Cheers.

      Reply
  5. Hi,where can I purchase the sexy Walt’s Worm and the bread and butter

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      Right now, I’m not sure. But I’m working on a Troutbitten Shop, and there will be a flies section there.

      Thanks.

      Reply
  6. Lovin’ your site and timely tips. Used yellow spawn on extremely high Nantahala yesterday. Fishing buddy and I still caught fish. Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Dom,
    Tied up and fished these exactly as you described (i.e. materials and unweighted w/ shot) and absolutely crushed today on beautiful snowy PA day. Just took nearly every other egg out of the box;)

    Love the site – keep on!

    Alex

    Reply
  8. For larger steelhead flies sucker spawn, would you still split the yarn?

    Reply
    • Good question, Forrest. No, if I want a larger fly, I simply use longer loops and more rows of them.

      Good luck on those steelhead.

      Reply
      • Thanks for clarifying. Looking forward to trying them.

        Reply
  9. Great article, Domenick. This is much cheaper than other materials to make sucker spawn flies. Do you think it’s just as effective? Love looking at your articles and I’m learning a lot…

    Thx.

    Reply
    • Oh definitely. I believe this yarn is more effective, or I wouldn’t use it.

      Reply
  10. I just made a dozen of these – 4 of each color (soft pink, off white, and sunshine) using the Caron Simply Soft. Don’t know if I’ll be able to get out before opening season. I doubt fish on the Letort, Big Spring, or Mountain Creek will take these. Perhaps hatchery fish will take them 🙂 I will say though, mine don’t look as good and uniform as yours. They look more bunched up and less symmetrical. Thanks for the video. I did these enough tonight to remember how they’re done.

    Reply
    • I respectfully disagree that trout in those streams won’t take the sucker spawn. Eggs are not just a stocked trout fly. My central PA waters have some wild trout that are just as picky as the the ones in the rivers you named. I’ve fished down that way a good bit too. Wild trout eat eggs. Importantly, the sucker spawn for wild trout in all but the dirtiest water should not be very large. Half inch, maybe, if you think the trout are picky. Show it to those educated Big Spring trout on a good dead drift. They’ll eat it.

      Dom

      Reply
      • I’ll give it a try..thx

        Reply
  11. I love the look of that Sucker Spawn pattern.I managed to buy some Caron Simply Soft yarn in the UK.Going to give it a try for grayling in the winter.I fish a yellow shrimp in the winter.Think they often take it as an egg.We don’t have suckers over here.But i am sure grayling will take it as a Salmon or Trout egg.I will try the 2 rigs mentioned. Do any of you guy’s fish the sucker spawn on a drop shot rig.Cheers all

    Reply
    • Hi Robert,

      Yes, I’m sure they’ll fool your trout too.

      I occasionally fish egg patterns on a drop shot rig. But it’s not my preference. Have you done it much?

      Dom

      Reply
      • I have fished drop shot lots over here.I tend to fish beadhead nymphs spring & summer.Often drop shot in winter.I do find i get more tangles with drop shot rigs though.The sunshine & the soft pink should work well for grayling.Grayling are known for liking pink colours.We don’t really fish egg patterns over here much.Some people trot with sweetcorn for grayling.It’s thought grayling thing the corn are fish eggs.Cheers

        Reply
  12. Hey Dom:
    George Daniel just posted a video visit about the one fly he would use during the winter. It was an egg pattern but he used a material called Eggstasy as well as a bead. I’m wondering if you have worked with that material and what you think? Cheers.

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,

      Yup. Everyone will have their own preference. I’ve used the eggstacy stuff, but I still very much prefer the yarn and loops. I think it’s just better. Remember, as mentioned above, I also use an orange Nuke egg with a yellow veil.

      Also, I’ve fished eggs with beads a lot. I still do, just to test. And I simply do better with unweighted eggs. It’s no question, to me. I’ve talked about why a good bit in the article linked to above. The link is there in the text above. Split Shot vs Weighed Flies is another.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  13. Im curious would fish small unweighted midge nymph patterns the same way to get them down in the strike zone or would you use and indicator with a split shot?

    Reply
  14. Yes makes perfect sense I’ve cought so many trout on your winter egg rig it’s unbelievable only I don’t seem to get hits on my accompanying nymph am I doing something wrong. I seem only to catch trout ..on an egg which isn’t a bad thing but if there not hitting an egg I’ve been getting skunked. I’m afraid of becoming a 1trick pony. Thanks for all that u do. Pete

    Reply
    • Hello Pete,

      Glad to know that it’s working for you. I assume that you are using what I called the go-to nymphing rig for winter. That’s what I use most often. But yes, by all means, if they aren’t hitting that upper nymph, then try what I call the secondary nymphing rig for winter. Find that here:

      https://troutbitten.com/2019/02/18/fly-fishing-in-the-winter-the-go-to-nymphing-rig-2/

      And if they are eating the egg a lot, don’t even bother with a second fly. I do that a lot. One fly — lots of success.

      Make sense?

      Dom

      Reply
  15. Yes thanks for reply!

    Reply
  16. Thank you Dominick for your blog
    Tied of bunch of those for the local trout (New Jersey) Any advise on material in chartreuse color? (steelheading) Thx

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      I would just look for Chartreuse in any of the yarns listed.

      Dom

      Reply

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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