There is no other fly in my box that requires such a singular presentation to sell it to a trout. They want the drift of an egg just right. Dead drifts that are deader than dead, I like to say, because eggs don’t swim — they hug the bottom and bumble along, sliding and rolling over the riverbed, either touching rocks or coasting through the lowest depths of the strike zone — the last inch of cushion above the rocks. Find that skinny layer, and you’ll fool trout on an egg.
That’s what works — deader than dead, rolling your egg. And if you nail it, you then have the skills to drift any nymph the same way, all year long. That low roll is a great look for a nymph. It’s a good baseline from which to deviate. And on the egg it’s a necessity. Sure, you’ll catch the outlier during a good bite, when trout move a little further and expand their horizons. I’ve even had days when trout were eating eggs on the drop. But these are rare times — and those fish are an unexpected reward for putting in your time and learning to roll your eggs.
A couple years ago, I published an article with many tips for fishing egg patterns in the winter months. You can find that here . . .
In that text, I touched on the necessity for a very particular presentation. Now, here’s a more thorough breakdown of just the right look to fool trout on one of the simplest and best flies around.
What’s the Roll?
Imagine what an egg looks like down there. If you’re lucky, you’ve seen this a few times.
I’ve watched the eggs of a sucker drop from a spawning hen and then drift downstream about ten feet before I lost sight of the small clusters. I’ve witnessed this at least a half dozen times, and I’m always struck by the same thing — eggs drift s-l-o-w-l-y. They roll over the rocks with a neutral buoyancy of sorts, ready to rest and settle on the rocks, but easily transported by whatever currents pick them up.
Trout have seen this a hell of a lot more than I have, and trout know what they’re looking for. An egg isn’t going anywhere. It’s either traveling with that bottom-most current or it’s dropping to the next rock.
Deader than dead, right? Any movement to a dead drifted egg fly looks wholly unnatural, and it will be rejected by all trout with a measure of self respect. Our drifts on an egg need to match what the trout sees. Remember, there’s just one presentation of an egg, because it does only one thing — it rolls slowly and hugs the bottom.
How to Roll
So does this mean we should scrape and crawl an egg pattern along the riverbed? Not at all. But I will say, you’ll get more takes with that kind of presentation than you will with an egg drifting twenty inches off the bottom.
For me, the target zone for an egg is extremely narrow. It’s that last few inches of water before the riverbed, and it’s the rocks themselves. Because that’s where the real eggs are, and that’s what trout expect.
For nymphing with egg flies, I prefer a tight line presentation over an indicator setup. I do fish eggs with a tight line to the indicator rig a fair amount, but I much prefer the full-drift control of a pure tight line. Once I find the riverbed, I can paint the bottom with the fly — or more to the point, paint that last inch of water that glides over the rocks.
This is a hard task, because the riverbed is imperfect. Most trout rivers are full of rocks that get in your way. Just when you establish a beautiful bottom roll, here comes the next unseen chunk of bedrock to break it up. That’s alright. Deal with it. Do everything you can to see through the water and read the rocks below. Learn what surface swirls and slicks signal about unseen structure. Choose fishing angles that allow you to see into the water. Always wear polarized lenses, even on darker days, because every bit of glare that is blocked helps us read where and how to drift our nymphs.
Find the bottom and keep the egg traveling downstream. That’s the game. I talk a lot about reading the speed of the sighter (or the indy) to find the strike zone, but just being somewhere in the strike zone isn’t good enough with an egg. Most often, it has to be lower.
Because my target zone is so low with an egg, I touch the bottom more than with any other style of nymph. But that becomes a problem itself, because too much bottom contact comes with a host of issues. Aside from sticking a hook in the next rock or running into watery wood down low, the materials that we use for building egg flies gather salad. For both of these reasons, I choose unweighted eggs and fish them with split shot or drop shot. In truth, I’m a firm believer that the presentation of the egg improves dramatically by keeping weight out of the egg and using shot to get the fly down. Keeping the split shot about five inches up allows the egg a little freedom for the currents to make the decisions instead of the angler. And by putting ourselves slightly out of touch with the egg, more hits come. It also keeps the fly from hanging on the bottom or gathering greenery as often.
Split shot five inches above the nymph is still my favorite way to roll the bottom with eggs. But in the last few years, I’ve turned to drop shot when I want the slowest rides and the most bottom contact. With the drop shot touching and rolling the bottom, I can suspend the egg in that bottom two inches of the strike zone, right where I want it.
This kind of ride on a drop shot takes exceptional focus. The shot should never (or very rarely) rest. It should not pause and go but just tick and slide down one seam. Great drop shot technique takes time to master. Do not become complacent — never be satisfied just because you got the drop shot down. Anyone can do that. Be stubborn about simulating that natural egg roll, and your discipline will pay off.
Fear No Snag
Eggs are a quick tie at the vise and a cheap buy in the fly shop. So go lose a few.
Playing it safe will have you cautiously trying to keep your egg pattern from sticking and hanging up. And you might get really good at bringing that little morsel through the strike zone, without touching and snagging up at all. But you won’t catch trout.
So if you get to the upper end of a good run, if you look back to what should have been a productive section and you’re wondering why you couldn’t catch a trout, ask yourself how many times you snagged up. It probably wasn’t enough.
Successfully fishing egg flies requires full commitment to rolling your eggs.
Fish hard, friends.
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Enjoy the day.
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