Baits, Lures & Flies photo

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›


Photographs by Travis Rothbone

If you grew up chasing stocked trout like I did, you’ve probably drifted your share of salmon eggs. I always swore by the pink, shrimp-scented variety; my high school buddy used only the cheese. For decades, I thought of eggs as strictly a springtime bait. It wasn’t until years later, after having chased steelhead, trout, and salmon across the country, that I realized roe—natural or artificial—is actually one of the most potent year-round salmonid baits you can cast. And you can tweak these classic morsels to make them more effective than ever. The following five tips, gleaned from pros across the U.S. and through my own trial and error, will get your egg game sizzling.



 Connecticut trout angler Matt Wettish has earned a reputation as an ultralight-​tackle baitfishing master via his YouTube channel. His specialty is drifting mealworms on 2-pound-test for giant trout, but he’s also drifted his share of salmon eggs. One of the big gripes about these baits is that they don’t stay on the hook, but according to Wettish, a simple rig tweak will not only hold eggs fast but also help you stick more trophy trout.

“I rig eggs on a size 12 scud hook, rather than a traditional egg hook,” Wettish says. “These fly hooks are made of a very light, thin wire that doesn’t rip eggs up as quickly, and their deeper gut helps the bait stay in place.”

They’re also perfect, he says, for drifting a single egg weightless in shallow water. Because scud hooks are light, they help achieve a more natu­ral presentation.

Fresh Eggs

Ever stick a jar of eggs in your vest and then open it months later to find a goopy, discolored mess? According to Atlas-Mike’s bait company owner Tom Vander Mause, a jar of eggs should easily last two seasons if you care for it properly. Unlike other baits that harden over time, salmon eggs get softer, making it more difficult to keep them on the hook. The solution? Vander Mause recommends storing the jar upside down. That way, the oil in the jar creates an airtight barrier behind the lid, keeping egg-ruining oxygen out. —J.C.



▶ The first time I ever went to Alaska, I was completely unfamiliar with drifting egg beads for rainbow trout. Likewise, I was unaware that World Wide Angler in Anchorage sold beads in hundreds and hundreds of colors. I rolled into Dodge with a starter kit purchased online prior to the trip. Keith Graham at the shop took one look at my un­naturally bright orange, pink, and red beads and laughed.

“These are not the real deal up here,” he told me. “But you can still use them. Go find a bottle of Maybelline nail polish in Blushing Bride and give these beads a coating.”

I hunted down the hue and gave half my stash a single coat as instructed. The polish dulled the vibrant colors and added milky, opaque streaks to the beads. Over the course of the week, just for fun,we fished factory beads against those in Blushing Bride. It wasn’t even close; the polished ones hooked more rainbows and ­Dollys in every river we hit—and bigger ones, to boot.


 Even stocked and holdover trout that don’t share a river with migrating salmon recognize eggs as a protein-rich food source. Some of that association comes from instinct, and some from the fact that trout eat sucker eggs and even those of other trout. In winter, when streams are running extra clear, a salmon-egg fly can be lethal. But after years of drifting them in icy flows, I’ve found them even more useful as a strike indicator that doubles as a meal, especially in pocket water. Rather than using a foam indicator, I rig a bright egg fly ahead of a red worm or tiny black stonefly. The egg hits with minimal splash and sinks very slowly. High-sticking in the clear current, I can keep track of it through the entire drift. If the egg ticks, set. If it disappears, set.



▶ The Egg-sucking leech is a deadly streamer fly pattern for everything from steelhead to king salmon to cutthroats, but if flyfishing isn’t your game, you can make a killer egg sucker for spinning gear. Take a dollop of natural-scented eggs out of the jar, rinse off the oil, sprinkle on a little salt just to toughen them up a bit, and put them in a zip-seal bag. On the water, thread a single egg onto a small black or unpainted jighead, then thread on the back half of a black or purple curly-tailed grub. You get the same color contrast as an egg-sucking leech fly with some potent scent. The combo has jigged some hefty browns out of deep holes for me on tough fall days when in-line spinners and stickbaits didn’t even get a sniff.

The Power of Pink

Atlas-Mike’s carries more than 50 varieties of eggs, ranging in size, texture, and color, including UV eggs. Still, according to Vander Mause, classic pink, shrimp-scented eggs remain the No. 1 seller and have held that spot since the 1930s.

With this nugget of info in mind, it’s wise to have pink eggs, beads, or flies on hand as you fish an unfamiliar piece of water. While many rivers have certain egg shades that produce better—such as blue on New York’s Salmon River—figuring out the hot hues can take time (or require a tip-off from the locals). Until you’re dialed in, it’s a safe bet that pink will draw some strikes and help you figure out where fish are holding.—J.C.


▶Capt. Ted Kessler, who guides for salmon and steelhead on New York’s Niagara River, says the majority of anglers wet-cure their eggs, bag them in a single color of mesh, and never mix it up. “That’s a mistake,” he says. The more curing recipes and bagging methods in your repertoire, the more salmon and steelhead you’ll hook.

“Wet-curing makes for a bigger, plumper egg,” he says, “but when fished they milk out and lose their color fast. In stained water, that’s O.K. because you want a lot of scent release. In clear water, you want smaller, darker eggs that hold their color, and here, dry-cured eggs tend to produce better.”

As for bag hue, ­Kessler ties his eggs in dark-­colored mesh for fishing in clear water, and light-­colored mesh for hunting steel in stained to dirty flows.