Yarn Ball Fishing Tips for Steelhead

Yarn egg

Okay, now that steelhead are showing up in rivers up and down the coast, it’s time to bust out the yarn eggs. Not only are yarn eggs (we’re talking Glo Bugs and similarly styled flies here) deadly effective, but they’re also extremely versatile, easy to use, simple to tie and inexpensive.

The right look

I first started using yarn eggs on the American River in Northern California back in the late 1970’s and have been a big fan ever since. They work exceptionally well when you’re targeting steelhead that are feeding on salmon spawn, but yarn eggs work even when spawning salmon aren’t present.

I think one of the keys to their effectiveness is the way yarn eggs drift. Unlike the plastic and glass beads that are so popular with steelhead and trout anglers these days, yarn eggs have an almost neutrally buoyant quality to them which allows them to drift with the current in a much more natural fashion. In the water, they also look a bit translucent which adds to their realistic appearance.

Tasty, too

Another appealing attribute of yarn eggs is the fact that they’re soft. When a steelhead chomps down on one, it takes it a little longer for the fish to realize that the egg is counterfeit – and that affords you a valuable extra second or two to set the hook.

The sponge-like qualities of a yarn egg are also very handy when you want to add a little scent to your offering. I’ll typically liberally apply Pautzke’s Nectar or Pro Cure salmon egg oil to my flies to make them that much more appealing to the fish.

Glo Bugs and the countless knock-off patterns are also great to use when there are lots of smolts and small trout in the river. Using roe when the little guys are around will drive you absolutely crazy and you’ll spend more time re-baiting than fishing — a problem you won’t have with yarn eggs.


Here’s the real beauty of the yarn tie – you can fish them several ways. From shore, you can drift them just as you would roe or nightcrawlers. Rig up with a Slinky-style sinker, 36 to 48 inches of 8-pound fluorocarbon leader and a yarn egg at the end and simply bounce the bottom. You can also side-drift with the same setup out of a drift boat. They also fish well under float on spinning tackle, or, if you prefer fly fishing, run a dry line, an indicator and yarn egg at the end of the tippet. Above the fly, add just enough splitshot to keep the offering down near the bottom. The key here is to get a drag-free presentation.


Tying yarn eggs

You don’t have to be an expert fly tier to make up batch of eggs. All you need is a vice, head cement and extremely sharp scissors and then some Glo Bug yarn, hooks (the size depends on the egg you want to tie) and thread. When you get the hang of it, each egg will take you under a minute.

For detailed tying instructions, check out this link: www.globugs.com.

As far as colors go, the sky’s the limit. Some guys go a little off the deep end with this but I try to keep it simple and keep only a few different shades of pink, peach, orange and yellow. With those, I can match most situations. If you’ll be fishing in off-colored water, however, I’d add some chartreuse eggs as well as some multi-colored ones to your collection.

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