Sucker Spawn

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Flies With a Story #67

The Flytier: Bob Erickson of Huntington, VT

Bob works for the Defense Department and lives in Vermont with his wife and son and a chocolate lab named Baxter. Bob finds plenty of time for fishing and exploring, especially near his camp in Rangeley, Maine, where there is great trout and salmon fishing.

Be sure to see Bob's other stories:
Streamers for Labrador
The Maine Event

Deer Hair Mouse


Brook Trout (and Salmon) Love Eggs

It had been a slow start to the season, cold and wet. I had spent a lot of time shivering thigh deep in water hovering in the low 40ís. It was past mid May and I hadnít touched a trout or a salmon yet. My friend Bruce had come over to the camp at Rangeley, Maine to fish for three days.

Late in the afternoon we headed to a long, deep pool that had been very good to me early in previous seasons. On my second drift with a green caddis larva pattern I hooked up with something real heavy that wasnít the bottom. Alright, finally into a fish and a very big one at that! When I got it close enough for a look, the disappointment was almost too much to take: a sucker of over 20Ē. Not five minutes later, Bruce repeated the performance.

Then the light bulb went off. Suckers are spring spawners. Brook trout eat sucker spawn (or so I had heard). Not too seriously, I had fooled around with three different egg patterns over the winter. In my mind I had always associated fishing spawn with Alaska rather than Maine. I switched my small go-to green caddis larva for one of the eggs. Before dark I had hooked and landed four big, fat brookies, Bruce two. On the drive back to camp we were so psyched. Maybe we were onto something?

The next two days proved nothing short of phenomenal. One morning turned into by far the best day of fishing either one of us had ever experienced. We quit at 11:30, not because the fishing had slowed, but because it had been just so good it seemed time to give it a rest. We had landed thirty two fish, half a dozen or more had broken us off. Six were salmon between 18 and 20 inches, the rest brook trout, none of which were less than 16 inches. A few of the trout were pushing 20 inches and four pounds. The takes were not the subtle takes often associated with nymphing.  Sometimes the indicator actually jumped a foot upstream!  With these strong, big shouldered fish that could rip off line with ease, smooth drags were a must. We fished areas where the suckers were so thick that you hooked three or four of them to every trout or salmon. Several of the trout disgorged real eggs upon release, which gave us a good look at the color, predominately creamy with a tinge of yellow and/or pink. The half a dozen of each pattern I had tied lasted just long enough to get us through the weekend. All I tied for the following week were eggs. Though the fishing didnít continue at that pace, the eggs worked like a charm over the next two and a half to three weeks. I gained a whole new respect for a species I had previously thought of trash, suckers. No longer would I be tempted to turn them into bank feeders!

- Bob Erickson


Selected Sucker Spawn Samples:

 Photos by Peter Frailey

Each Recipe Uses the Following:

Hook: TMC #2487, size 16
Thread: Uni-Thread, size 8/0
Bead: Glass pearl (pictures 1, 2, and 5)
Body: Sparkle dubbing, polar bear color
Overbody: Sparkle yarn (pictures 1-4)


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