Tying Anchor Egg Flies: The Cross-Eyed Egg and its Close Cousin, the Four-Eyes Egg


Apr 29, 2021
Colorado and Montana
v4 natural eggs vs  CEE .jpg
cropped natural eyed eggs vs 4 eyes.jpg

Left picture: Side by side comparison of the natural eyed eggs and the cross-eyed egg pattern. Right Picture: Side by side comparison of the natural eyed eggs and the four-eyes egg pattern.

The common availability of eyed eggs for fish food is a compelling reason to tie and fish realistic looking eyed-egg patterns like the Cross-Eyed Egg and the Four-Eyes Egg. Also, for their size these flies can be heavily weighted, yet keep a realistic size and look, making them candidates for an anchor fly on the point of a two-fly nymph rig. The idea for the flies came about because published field observations show that trout, regardless of species, tend to use and reuse the same area of the stream to make redds. In this process, the eyed eggs of late fall to winter spawners are dug up by early spring spawners. In turn, eyed eggs from early spring spawners are dug up by late spring spawners. A wildcard is possible presence of the sequential Summer through Fall spawning of various salmon species, again leading to eyed eggs from early salmon spawners being dug up by later salmon spawners. Finally, the possibility of off-season spawning of feral hatchery trout can also be in play. Adding to the spawning events are the times that eyed eggs are released into the drift by run-off or storm-induced rising water levels that can scour the redds. This analysis indicates that eyed eggs are potentially present and available in the drift, off and on, for up to 6 months of the year.

Fishing the Cross-Eyed Egg: Because the eyed egg is dug up by spawning trout, who are also laying fresh eggs, I fish the Cross-Eyed Egg as the point/anchor fly in a two or three fly nymph rig. For the dropper(s) I use a pattern representing a live-egg such as a Moe egg or a bead. Because digging up redds also releases dead eggs, as well as fungus-colonized or moldy eggs from previous spawning activity, I also will try an opaque pale-colored pink or yellow-orange Glo-bug representing dead eggs. For moldy eggs -- a nuclear egg or chartreuse-colored Glo-bug or chartreuse bead. I may add a veil to these patterns because in nature moldy eggs often have a veiled look.

Getting the fly down to near the bottom of the stream where the fish are usually holding is also important for success. These weighted egg patterns are an effective way to get that done and keep contact with the flies on a Euro-nymphing rig.

Before fishing, I try to determine the effective color of the local eggs present in the river at that time by asking local fisherman, screening the drift or reading guidebooks. Egg color can also be determined empirically by changing the egg color until an effective color or color combination is found.

A video that documents the availability of eyed eggs as fish food, reviews the size and color of natural eggs used to set the design of these flies as well as how to tie eyed egg patterns is posted at youtu.be/Bj48hBp59LE

Cross-Eyed-Egg Fly Recipe-- for a 5 mm finished diameter trout egg

... of the finished Cross Eyed-Egg: Web-published measurements show that water-hardened trout eggs are commonly 5mm+/- 1mm. In medium-sized spawning salmon and steelhead, the eggs are about 5-7mm on up to 9-10 mm in Chinook.

Hook: Firehole egg hook 637 size 14-18; Scud hooks, size 14 -16, like a Tiemco 2457 or 2487.

Thread: Semperfli Nano-Silk 30 denier. Use orange color for the fly tied in the video or to match the dubbing color being used. Tie in thread just ahead of the middle of the hook shank, a little bit towards the hook eye.

Cross Weight: For a 5mm egg: As shown in the video, make the monofilament (mono) dumbbell weight consisting of two 1.5 mm tungsten beads on a 4 mm wide piece of 10lb test Maxima. For larger size eggs, the cross weight length is scaled up to be about 1mm less than the finished diameter of the egg.

Weighting variants:
1) Blood dot variant -- Substitute blood-red colored 1.5 mm tungsten beads for the black beads.
2) Three weight variant -- Not realistic looking but if desired for extra weight, add another 1.5mm tungsten weight just behind the hook eye and then tie the standard Cross-Eyed Egg pattern behind it. The third-bead can give the impression of a pair of eyes in some views of the fly.
3) Tie the Four-Eyes Egg variant which uses two mono-dumbbells made about 7mm wide for a total of four 1.5 mm tungsten weights on a 5mm finished diameter fly

Egg color and texture determined by the dubbing: I generally use a medium-textured sparkle dubbing to match the local natural-egg color I’m trying to imitate. I use a dubbing that tends to radiate out when spun to make a translucent dubbing brush (and finished egg) rather than a dubbing noodle when spun. Dubbing I use for the most common natural egg color is Sybai Fine Flash, yellow-orange color, or Spectra #35, a yellowish orange (used for tying in the video). For pink eggs, I use Ice Dub, hot pink, or Sybai fine super-UV dubbing, bright pink, or Spectra #41. For the dead-egg look, I use Spectra #9 , pale pink or Spirit River Lite-Bright, peach color. For imitating fungus-colonized eggs, I use Arizona Diamond Dubbing in Chartreuse +/- a veil. As you know, there are a lot of suitable dubbing colors out there and these colors are not the only solution.
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Yarn Ball: Make a roughed-in yarn ball by looping the dubbing brush in a serial figure-8 pattern around the hook shank. Fold back the hook eye side of the yarn ball with one hand and whip finish. Fluff up and groom the yarn ball into a spherical shape using a piece of Velcro. Then pull up the longest dubbing fibers and trim them with scissors and then pull down and trim again. The goal here is to end up with a roughly 5 mm diameter sphere imitating the size of the typical trout egg.
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