Although many people use them, nobody likes to admit they do. They tie them on when no ones looking, make sure they sink as fast as possible so that they can’t be seen, and store them in a little box deep in the bottom of their backpack. Yes, I’m talking about eggs and worms; the flies that many consider a sin to fish with. To be honest, I fish with these “junk flies” all the time, and I have always been confused by why people hate them.
Lets start with eggs. They are a food source that many trout depend on, come spawn time, and they are very important. First off, people say that fishing with egg flies is “just like bait fishing”, but is it? Hmmm… No! Back in the olden days, before fly fishing became revolutionized, people would catch bugs and hook them as bait. (Eventually the bugs became too small to hook, so the fishermen needed a better way to imitate them, hence the beginning of our favorite hobby.) So by that logic, is fishing with a big stonefly nymph “just like bait fishing”? After all, people once fished with live stoneflies. Eggs are natural, just like any insect, so why not fish with egg flies?
Secondly, contrary to popular belief, it can take some skill to fish eggs. I fish a lot of tailwaters, and during the spawn you can only fool these very picky trout by matching your egg fly to the eggs in the water perfectly. This often means fishing a size 20 or 22 egg. The drift has to be just right, and it often takes a number of different colored flies before you can fool a trout.
As for worms, I’m even less sure why people are embarrassed to use them. Of course, there’s the old “they aren’t a bug with a specific hatch” argument, but that doesn’t make much sense. First, there are many species of aquatic worms and earthworms, that all live close to or in rivers, and are readily eaten by trout. So trout eat worms in the wild, just like they eat mayflies or stoneflies. Secondly, just like any other bug, there are conditions that make worms more likely to become present, or hatch. Many times after a decent bit of rain, worms will be washed into the river and gobbled down by hungry trout. Almost a “worm hatch”, if you will. To me, fishing a San Juan Worm is no worse than fishing a hopper. After all, they are both dragged into the river after some sort of weather (rain for worms, wind for hoppers), and eaten by trout. One could even consider worms a type of terrestrial. Also, many “bait boys” fish with live or dried crickets and hoppers. So enough with the “they mimic bait” talk, because worm flies are mimicking a real food source for trout, just like hoppers or mayflies.
There are also some tiny streams, with literally no insect hatches. Now I’m talking foot wide streams, but there are trout in them, and they do need to eat. Living right near one of these, I’ve observed these tiny brookies gorging themselves on the tiny earthworms that live all around the stream, in the dirt and under rocks. The only way to fish for these is with tiny San Juan Worms. I’ll write more about small stream flies later.
That’s my two cents, but I’d be interested to hear if other people have different opinions on the matter. Until then, I’ll keep using good old eggs and worms.