As with all flies, you will go through A LOT of them. One option is to purchase them, but at a dollar a pop or more, making your own is a simple and inexpensive proposition.
In a short amount of time and with just a few simple tools, you can crank out eggs by the hundreds at just pennies per piece. I’m going to assume that you know how to do some basic tying; but if you don’t, this is a good pattern to start learning with because it will teach you some of the basics: How to Start Your Thread, how to position materials, and the Whip Finish.
I use the metric standard because it is easier than using a bunch of goofy fractions or tenths of an inch when trying to describe patterns. That and most poms are sold by the millimeter anyway. Eggs from salmonid species in the Great Lakes range in diameter from roughly two to just under ten millimeters (mm). Steelhead, Kamloops, Brown and Pink Salmon eggs can run anywhere from around 2 to 5mm. Chinook and Coho eggs run anywhere from 5 to 10mm but typically fall right around 6-8mm in size. By way of reference, a pencil lead from a typical #2 is about 1.5mm in diameter. The eraser on a pencil or the holes in notebook paper are about 5mm, and the keys on your keyboard are right around 12mm.
To begin, here are the materials you will need (Fabric Paint Optional):
The first items is the egg- Basically the egg is nothing more than a craft pom-pom. These can be purchased at just about any craft store and in many different colors. One I like in particular is
Sunshine Discount Crafts because they sell poms as small as 3mm which are sometimes necessary in very clear water. Other local stores where you can find poms are: Michael's, Wal-Mart and JoAnn Fabrics.
Good colors to start with are white, red, chartreuse, orange, yellow & pink. Don't overlook colors like blue, black and moss green (if you can find it). A selection of 3, 5, & 7mm poms is hard to beat and a pack of fifty 5mm eggs will only set you back about .50 cents.
The second item is the hook- Some things to consider: First, any hook you buy will have to be sized properly for the egg and proper sizing is pretty crucial. The easiest way to determine sizing is to hold a pom up to the hook gap. If the egg fits just inside the gap you have the right size. If it's bigger than the gap keep looking.
Most 5mm poms will fit properly on a size 10 hook, but it depends on the hook design. The reason you need to properly size the hook and egg is that you do NOT want the pom to interfere with the hook gape. An egg that is too large for the hook will interfere with your hook-set and cause you to miss fish you should have otherwise hooked.
Second, try to match the hook to the species you are after. An egg tied to catch a 20-pound chinook salmon had better be pretty robust. A similar egg tied to catch pinks doesn’t have to be as strong, and sometimes you get better hook-sets on a lighter wire hook. I tie the majority of my egg patterns on a Mustad C67S. This is a 2X heavy, 3X short hook that can handle any species the Great Lakes has to offer. The only problem with any heavy hook is that it can make sliding the pom on a bit tougher. Other hook options like TMC 105's and Daiichi are also good choices.
The Third (Optional) item: Fabric Paints- This isn’t a required item, but it’s nice for making fertilized eggs and blood dots. The stuff you see in the photo is called Scribbles 3D and is available from most craft stores. It comes in a ton of colors, including fluorescents, and one bottle is only .80 cents. The bottle has a tiny, pointy applicator tip, and should last for... Not sure? My bottles have dried out somewhere around the 600-800 egg mark before the paint has been used up. The other option is to use colored fabric pens. I like the ease of the pens, but I can get better fluorescent colors in paint and they make a better dot...
Fourth item: Some tying tools- A vise is nice but not completely necessary. A buddy of mine ties them using only his hands while riding in the car from stream to stream... You can pick up used vises very cheap and the vise doesn't have to be top of the line; just good enough to hold the hook. Same goes for a bobbin, but the bobbins are handy and do speed the process. You WILL need thread. Some guys insist on matching the color of the thread to the egg, but I end up using 70 denier flat-waxed white a lot and the fish don't seem to notice. Another handy tool is a whip finisher but again, not required; it just makes life a whole lot simpler like the bobbin. Last, a hemostat or better yet, pair of small needle-nose pliers for crimping barbs and to help with those fat hooks and or stubborn poms.
To get started, take a hook and crimp down the barb with your pliers. Pick out a pom-pom and push the hook point completely through the pom. Try to get it right through the center because that is the point around which the pom is tied. I take a little extra time during this step to locate the tie orientation of the poms. If you look closely, you can usually see the line where the pom is tied. It’ll look like a fine line in the material, much like the equator on a globe. I always try to push the hook through the center of the pom and perpendicular to this line. If you do this, your egg-fly will be practically indestructible and should never come apart or off the hook on it's own. Slide the pom onto the hook about one third of the way up the shank if you are going to put a bumper in front of the egg (see below). If you're not tying a front bumper, push it all the way to within one eye-width of the hook eye itself and position it in the vise. Egg illustrated here is a white 5mm in position for tying the front bumper.
I like to make about six or seven thread wraps around the hook and just behind the eye. This keeps the egg from sliding up and covering the eye, but it’s not necessary. What IS necessary is to put six or seven turns of thread BEHIND the egg and whip finish. This acts as a stop or bumper and if you don’t, the egg will just slide down onto the bend after repeated casting. The original design used glue to hold the egg in place, but it wasn’t always reliable and the eggs often absorbed too much glue and became hard. Another method is to buy bait-holder hooks with the little barbs on the shank. You can slide the egg between the two barbs and they will hold the egg in place. This is a great option for those of you that don't tie, or for emergency on-stream "tying" when you run out of the hot pattern.
Once you've put the optional forward wrap in place, push the egg forward to roughly one eye-width behind the eye. Next make your stopper wraps behind the egg. Try to catch a little material from the egg in your thread. This will keep the egg from rotating if you add a blood dot. When you are done with the whip finish, it should look like this:
Now clip the thread off and apply a small amount of the fabric paint if you wish to make a blood dot. It doesn’t take much paint and the small applicator tip makes it easy to make a nice round dot. Be sure not to overload on the paint or the egg will get hard. The fly shown in the photo is actually a fertilized egg pattern. The white represents milt from the male, which is surrounding the orange dot of the egg.
Now all you need to do is to set the paint. You can allow the paint to air dry, but heat setting will make it far more durable. While you are tying, pre-heat the oven to 130-150 degrees. Take an old baking pan and spread the eggs out on it.
When you have enough eggs, put them in the oven for no more than 15 minutes. When you take them out, they will immediately be ready for use.
An alternate and highly successful pattern to try is a veiled egg, also known as a sperm or milt fly and similar to a nuke egg. These flies all represent a fertilized egg.
Follow the same steps as above but tie a 1-2 inch piece of champagne or white colored yarn in front of the egg as shown in place of the front bumper.
Now slide the egg forward and tie the rear bumper. Fold the yarn back over the egg and run a couple of turns of thread over the front of the yarn to hold it in position. Pull the yarn back and clip it off at about 2X the egg diameter.
I have tremendous luck with this style egg when conventional egg patterns are not working. Clear water and or pressured fish are two prime examples, just be sure to downsize.
Give these pom eggs a try. At around .12 cents an egg, how can you go wrong?
Regards & Good Fishing!