How and when to use a bead for trout and salmon fishing

Beads can be very effective for catching trout and salmon. But how do you fish with just a simple bead? The rigging is quite simple. The fishing isn’t too difficult either. The most important aspect of it all is presenting a bead in a way that mimics a free floating egg in the water. The basic bead fishing rig makes that possible.

Some people argue about the ethics of fishing with a bead. They might claim it’s not as “sporting” as fishing with a fly. Or that fish don’t eat beads so any hookup is really just a snag. In reality bead fishing is just another method of angling that works well in some situations. In certain places using a bead may not be allowed. Make sure to know the local regulations so you can stay out of trouble. There can be ways around them, like fishing a bead above a fly to avoid rules against fishing with “bare hooks.” But in most cases fishing with beads is totally okay.

Trout and salmon are egg eaters

A lot of fish will eat the eggs of other fish. Some fish even eat their own eggs. Trout, steelhead and salmon are among the voracious roe eaters. One reason for that is that they often find themselves surrounded by a deluge of eggs. When the spawn is on, salmonids scatter their eggs over gravel in moving water. The eggs tumble and often drift downstream where they can be gobbled up by other fish.

salmon eggs

Why do trout and salmon eat eggs? It can be for subsistence, as roe is filled with nutrients. But another reason can be breeding advantage. Eating the roe of other fish may help a fish ensure its own offspring a better chance at survival. Finally there may even be an instinctual drive behind egg eating. The bottom line is that salmonids eat eggs frequently so anglers are well served to match the hatch and fish with something that looks like a trout or salmon egg. Beads play that role very well.

Why use a bead?

You may wonder why you would want to use a bead at all. Especially when there are so many other options out there ranging from blood dot egg flies to soft plastic salmon eggs. Of course you can even buy real salmon eggs like these Catchmore Natural Salmon Eggs and scented artificial eggs like Berkley’s Powerbait Power Eggs too.

Most eggs and egg imitations will work on trout and salmon. Every approach has its own advantages and limitations. Maybe you want to work a fly fishing only stretch of water so you tie on a glo egg. Or maybe you want to catch as many fish as possible, so you throw Power Eggs at stocked trout. One reason so many baits and lures exist is that they each have their applications.

Beads are good for a few reasons. The first is that they come in a large variety of sizes and colors. The second is that they look like salmon eggs. The third is that they are scent free ad thus appropriate for a lot of artificial only special regulation waters. Finally, beads are generally cheap, durable, and easy to carry on the water. You don’t have to put a new bead on every few casts. They stay where you put them. So a small box of beads can go a long way.

Rigging a bead

Rigging a bead is quite simple. First, you pass your line through the hole in the bead. Next, you tie on an appropriate hook like the Gamakatsu Octopus. Finally, you slide the bead an inch or two above the hook and peg it in place. There are many ways to peg a bead. The most simple is to stick a toothpick inside the hole and snap it off. A better way is to use a purpose made piece of material like these Troutbead Peggz. That’s really all there is to it.

bead fishing rig

Normally you would add some weight to the line in the form of split shots or something similar to help get the bead down deep. You want to watch the bead and make sure it floats freely in the current like a real egg would. Of course you can make things a lot more complicated, though you really don’t have to. The main modifications you want to make to the rig are meant to facilitate a more natural drift in the water. You can also do things to make it easier for you to detect bites.

To make drifting easier you can incorporate beads into a slinky drift rig or a floating drift rig. Just replace your regular bait or fly with a bead. The floating drift rig will also enable you to detect bites more easily. When you see the float stop or spring in a direction other than the flow, you know you either have a bite or a snag. It pays to set the hook without hesitation and then figure out whether you’ve got a fish or a rock on the bottom.

How to select a bead

There are countless varieties of beads available today. You can even step out of the box and start raiding craft stores or family member’s bead boxes if you want to get creative. Really though, the easiest way to get started is just to pick up some beads meant for the task at hand.

This Danielson Egg Bead Assortment on Amazon is one of the most economical choices. The beads aren’t always perfect but they can get you started. Brad’s Roe Beads are higher quality and you can select your own sizes and colors. Salmon Egg Drift beads are also inexpensive but they come in a wide variety of sizes, colors and even shapes.

selection of 8mm beads in various colors

Pay attention to size first and color second. Chinook salmon eggs are 8 millimeters in diameter. Many beads are also that size. Most other salmonids have a smaller egg. Trout eggs can be quite tiny. There are also larger beads in 10 to 12 millimeters available. They can stand out in high or murky water, or just look different to heavily pressured fish.

Most salmon and trout eggs fall between shades of orange and yellow. So those colors always work well. Eggs with embryos appear to have a sort of orange ball inside which is mimicked nicely by these Troutbeads Blood Dot Eggs. In late stages two small black eyes can also appear from the fry. Then there are the eggs which have succumb to fungus. They tend to take on a foggy or white look. But you can also use bright or attractive colors that don’t look like any real egg at all and still catch fish.

Don’t forget about the actual makeup of the beads either. Most beads meant for this kind of fishing are made of a durable acrylic. Glass beads will not last long tumbling against rocks in a river. Rubber beads usually don’t come in the right sizes. Clay style beads do have their place however.

If you are fishing in deep water or a fast flow that necessitates getting your bead down deep quicker you can use a heavy sinking bead. Hevi-Beads makes a good selection of such beads. A great example is their Hevi-UV Roe Pink 8mm bead. You may find that you can fish these beads without applying any weight to the line at all. They aren’t great for low water or slow flows however, as they can just wind up sticking to the bottom.

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