The first steelhead I ever caught was by accident. It was while I was at college and I had been catching smallmouth bass on the lower end of the Touchet River all summer. Feeling a bit worn down from too many hours in front of books I headed to the Touchet in October to see if there were still any bass in there. At this point in my life I knew very little about steelhead.
The spot I came to fish was good throughout the summer for catching smallmouth. It seemed you could catch a bass on almost every cast. After spending about 10 minutes fishing with no bites I decided I would give it that one last cast before I moved on. A large, bright steelhead rolled at my offering. I was dumbfounded. I had come to see if bass were still in the river and a huge fish just rolled right in front of me. I did not move on. I fished the run through very thoroughly and hooked and landed my first steelhead without knowing anything about catching steelhead. Although I hooked one steelhead, I was hooked on steelhead fishing forever more.
I bought several books on fly fishing for steelhead and studied them intently. I tied up all kinds of patterns to try and catch these elusive fish. That first fish was just a big tease. It was quite a while after that before I caught another steelhead. In the meantime I filled a fly box full of classic steelhead patterns. At some point I heard of guys catching steelhead on a really simple pattern of glo-bug yarn pulled over a bead. I tied a few up and they caught steelhead. More than that, they caught fish consistently and took no time to tie.
I learned to catch steelhead on the Tucannon, Touchet, and Walla Walla Rivers in Eastern Washington while attending school at Walla Walla Community College and then Whitman College. These are small rivers where steelhead often hold in exceedingly small holding lies. The Simple Egg proved to be the most effective pattern I tied on the end of my line. With small water and small holding lies, your fly often gets caught on a tree limb, rock, or root. It did not hurt my feelings to lose a Simple Egg that only took a few minutes of my time to tie.
Since my college days I have fished for steelhead in a lot of other waters, but the Simple Egg remains an effective pattern that I keep in my box. I have noticed that in September and early October an egg pattern does not seem to offer any advantage over other patterns. But sometime around the end of October or first of November the Simple Egg starts catching more fish than other patterns. This may have something to do with the spawning time of fall Chinook runs. Either way, it is a simple effective pattern and I like things that are simple and effective.