By Larry Ellis
That’s all the materials an angler needs to make a yarn ball, one of the most effective lures for drift-fishing and side-drifting. And with January being a prime steelhead month, you’re definitely going to want to carry a couple dozen of these killer attractants with you.
With new no-bait restrictions cropping across the West Coast up these days, people never know when/if their home river is going to be the next stream to be listed in the no-bait zone. But that shouldn’t deter steelheaders from fishing. Yarn balls, or “yarnies” as they are commonly called, are nothing less than fish magnets.
Many guides I know in Oregon and California tell me that if push came to shove, they could actually leave their roe at home and become Mr. Yarn Ball if they so desired.
Why not join them?
One Oregon and California guide, Troy Whittaker of Troy’s Guide Service (541-761-0015), originally got me hooked into making yarnies. We were fishing the Chetco River in southern Oregon one winter, using small yarn balls, about the size of a nickel. In the front of his drift boat were places for people to put their coffee cups. Troy put plastic cups filled with Pautzke Nectar in these spots, where we would dip our yarn balls before making our casts. We caught steelhead pretty much all day on these things.
Throughout the day, I did notice one yarn ball in particular that was larger than the rest – much larger. It was almost the size of a 50-cent piece. I almost laughed at the prospect of a yarnie this size hooking a steelhead. On the last drift of the day, Troy asked me to slip that bad boy in my egg loop.
The river was leaf-stained, so there was debris occasionally floating down the river. At one point during the drift, I thought I snagged a tree. It turned out to be a huge steelhead, and although I never got this one in the net, it looked like it was definitely pushing the upper teens. I’ve been a yarn ball addict ever since.
Why yarnies: It only takes about a minute to make one of these things once you get the knack of it, and you can make them any size you wish.
You can also try various color combinations. I like to use five strands of the cheese-colored yarn and place an orange strand in the middle. I’ve named this one “fried egg” because that’s exactly what it looks like, a yellow ball with an orange center.
One thing that I will do is to save the juice from my Pautzke Borx O’ Fire-cured roe and dip the yarn ball in this concoction before making a cast, but you don’t need any scent at all in order to hook up with a scrappy steelhead.
Once they’ve committed themselves to biting this very soft offering, the yarn usually gets caught in their teeth, making it very difficult for them to spit the yarnies out.
And don’t worry if you don’t get these things perfectly concentric. Even the worst yarn ball will catch steelhead – scented or nonscented.
MAKING YARNIES, STEP BY STEP