Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The Lower Sacramento
River In California
The Lower Sacramento River is considered the section
below Keswick Dam located three miles north of the city
of Redding, downstream. It is the state's largest trout
stream. The river flows through the city. Fly fishing the
lower Sacramento River can be a real treat. It has some
very large rainbow trout averaging close to fifteen
inches and up to twenty inches. The river provides
year-round trout fishing.
There's lots of food for the trout including a huge
population of aquatic insects. That's what provides the
food for the trout to grow fast and very large. The
bottom discharge of water that flows from the dam at
Shasta Lake averages about the same temperature
year-round. It's about nine miles above the Keswick
Dam. Lake Shasta not only receives the water from the
Upper Sacramento River, it receives the water from the
McCloud River, Pit River, Fall River, Hat Creek and
Squaw Creeks, all fertile streams with good populations
of insects. If there is a disadvantage to this, it is the fact
that this also results in a lot of variables that affect the
discharges of water into the Lower Sacramento River
and consequently, constantly changing fishing
Some consider this the best rainbow trout fishing water
the state of California has to offer but there's also many
that would disagree. One reason is the continuing
changing water levels of Keswick Reservoir and its
varying discharges of water through the dam that is the
Lower Sacramento River. The discharges are mostly
dependant on the agricultural needs of the Central
The Lower Sacramento River also has a good
population of several other fish that can be taken on the
fly. Runs of steelhead and Chinook salmon take place.
It also has a good population of shad, strippers,
smallmouth and largemouth bass. The further
downstream you venture, the warmer the water gets and
the more the fish species become warm water species.
Most of the fishing in the Summer months is done from
drift boats. The highest flows take place during the
warmer months of the year. Wading can be done on low
flows and they occur mostly during the Spring and Fall.
Access to the Lower Sacramento River is plentiful and
easy. There's a total of six boat launches for drift boats.
Interstate Highway 5 parallels the river.
The Lower Sacramento isn't exactly the easiest water to
fish. It is a big tailwater with smooth stretches of water. In
places it reminds one of a big spring creek. The smooth
currents are deceptive and tricky to get drag free drift in.
The trout tend to get a good look at your presentation
and realistic flies are a big plus. There are some long
riffles and long, deep pools. Islands break up the flows
in places. Wading is limited to areas of public access
and public parks.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Lower Sacramento
Fly fishing the Lower Sacramento River depends highly
on keeping up with the changing water and weather
conditions. The Lower Sacramento River is a tailwater
and that means its flows are strictly dependent on the
discharges from the Keswick Dam. Be certain to check
on this flow levels and predicted discharges before
fishing the river.
Since the water from the river is used for agriculture
purposes, high flows can be expected throughout the
Summer when demands are the highest. Low flows are
normal during the Winter. Both high and low flow levels
can be fished but they will vary the methods and
strategies you should use. High water usually requires
floating the river. The currents can easily be too strong
for safe wading.
Lower Sacramento River
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Photo Courtesy of David Knapp Photography
Recommended Tackle & Gear
5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 & 12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Superb Five or Ultimate Six
For 5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Recommended Tackle & Gear
for Steelhead and Salmon
7, 8 , 9 or 10 weight for appropriate type
rod, sinking, sinking tip and floating
10#, 12# in 9 to 15 feet lengths
10# and 12#
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly 7, 8, 9 and 10 ft. single hand
For 7 to 10 weight lines
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
KISS Strike Indicators, Lanyards, etc.
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
Excellent fishing is provided
throughout the entire year.
Spring is the best time for dry fly
fishing due to the hatches of mayflies
Summertime can be on the warm side
but the fishing remains fairly good due
to the constant cold water releases.
The best rainbow trout fishing in the river is
generally between the Sun Dial Bridge
downstream to Anderson River Park. There
are other areas of the river that will produce
well but this is usually the best area to select
Most of the time, floating the river using a drift
boat is the best method to fish it. As just
mentioned, It's the only way in most places
when the water is high. There are a few areas
the river can be waded during low water
conditions. One area is the Cypress Road
Bridge in Redding. Another place is Knighton
Road. Wading can be dangerous and you
need to make sure you keep a tight wading
belt and watch for rising water levels at all
The Fall season maybe the very best time to
fish the Lower Sac. Its fall runs of spawning
salmon provide a huge food supply for the
rainbow trout. Not only do the rainbows feed
on their eggs, they also are keenly aware of
the aquatic insects nymphs and larvae that
are dislodged when the salmon build their
redds. They will feed downstream on the
spawning process of the large Chinook
Salmon throughout the entire process.
Fly Fishing Guide, continued:
The lower part of the river from Anderson
down to Los Molinos is prime territory for
steelhead fishing. You can continue to fish
for them on into the Winter provided you can
withstand the cold weather.
Springtime provides the most hatches of
caddisflies, mayflies and stoneflies and
therefore it's the best time to catch the large
rainbows on dry flies. Summertime can also
be good at times. Since the water released
from the depths of the lake is cold, even
during the hot Summer. This keeps the fish
active especially early and late in the days
when it's most comfortable to fish.
Lower Sacramento Hatches and Flies:
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and
nymphs, not guess work. We base fly
suggestions on imitating the most plentiful
and most available insects and other foods at
the particular time you are fishing. Unlike the
generic fly shop trout flies, we have specific
imitations of all the insects in the Lower
Sacramento River and in all stages of life that
are applicable to fishing. If you want to fish
better, more realistic trout flies, have a much
higher degree of success, give us a call. We
not only will help you with selections, you will
learn why, after trying Perfect Flies, 92% of
the thousands of our customers will use
nothing else. 1-800-594-4726
The most consistent mayfly that hatches on
the Lower Sacramento River is the
Blue-winged Olive. Of course, the little olives
represent several different species of
different genera. Most of the larger ones are
Baetis species in a hook size 18. They start
hatching in March and hatch off and on
throughout the Spring, Summer and early
Fall. Other hatches can occur during the
winter months depending on the particular
species. You should always have some
imitations along with you. On cloudy, overcast
days they likely to show up.
Pale Evening Duns can hatch from March
through June. Both the duns and spinners of
this mayfly can be important.
Little Black Caddisflies, Brachcentrus genus
species, hatch from about the first of March
on into the middle of May depending on the
section of river and weather.
Spotted Sedge caddisfly hatches occur from
May through the middle of October. These
are the most common caddisflies on the
Lower Sacramento River. They are several
species and most of the heavy hatches occur
during the Summer months.
There are also plenty of Green Sedges. The
different species hatch from the first of March
until the middle of May. Imitations of their
larvae, called Green Rock Worms, are
effective all year.
Golden Stoneflies hatch from the middle of
March until the middle of May depending on
the section of water you are fishing. Little
Yellow Stoneflies are the most plentiful
stonefly species. They hatch from April
through June. Most anglers call these Yellow
Sallies. You should have imitations of both
the larva and the adults.
October Caddis are very plentiful and are a
fish producing hatch. It occurs according to
its name, during October on the Lower
Terrestrial season on the river starts in
warm months of the year. Beetles can
become important anytime from the first of
May until through the first of September.
Grasshopper usually become large enough
to become important in June and last
through July and August.
Although few anglers fish them, imitations of
midge larvae and pupae will catch rainbows
on this river throughout the year. They are
most important when few other insects are
hatching. Many anglers think the tiny flies
are too little to catch the big rainbows on the
Lower Sac but they are wrong. They can be
very effective fished correctly.
Streamers are very important. Imitations of
sculpin, minnows and baitfish will catch trout
all year. They are very important during low
light situations or when the water is slightly
Be sure to check our Hatch Chart Link on
your left and be sure to use our Perfect
Flies to match the various insects.
Fall is the time the Chinook Salmon and
Steelhead arrive in the Lower Sac.
It is possible to catch trout anytime during
the winter but it is best when the weather
cooperates. Steelhead fishing continues
into the Winter.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
Headlines: Conditions remain
about the same on the tailwater in
spite of the fact it rained about
everyday for the past week. We
didn't receive any reports from
anyone fishing. We assume the rain
keep people off the water. I would
have been right the opposite.
Conditions are currently good and
should continue to be good unless
there are major changes in the
water. Keep track of the latest by
clicking on the weekly updated
lower Sacramento River fishing
report linked above.
10/14/15 Hopefully, the daily high temperatures will be dropping down some during the coming
week. There is a slight chance of rain one day,otherwise clear as a bell. There are still a few
hatches taking place. The best option is still late in the afternoon near dark when there are
good spinner falls and caddis and Little Yellow stonefly egg laying activity. The Brown and White
Belly sculpin have been producing the larger fish. Green Sedges and Mahogany Duns are
hatching. The good point is many of them are large fish.
10/21/15 The lower Sac is fishing very good. Stream levels are fine and the weather cooler than
it has been. King Salmon are spawning and trout are eating the eggs below their redds. Our
Veiled Beadhead Steelhead egg patterns are working great and so are the Estaz steelhead egg
patterns. Other than that, the best choice in other areas of the river are Blue-winged olive
nymphs. They will hatch but mostly on cloudy days and those are few and far between.
10/28/15 Customers using our Veiled Beadhead Egg flies are catching some nice trout below
the spawning King Salmon. Others did well at least one day, fishing the Blue-winged olive hatch.
They are small, size 20 BWOs but large trout will still eat them. This is mostly nymphs fishing but
some were taken on the emerger patterns. There is a chance of rain Sunday and Monday, but
otherwise clear. Stream levels are good.
11/05/15 The temperature is getting cooler each day and that helps the trout to some extent,
but much more so the anglers. It has been very hot on the lower Sac for a long time. Trout are
lined up below the King salmon redds feeding on their eggs. Our egg flies are listed under our
steelhead flies and work just as well on trout. Stream levels are in good shape and should
remain that way for a while.
11/12/15 The lower river is in great shape for this time of the year, yet few anglers are fishing.
The weather is getting much cooler and there is even some rain in the forecast for a change.
You can catch both steelhead and trout in the Lower Sac. Egg flies are still working below the
salmon redds but that probably won't last much longer. The Brown sculpin streamer has been a
hot fly lately.
11/19/15 There have been some steelhead caught this past week and several big rainbows.
The salmon are about done spawning and you will need to change tactics soon. Hatches are
very sparse with the lack of cloud cover but the next two days look pretty good. Stream levels
are relatively low and some stealth is required to keep from spooking the trout. The egg flies are
still working but probably won't last much longer.
11/26/15 We didn't think they would keep working as long as they have but anglers are still
doing well on the egg flies. The Perfect fly Veiled Beadhead Crystal Egg steelhead fly is doing
very well. Blue-winged olives and midges will be about the only insects hatching on the lower
Sac for the next few weeks. The Brown Sculpin streamers is continuing to work good.
12/03/15 Stream levels are in good shape. There is a chance of rain in the forecast everyday
for the next week. As mentioned in the report, this really helps the Blue-winged olive hatch. It
makes it much more prolific. Fish midges in tandem with the pupa the top fly and the lava on the
bottom. Most anglers fish the tandem rig using strike indicators. There are still some activity
below the salmon spawning areas but it is about to come to an end.
12/10/15 There is a 100% chance of heavy rain during the next couple of day and rain is in the
forecast every day for the next week. More importantly, the water shed for the Lower
Sacramento River is getting a lot of rain and it will have to come through the system. At some
point there will be some heavy discharges. Right now, unless you don't like rain, the fishing
opportunity should be good. There will be plenty of cloud cover and streamers like our Brown
Sculpin should work great.
12/24/15 Most days have been good this past week. Right now, conditions are very good. The
river is at a good level and the weather not that bad. It will rain today and again next week but
otherwise be clear. The cloud cover really helps. Some huge rainbows have been caught
recently. One customer did well using our Brown Sculpin Streamer. Midges, fished with the larva
the bottom fly and the pupa up about a foot is also working well up in the day.
12/31/15 The river is low, but still in good shape. The water is clear but there's some rain
coming the next few days and that could change. Midges, both cream and light green, are
working good. We recommend fishing the larva and pupa in tandem. Little Blue-winged olive
nymphs are also plentiful, so imitations of those are working good as well. When cloud cover
returns, try the White Belly sculpin streamer.
01/07/16 The lower river is getting off color and varies according to the particular section you
may be fishing. This makes it good for streamer fishing. Flies like our White Belly Sculpin
streamer should work great. Get them down as quickly as you can. The flows are holding steady
right now but there is rain in the forecast every day for the next week.
01/14/16These are very unusual fishing reports for sure. There is rain in the forecast for
another week and it should be very heavy at times. The stream levels are remaining the same
but I wouldn't count on that continuing to stay that way. Streamers like our White Belly sculpin
should work good with these conditions. When the rain slacks, you may even see a BWO hatch.
01/21/16 It is almost strange but the flows are below normal for the lower Sac. It is excellent
conditions for fishing if you can stand the heavy rain. It should end Saturday and clear up for a
while. Streamers like our Brown Sculpin and White Belly sculpin are what we recommend while it
is cloudy. We have had two customers that did very well recently using them.
01/28/16 Streamers are the flies you need to use on the Lower Sac. The water is stained, much
worse downstream than upstream, but stained in both areas. Trout can be caught on streamers
such as our Black Matuka Sculpin and White Belly Sculpin.
02/04/16 The lower river is in very good shape for this time of the year and our customers are
catching some nice trout. We had three good reports come in for this past week. A few were
taken on the surface feeding on little BWO hatches and midge hatches. The water is much
clearer. There is no rain or snow in the forecast for the coming week.
02/11/16 The river is in good condition with some very nice rainbows being caught. Salmon are
spawning in the upper part of the river and trout eating the eggs. Our Veiled Beadhead Crystal
egg flies are working good. Little Black caddis and little Blue-winged olives are hatching.
Releases from the dam are steady and at a good level and flow.
02/18/16 Customers are continuing to catch a lot of nice rainbows. There is two more days of
heavy rain in the forecast and then it should be clear a few days. The discharges are fine for
fishing right now but you better keep a close check on them for the coming week. There has
been a lot of rain and this is bound to affect them at some point.
02/25/16 The discharges and stream levels are fine but the tributary streams are dumping some
badly stained water into the river. The clarity changes, depending on where you are fishing.
Streamers, like the Brown Sculpin and White Belly Sculpin, are working good for our customers.
Blue-winged olive are hatching in some sections of the river. The water temperature is about the
same but slowly increasing.
03/03/16 The stream levels continue to be in good shape even though there has been a lot of
rain and more is on the way. Blue-winged olive fishing has been good, with midge and BWOs
hatching each afternoon. Some are being caught on top. Fish the BWO nymph until the hatch
starts, then swap to the emerger or dun. Fish the BWO spinner late in the day.
03/10/16 There are flood warning out for the area through the weekend. You can expect a lot of
off color water coming into the river below the dam and stain in the lower Sac, all depending on
where you are. Fishing has continued to be very good with discharges running about normal. At
some point, releases will probably be increased.
03/17/16 The river has been bad stained and high for most of the past week, but it has cleared
up very fast. There is some more rain coming this weekend but we don't expect that to amount
to much. Several new aquatic insects have begin to hatch. Pale Morning Duns, Green Sedges
(caddisflies) and Little Black Caddis are hatching.
03/24/16 The discharges and flows are very high but they are steady and the water has cleared
up rather fast. Anglers are catching trout. The weather is nice and warm with little rain in the
forecast for the coming week.
03/31/16 It is getting so good is is scary. Stream levels and discharges have dropped. The
weather is going to be nice and warm with no chance of rain or snow to amount to anything.
Blue-winged olives, Little Black caddis, Green Sedges and even some PMDs are hatching in the
lower end. Sculpin streamers have caught some very large rainbows for our customers this past
04/14/16 This is to protect spawning salmon. There are several hatches taking place including
little Black Caddis (near the end of the hatch), a few PMDs, small Green Sedges, and
Blue-winged olives. Stream levels are in okay shape and anglers are catching some trout. It is
going to be warm again this week with little rain beyond today.
04/21/16 The lower Sac is producing some very large rainbows. There are several insects
hatching and some are being taken on dry flies. The weather is going to be a little cooler this
coming but with only a little rain in the forecast. The great conditions should continue. The river
is closed to fishing above the highway 44 Bridge.
04/28/16 The weather has been windy at times and all together, anglers have done very well.
The PMDs haven't really got started yet but midges and little BWO are consistent. Streamers
like the Brown and White Belly sculpin have produced some big trout lately.
05/05/16 It seems that when all the freestone streams in northern California gets blown out, high
and dingy, the fishing in the lower Sacramento, just gets better. That is the case right now. The
big good news in Pale Morning duns hatches are taking place in addition to the BWOs and
others going on. Remember, PMD spinners can fall in the mornings.
05/12/16 The river is maintaining good levels and our customers are catching lots of trout and
some big ones at that. The Sculpin streamers are catching the larger trout. The Pale Morning
Dun has is gotten into high gear. There are still a few March Browns hatching, but that will end
soon. Spotted Sedges and Green sedges are hatching.
05/19/16 The big river just keeps on producing big rainbow trout. There is a lot of rain in the
forecast for the coming week, but frankly, that should make it even better as long as the flows
remain good. The cloud cover increases the hatch activity. The weather is going to be cooler
and that may slow things down some, but otherwise, conditions are good.
05/26/16 The cooler weather of the past week slowed down some hatch activity on the lower
end of the river but made little difference in the upper sections. There are still a lot of insects
hatching but most of the trout are being caught on nymph rigs, as usual. The weather is going
to be clear and the bright days is going make it a little tougher to catch them on the dry fly. The
spinner falls are the best option for that.
06/02/16 It is going to be hot on the lower Sacramento today and probably, from now on for the
next several days. The water will not keep up with the air though and it can mentally create
confusion. The water will keep warming up, but not that fast. We did list hoppers and beetles
under the fly selections but there are a lot of aquatic insects hatching that should become a first
06/09/16 if you fished the river this past week, you needed plenty of sunscreen. It was hot. That
made little difference to the fish, especially those in the upper part of the river. I did mean a hot
time in the drift boats. Hatches continued to be good but very obviously a little slower than the
week before. It is going to be back to more normal air temperatures this coming week.
06/16/16 The lower Sac continues to produce some good numbers and large sizes of rainbow
trout. The hatches are mostly that of the Pale Morning Duns. There is still some little
Blue-winged olives showing up but neither of these two mayflies appear in the same section of
the river. There are lots of caddis consisting of two species. Fishing the Spotted Sedge, or
Green Sedge pupa during the hatch (respectively) will get you a lot of trout.
06/23/16 The fishing is not quite as hot as the weather but it has been good for most anglers
fishing this past week. The flows are up some and strong and that makes it tough to get good
presentations. Streamers, like our Brown Sculpin, have been catching some big rainbows. Fish
them early and late. The cloud cover is gone. Pale Morning duns continue to hatch but in
sparse quantities we think due to the high flows.
06/30/16 As everyone surely knows, the weather is going to be very hot. The water will remain
cool and be affected very little by the heat by anglers will. We recommend fishing early in the
morning. Streamers like our Brown Sculpin will catch trout early before the sun gets very high.
There will be some PMD spinner fall ins some sections in the early morning. Late afternoon egg
laying caddis and Little Yellow stones will also provide some action.
07/07/16 The lower Sac is in good shape stream level wise with lots of insects hatching. The
weaher forecast is calling for much cooler weather this coming week, but it should have little
effect on the fishing. It will make it a lot more comfortable on the anglers. We didn't receive any
reports from anyone fishing this past week. There are still a lot of insects hatching. Little Yellow
stoneflies and two species of caddis are providing late afternoon egg layng activity.
07/14/16 The weather is back to its normal "hot". The flows are up a little. We didn't receive any
reports from anyone fishing this past week but conditions should be good. We recommend
fishing early and late. By late, I mean very late. That is when the caddisfly egg laying reaches its
peak. You can catch a lot of trout in a very short time. PMDs are still hatching good. Fish the
PMD nymph during the morning.
07/21/16 In spite of the high temperatures, anglers are continuing to catch good numbers of
trout. By far the best time to fish is the last two or three hours of the day. There are two species
of caddis laying eggs late in the day, as well as some Little Yellow stoneflies. Fishing PMD
nymphs in the mornings is also effective.
07/28/16 Wow! The high temperatures will be reaching 110 degrees several days this coming
week. Fish early mornings and the last two or three hours of the day. Fish the uppermost
section of water. You will have little to no competition. Other than an air conditioned room, the
lower Sac will be about as cool as anywhere - that is as long as you are in the water. Yes, I'm
08/04/11 We didn't hear from any of our customers that were fishing last week. Few anglers
were on the water due to the very high temperatures. The water temperature is fine anywhere
below the dam with in a few miles. There are still plenty of hatches taking place. We understand
those that did fish did very well. This coming week is going to be another hot and dry one but
not quite as bad as last week.
08/11/16 It is going to be even warmer. The river discharges and stream levels continue to be in
good shape. We didn't receive any reports from customers again this past week. With
temperatures in the hundreds, we can't say we blame anyone for not fishing. The trout are just
fine and you can still catch them. We don't want to encourage anyone to over do it.
08/18/16 Wow! With highs of 107 degrees, we find it difficult to recommend fishing even though
it has little effect on the water temperature in the upper section of the river. The good new is
that it appears it will be getting a little cooler near the end of the coming week.
08/25/16 The high temperatures are still around but not quite reaching the highs of last week.
They are staying in the nineties this week. It is still best to fish early and very late in the day.
You have some great action taking place with the late afternoon caddisfly egg laying. Early
morning streamer fishing is a good option as well. Stream levels are still going to be up around
10,000 cfs and in good shape.
09/01/16 Stream level are fine and usually are at this time of the season. The big news is the
weather is finally a little cooler and anglers may be able to actually breathe. The lower air
temperature will have almost no effect on the water, at least for the coming week. There are still
hatches of little BWOs taking place, as well as three species of caddisflies. Fish as late in the
day as you can see.
09/08/15 The river levels are near normal. We received some good reports this past weekend
but none since. The weather is turning back warm again but keep in mind it as little to no effect
on the upper sections of the river. That is where we recommend fishing. Early morning streamer
fishing has worked well for the few that tried it. Use sculpin pattern streamers like or Brown and
White Belly Sculpin patterns.
09/15/16 Little change is taking place. There is no rain in the forecast and the days will remain
very hot. You can catch trout under these conditions but the options on how are limited. Our
customers do b best fishing early mornings with Sculpin pattern streamers and during the mid
day with either PMD or BWO nymphs fished deep. Hopefully, cooler weather is just around the
09/22/16 The weather is going to be cool a couple of days this coming week, and that is
certainly welcome. It will make little to no difference in the water conditions or to the trout, but it
will encourage anglers to fish harder. It does indicate Fall is just around the corner. The
discharges and flows are down a little and that also should help, especially with the presentation
of nymphs. Streamers are also working good early mornings and near dark.
09/29/16 The cooler weather has anglers happy and catching trout. It hasn't affected the water
temperature much yet, but will. Salmon are coming into the lower river and building redds and
the trout will soon be eating their eggs. There are some good Blue-winged olive hatches taking
place and still a few Pale Morning Duns. Sculpin streamers will still catch the larger trout in the
early mornings and anytime it is cloudy.
10/06/16 The river is about the same as it was last week. More salmon are moving into the lower
sections of the river. When they begin spawning, the trout will key in on their eggs but that
hasn't happened so far. The fishing was slow this past week according to one of our local
regular customers. He managed to catch a few by fishing early and late in the day using the
Brown sculpin streamer.
10/13/16 Right now, conditions are the same as they have been this past week. Our best advice
for the coming week is to take the best raincoat you have. There is a chance of rain everyday
for the next week. The cloud cover will really help and we expect the Blue-winged olive hatches
to be good. Some of the big salmon are already on the redds, so they will be eating eggs soon