Beads have gained a lot of popularity in fly tying in the last few years and rightly so, they are a great addition to most flies. Beads have a multitude of uses, can be used for fresh and saltwater, come in a variety of shapes and colors, and are readily available at fly shops.
There are many types of beads and sizes for each. Beads are made of glass, tungsten, brass, copper, and lead. Each type has a different weight with tungsten being the heaviest and glass being the lightest. They are also priced accordingly with glass beads being the cheapest and tungsten being the most expensive and everything else in between. Beads are sized according to their diameter in inches. Here is a quick chart to show you what beads fit what hook size:
Now that you know what size beads you are looking for, you have to choose between the varieties of styles. All beads come tapered to fit over the bend of the hook when you are sliding it up to the eye. Some beads are slotted to fit over the most exaggerated bends. Conical shaped heads are another style of bead that provide a great look and water pushing property for streamers. Beads come in many colors with gold, brass, copper, nickel and black being the most popular. You can also find coated beads in a variety of colors such as orange, peach, and chartreuse for incorporating “hot spots” or enticing saltwater or migratory fish that seem to key in on specific colors. Besides beads and coneheads, you also can use dumbbell eyes. Dumbbell eyes are normally tied on the top of hooks to help the fly swim upside down, bouncing on the bottom avoiding snags. The main purpose for all of these is to incorporate weight into your fly so it swims or drifts deeper in the water column.
Beads can be used for other purposes besides weight as well. Glass beads are lightweight and gaining popularity in the trout fishing realm for their translucency. Glass beads can be used for bodies of nymphs as well as for the heads of bugs. Weighted beads are used on the heads and thorax of flies, and on connectors of articulated flies to help the back hook swing. There are lots of flies available now that use multiple beads on flies such as cased caddis nymphs, and large stonefly nymphs.
Beads are another great accessory for your fly tying endeavors whether you are adding weight to your fly or adding something bright to entice finicky fish. We at Great Feathers carry beads and coneheads for all sizes and types of flies and constantly using them when we tie our flies. We recommend that you do the same!