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Bead flies - How to Tie These Top Fish Producers for Best Results

One of the most read and most searched for freshwater articles I have on my site was a little item I wrote about bead flies, as a 'tip' way back in 1998 - that information badly needed updating - so without further ado...

Bead Flies - unadorned


A bead fly is almost trivially easy to tie - well, 'tie' is the wrong word, assemble is better. Thread some glass beads onto the hook, put a drop or two of Super-Glue on the bead nearest the barb, and whip-finish in some insurance - that is it!

In the original article I went on about placing a tube of Second Skin (a web like material used to cover wounds) over the fly to mimic the original Bead fly I saw slaying fish, but it was damn fiddly to tie in, a damn sight harder to get a hold of the Second Skin in New Zealand, and one fish would tear it to pieces. I tried all sorts of things to replace the Second Skin - nylons, all sorts of webbing, but I quickly retired it to the too-hard basket.

The reason I stopped trying with webbing was I noticed there seemed to be no difference in hook-ups with a bead fly without the covering of webbing.

So pictured above are a few of my recent models, in all their naked glory. You may notice that I use red hooks on some of the flies, these are actually Gamakatsu saltwater hooks, but with some bead colours they give an attractive inner glow - well to me at least - first catch your fisherman! When I can get them way down here in New Zealand, gold hooks give the beads a real inner-glow kick as well, and gold would be my first hook-colour choice. Bronze and black hooks work well to, so don't get too fussy.

But you do not need to go fishing with buck-naked bead flies

Some tiers add bits and pieces of fur and feather to, I suppose, mimic 'traditional' flies. I am unsure as to any increase in efficacy, but perhaps it makes the angler a little more confident.

Bead flies - dressed up


Some tiers do go the web 'shrouded' or 'veil' way, and the most popular method of achieving a web is to tie in a sparse clump of Antron, or a thin veil of Glo-Bug material, at the end of the beads and pull it forward over the fly and tie it in at the front.

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To use a piece of Glo-Bug yarn, cut to the length you need, then gently pull the yarn out sideways till the yarn is about 2cm (1") wide. Then split the yarn in half, lengthwise, attach one half at the tail of the fly, then tie in the other half, and pull both halves up over the beads and whip finish behind the eye. You should have a thin 'film' or veil of yarn covering the beads.

But as I say, I find absolutely no difference in hook-up whether the fly is naked or dressed.

Beads are cheap and readily available from craft shops, and specialist bead shops, and they are much cheaper at these shops than those offered at a tackle shop.

There are only two 'specialist' items you may need:

First get some tweezers and put a light wipe of fly-tying wax on the prongs - helps hold on to the slippery little blighters. Or you can pick up from a bead or craft shop a little stick with sticky thingy on the end - it makes picking up little beads a breeze, and you can put the point of the hook into the bead while it is on the stick; saves heaps of time.

And if you are an aging old fart like me, use a magnifying glass on a stand, or get a pair of magnifying clip-on's for your glasses.  Or you can go the whole hog as I did recently and purchased a circular magnifier on a mobile arm, just like they use on CSI - simply brilliant, and surprisingly inexpensive. Has made fly tying so much easier and accurate.

I use bead-flies here in New Zealand in rivers, streams and lakes, all with a good deal of success. But like all flies there are some days when fish do not want anything to do with them, but in my experience not often.


Viva wet fly


Article written by Tony Bishop


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