Eyes, beads, and cones - history, usage, tying and fishing weighted flies.

Adding metal to your flies - for looks and weight

By Martin Joergensen

In this section:
- Bead chain
- Cast/dumbbell
Tying them on

Flies with eyes:
Fair Fly
Crazy Dane

Flies with beads:
Flashback Prince

Bead Head Scud
Goldkopf nymph

Flies with cones:
Coney flies
Magnus cone

Further reading:
The history
  of the bead head

Bead chain eyes
Monofilament eyes
Pearl eyes

Eyes and cones -
Austrian trout flies
by Roman Moser

Austrian quartet

Beads or eyes are added for one or both of two reasons: weight and appearance.
The eyes and beads discussed here are made from metal: brass, steel, lead - even tungsten. This will make them heavy and thus add weight to the fly. The weight will bring the fly down and often give it a certain behaviour - a diving or jigging motion.
But it will also add to the looks of the fly, the most obvious case being eyes added to fish or fry patterns like streamers. They really look like the eyes of the fish they're supposed to imitate. But also the shiny bead added to many larva or nymph patterns will act as a visual enhancement as well as a weight.

I don't fish jigs!
I know a few fly fishers who almost never tie and certainly never use a fly weighted with a bead or eyes. 'If you want to fish jigs, use a spinning rod' they will say.
Well, I respect that view, but absolutely do not share it. I will gladly use a bead head pattern on any stream and most of my favorite salt water patterns have eyes of some kind. I don't particularly like the heaviest patterns with heavy wire hooks and lead dumbbell eyes, but I admit that my limit is flexible and that I sometimes fish flies that are quite heavy.

A killer fly: The original Goldkopf Nymph

A small addendum to the bead head story

By Bas Verschoor

I am partly responsible for the 'beadhead craze' in the US. Roman Moser, Theo Bakelaar and I were experimenting with beads of all kinds, back in the early 80's.

I took my first beadhead nymphs with me to Montana and Idaho in July/August 1982. There I showed them to flyfishers and tackle shop owners. They all gave me strange looks, asking me with some disbelief ... "Can you really catch fish on these?".

I fished the Gallatin, the Yellowstone and the Madison with them, and... literally "knocked 'em dead!". Took a 58 cm, (23.2 inch) brown trout on the Madison, between Hebgen and Quake lake... a fish I'll never forget. Yes, Sir....I'm a beadman all the way!

Continue with eyes
More ways to improve your tying

User comments
GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·globalflyfisher.com  Link
Submitted December 28th 2010


Well, no water to fish doesn't mean you can't practice! Tie a couple of flies on a leader - a beadhead as the dropper and one light nymph as the point fly. Cut off the hook points and go practice on the snow! The white cover will make it easy to see if the flies land properly! Practicing on a lawn can be a great way of getting in shape before the ice breaks and the streams clear up.

Be prepared and beat the *beep* out of your fishing buddies when the spring comes... ;-)


From: Matt · mattsmill·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted December 28th 2010

Thank you for your response. That makes sense. Learning to cast that way (and targeting a shorter distance) will also ease in the task of mending my line. I wish the rivers here in Ohio would thaw out so I can continue practicing. Thanks again.

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·globalflyfisher.com  Link
Submitted December 28th 2010


The answer is both yes and no. The weighted fly will get down, which is the primary reason to fish with a split shot on your leader. But the problem is that the heavy fly will behave different compared to an unweighted one, which moves more freely.

Fishing with split shot or several flies can be a curse, and even the seasoned fly angler will tangle occasionally. The remedy is to learn to cast properly, and a slow and open casting stroke will generally make it easier to control the flies. And don't be too ambitious regarding distance! Long casts will most likely make it worse. You can also take this to its extreme, and opt for a "European" fishing style, high sticking or a similar technique, which does not require casting as such. And don't be fooled by this, because these methods can be very productive.


From: Matt · mattsmill·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted December 28th 2010

I hate fly fishing with a split shot. I am relatively new to fly fishing and have a tendency to get the split shot tangled with my flies. I am sure this is a rookie mistake (and I plan to take lessons to improve my casts) BUT in the short term, fishing a weighted fly would/could eliminate the use of a split shot correct?

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