Eyes, beads, and cones - history, usage, tying and fishing weighted flies.
Tying on eyes - You don't want to see rolling eyes
By Martin Joergensen
|Tying them on
Many tyers have a hard time getting almost any type of eyes or beads to sit properly. It seems that eyes will always twist and beads always slide up and down the hook shank when the fly has been cast a few times. But it doesn't have to be that way.
The very simple and almost rude solution is super glue. These glues - also known as cyanoacrylates - are extremely strong and will bind two metal objects very tightly together. Add a small drop after the first few turns of tying thread and the eyes will probably sit there forever.
This approach can also be used for beads: add a drop before the bead is slid onto the hook shank.
A major problem with this method is controlling the amount of glue. The small dispensers only set one drop at a time, but one drop is often much too much. The glue has a tendency to creep out everywhere - especially into the eye of the hook.
But luckily there are alternative and maybe more elegant ways.
Before tying on any pair of eyes you should consider whether they should be on top of or below the hook shank. Most tyers will put the eyes on top of the shank - mostly because it's the easiest way when the hook is upright in the vice. But it's not necessarily the best way. The eyes will add weight on top of the hook and unless you want to tie an upside-down pattern such as a Crazy Charlie (or a Crazy Dane) you should put the eyes below the shank. Turn the hook upside-down or rotate the vice before tying on the eyes.
Tying on pairs of eyes can be quite frustrating. Bead chain eyes are often cut into pairs before they are used, which can make them quite hard to handle. In stead you should leave them as a chain, secure the outmost pair on the hook shank with a few tight turns of thread and then cut.
The placement of heavy eyes govern whether the hook point will be up or down like on this Red Fly for cod.
First tight turns
Any set of eyes should be tied on by starting with a couple of turns in one diagonal direction to fix them. If you want to glue or varnish this is the time to do so - while there's still free space between the metal of the eyes and the metal of the hook shank.
Now start criss-crossing thread over the base of the eyes. These first turns of thread are the most crucial ones. If they are not tight, the rest won't be either and the eyes will soon loosen and start rotating. Tighten the thread on the upwards motion (or the motion towards the side that the eyes are on). This will keep the eyes from turning when you pull the tying thread.
The solid arrows indicate the way
the thread passes over the eyes and shank.
Look at the eyes while doing this. Every turn going lower-left to upper-right when seeing the eyes from above will turn the eyes clockwise in respect to the shank, and every turn lower-right to upper-left the opposite. This effect can be used to adjust the eyes to sit absolutely perpendicular to the shank.
When they are set, you can fix them very effectively by taking some tight turns of thread vertically over the hook shank but under the eyes (with the eyes on the underside of the shank). Do not criss-cross here, but go over the shank away from you behind the eyes, under the far eye, over the shank in front of the eyes towards yourself and under the near eye. This will tighten the diagonal turns of thread further and set the eyes very firmly on the shank. Finish with a few criss-cross turns of thread, and the whole thing should be very tight.
After finishing the fly you can cover the thread and base of the eyes with varnish or epoxy.
Tying on beads
The bullets and beads need to be slid over the hook shank and end up close to the eye. In order for the bead to pass the barb and the bend of the hook, the bead will need to have a fairly large hole. This is somewhat overcome by the conical holes that most beads have nowadays. Slide the bead over the hook with the small hole first.
Just as the cones, the beads will sometimes be loose on the shank. Roman Moser corrects that by pushing some dubbing into the hole, while Bas Verschoor corrects the position of the cone by shoving some very thin lead wire into the rear opening.
It often pays to prepare a bunch of hooks with beads or cones before tying the fly as such.
The bead still might not be able to pass the barb or the bend. You can press down the barb, which will help in most cases. But if that plus a bit of mild violence does not work, you'll have to select a hook with a larger bend.
That could be a larger hook size, but alternatively a special bead head hook might be the solution. These have short shanks and large rounded bends yielding a large hook gap.
Special bead head hook. Captain Hamilton from Partridge
You can use several appraches to get a tight fit between the hook and the bead. I usually make a small cylindrical thread wrapping in the front of the hook and slide the bead over that. This requires that you whip finish and cut the thread, but I find the result more harmonic, as it places the bead centered to the hook shank.
Most tyers prefer to slide the bead over the naked hook and superglue it in place, while others secure it by wrapping a bump of thread and/or body material just behind the hook.
Bas Verschoor has solved the problem by using cyanoacrylate paste. The paste has a slower setting, about 60 seconds, which gives you a bit of extra time for the whole operation. Cover the shank of the hook first with a dozen wraps of thread, and whip finish. The cone or bead should already be on the hook. Apply a bit of paste with s needle and slide the cone up front over the wraps and paste.
If the cone is not properly secured it will almost certainly loosen while you fish with it. The stress put on the bead in the cast will make it move along the shank and make it into a small compression piston that will work hard to make the fly half as big as you intended it to be.