My Eyes!! - Resolved: Streamers should have eyes - Global FlyFisher

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My Eyes!!


Published Mar 4th 2006

Resolved: Streamers should have eyes

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Do the fish really care if streamers have eyes? I don't know. Some well-knowns like Lefty say they make a big difference, yet others (can't think of names - sorry) tend to poo-poo the idea. I've caught fish on streamers with no eyes, streamers with jungle cock eyes, and streamers with painted eyes, so I can't say definitively one way or the other if they really make much of a difference. Even so, I tend to feel better about the fly when it has eyes, and thus I fish it a bit harder and with more confidence. The flies just plain look better to me, and I'll pluck them out of the fly box ahead of a fly without eyes almost every time.

Can you see the eyes? I bet the fish can, too.

Not that many of my streamers or bucktails lack eyes these days. In fact, none do. Well, maybe a couple old ones.

For featherwing streamers, I still like the traditional look of jungle cock eyes. The contrast of the white, black, and brilliant orange might not look like an eye from an iris/pupil point of view, but they to jump out of the fly box. They catch your eye, and not just because they are expensive feathers. I feel they catch a fish's eye as well.

I've heard a lot of folks ask questions about adding eyes to flies, and while my method might not be perfect, it does work and it's pretty simple, so I thought it worthy of a small article. I was tying up a batch of bucktails, so the timing was right.

In short, I use a simple hobby acrylic paint ($1 or so at a craft shop for those little connected tubs of paint), some quarter inch dowels sharpened in a pencil sharpener, and some nail polish.

Ok, then. Let's go.

 


This is what the unfinished head looks like. It has just a coat of clear nail polish to seal the threads.

This is one time where your aim is not for a tiny head. If you're going to paint eyes, you want to paint large eyes, so you're going to need a large canvas to paint on.


These are the sticks I use to paint eyes. I bought a couple feet of quarter inch dowel at a hobby shop, cut it up into smaller pieces, and sharpened each end to different sharpnesses. This gives you different sized tips for different sized eyes and pupils.

It's important to pick your eye stick so that the size of the tip is about the same size as the head, so the white or yellow "iris" fills the head space. This looks like a pretty good match.

Do you remember these little hobby paints? You can get them anywhere, and for our purpose, they last almost forever. Every now and then you gotta wet your finger and put a drop of water in the paint to reconsitute it, but I've been using this set for years and it's far from used up.

You want the paint thick enough so it doesn't run on the head, yet not so thick it will form a crown when you dab it on the head to form the eye. I mix with a toothpick and look for a consistency where it will form a good blob at the end of the toothpick, but not drip off.

To load the stick, just touch the tip to the paint so that the tip gets a drop formed. You don't dunk the whole thing, or you're going to risk a mess.

Hold your breath. Here we go. A steady hand here is helpful. If you can't keep your hand steady, rest your wrist on something to help, and skip the high caf coffee.

Phew. The Iris is complete. Notice how the paint did not run into the thread grooves, yet did not "crown". You got a nice even coverage of paint, and the white acrylic easily covers the black head in a single application.

Here's the iris from a straight-on point-of-view. Notice how it fills the entire head area. This is why we wrapped a relatively large head. Big head equals big eyes, and big eyes are easier for a fish to see. Big head, big eyes, big fish? Hope so.

Don't do one fly at a time. Do a bunch of 'em all at once. Mass production is the only way to go when painting eyes. I spent my fly tying time tying flies. I can do the eyes in between other chores around the house. It only takes a couple minutes to dab on the eyes, and I can walk away and let them dry.

Ready to add the pupil. This stick has a slightly smaller tip. Aim for the middle of the iris (duh). NOTE: This is only done once the iris is completely dry. These acrylic paints dry dull, so if the eye still looks glossy leave it alone. Do not touch it to test it, 'cause it will smudge for sure.


Pupil done. In the middle. Beauty.

See how they dry dull?

Nail polish is compatible with the acrylic paints, but not so with some other paints, like the hobby model enamels. Unless you brush hard, the eye will not smudge if you use nail polish.

The finished head (and a blurry photo - sorry). This is after two coats of nail polish. The upside to using nail polish is that it is designed not to chip of flake off. This eye will outlast the fly. I use Sally Hansen's Mega Shine.


User comments
From: peter mc cartin · petermccartin·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted February 13th 2011

am experimenting with various flies =
estuary fishing for sea trout in s. irl. this is very helpful ta u very much


From: DON · drc8515·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted January 6th 2009

hi, this is the is what i been looking for thank you!!!!!!! i normaly use a finish nail and a pin from a new shirt. this tip will be alot more steady and no more crossed eye's so maybe the streamer will swim straight!! ha-ha. thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


From: Wildman66  Link
Submitted August 24th 2008

Excellent article. I have sharpened my dowels and tried some test eyes. Note on handling Goop or any silicones....If you dip your fingers in a bowl of solution made up of dishwasher rinse fluid and water, the silicone will not stick to your fingers and make a mess. As long as your fingers are wet with the solution, you can move and shape the Goop on the fly until it starts to set up. The solution can be stored indefinitely and a cup will last for a year or more.

Thanks for an excellent site with wonderful and interesting information. I spend hours looking at posts and learning!


From: Wildman66  Link
Submitted August 24th 2008

Excellent article. I have sharpened my dowels and tried some test eyes. Note on handling Goop or any silicones....If you dip your fingers in a bowl of solution made up of dishwasher rinse fluid and water, the silicone will not stick to your fingers and make a mess. As long as your fingers are wet with the solution, you can move and shape the Goop on the fly until it starts to set up. The solution can be stored indefinitely and a cup will last for a year or more.

Thanks for an excellent site with wonderful and interesting information. I spend hours looking at posts and learning!


From: John Rugh · rughfam·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted December 6th 2007

Hi Bob,
NIce article. I've been painting eyes for almost 50 years, but instead of wood dowels, I've been using different sizes of nail heads. Large construction type nail heads for iris and smaller finishing nail heads for pupils. I've also filed some heads to oval shapes for some of my poppers.
Oldman


From: Chuck Wolff · wufwuf·at·lsol.net  Link
Submitted March 6th 2007

Nice article...Over the years I went the painted eye route and you have to have steady hands or its fouled up... I know that Goop is pretty good but I feel I have an easier and quite a bit faster way of doing this...It works on thread, hair, paint, balsa, bar bell eyes, you name it and it sticks...It dries clear, does not stick your fingers together as super glue does and costs about $3.00 to $4.00 a bottle (can't remember what I paid for it as I had it a number years)...The product is called Jewel Glue Mfg by Delta Technical Coatings Inc,, Whittier Ca 90601 and was developed for gluing glass beads etc onto fabric ...I use doll eye style eyes that you can purchase in most hobby stores at reasonable prices..(Our area it is "Hobby Lobby")...You put a small drop on, put the eye on (I have a offset tweezers that you squeeze to open and it closes when you let go) with the tweezer and drop it and use a tooth pick to push it down...If you did it right, a small ridge of glue will come up and will help contain it where you put it...Let it sit for 24 hrs...To really make it stick you can coat the eye with Locktite Quick Tite (Brush Style) Super Glue...Try it...I hope it works for you as well as it did for me...


From: Jerry H. Smith · jerryhsmith·at·sbcglobal.net  Link
Submitted March 2nd 2007

Great article. I make poppers and streamers using foam popper heads. (just turn the popper around and it's a streamer.) My eyes are done the same way only smaller. I use the sharpened sticks like in the article. My iris is in gold and the pupil in black. (I've looked at a lot of fish and noticed the iris is gold on most.) The one thing I have found that works great is 30 min. epoxy to cover the heads. You can do a lot of streamers using the 30 min. epoxy. It makes a nice gloss finish that is real hard and holds up when you hit rocks or sticks.
Im going to make some of the streamers with the big eyes and test them out for bass and trout.
Thanks for a great article.


From: Rick Nisbett · troll1andmrstroll·at·shaw.ca  Link
Submitted July 6th 2006

I have a good supply of acrylic paints used for ceramics .Can i use these for eyeing my streamers and for coloring the heads of my flies or is there a difference. Clear nail polish would be used to finish as in your article.
Thx for any info
Rick


From: STEVE · sal_trout_333·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted June 4th 2006

Carrie Stevens' from upper dam pool started the gray ghost ..I've read the book ,,the best brook trout streamer (tandem) is the magog fly which i tie and use also for Sebago Lake Salmon...recently caught a 22" 4 pounder on it...great for all trout and salmon..good luck fishing...TROLL FAST... 4 M.P.H. THAT'S THE TRICK.................


From: flytyer-1 · flytyer-1·at·deletethis.comcast.net  Link
Submitted March 23rd 2006

Without a doubt, Bob's streamer eyes are the prettiest I have ever seen! Great article and instructions.


From: Fred Laberge · labtrout·at·comcast.net  Link
Submitted March 19th 2006

Good piece, Bob. Full of sound, practical advice. It seems so easy and obvious once you see it done step by step. You're a good teacher. By the way, I sometimes use red for the pupil. I know it's not natural, but it catches fish.


From: Randy Shell · rdsma·at·gtw.net  Link
Submitted March 9th 2006

Excellent. Anybody who knows who invented the Grey Ghost, knows something needs to be on the front end of a fly, if nothing else the patch of red thread. You have done a spectacular job of capturing the art of painting the eyes.

I have a question regarding streamers. What is your best streamer pattern for the "stubborn squaretails" that would just as soon let a fly hit them on the nose as hit it?

Thanks,

Randy


From: Bob Abrams · icepeep·at·aol.com  Link
Submitted March 4th 2006

Excellent article. I have painted in the past so I have been using tiny artist brushes. I tried Q-tips as well. I have recently become obsessed with eyes on flies. These have been the stick on kind for hair bugs and divers that I glue on with some clear caulking or Goop. My streamers are about to become eyed. I think I have finally become a believer of eyes on flies. Like you say, they look good to us and it can't possibly reduce the number of fish you catch, so what the heck.



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