Flies are fun to tie and offer so much enjoyment and connection to the fly fishing passion we all share. But it can be tough to start adding different hooks and beads with the overwhelming options and prices. Fear no more. Let’s get the basics covered. A hook is used to catch a fish or occasional guide. A bead is used to add color, weight, flash and texture. Easy. Which bead goes with which hook? Not so easy. Or is it? Since many of you have seen some nymphs and small streamers, we’ll begin there. Hooks are different thicknesses, or gauges of metal that vary depending on use. Smaller dry fly hooks will have a substantially smaller shank diameter compared to even a size 8 2X strong streamer hook. Beads tend to follow the same logic. Smaller beads will have a smaller eye and cavity compared to larger sized beads. So with two variables that can only be learned from experience, there must be one common denominator that can help us make sense of beads until the experience has been... experienced.
Enter the art of SECURING a bead onto a hook. And for that we look to the weighted wire. Weighted wire comes in both lead and lead free versions and in enough sizes to make just about any bead/hook combo work. If we have a small shank hook and small bead, the weighted wire would also be small. Perhaps .015”. If we use the same hook and increase the bead size, simply changing the weighted wire to .020 or .025 will now allow you to secure a larger bead on that hook. There is still trial and error involved, but it’s much more effective to only have two or three sizes of weighted wire to alter the settings of a few beads and hooks.
Now we have our bead on the hook and in the vise. What is the easiest way to utilize the weighted wire? Regardless of how many wraps of wire, I always prefer to wrap down that many turns on the hook shank, but well behind the bead. This gives me room to make clean cuts on both ends of my wraps which also means enough room to get the cut edges smoothed down with the insides of my curved scissors. Now when you slide the weighted wire into the back of the bead cavity it will be smooth and you do not risk scratching the bead.
Taking this one step further we get into slotted beads and jig hooks. The same premise applies but with the addition of some Super Glue Gel or similar product. The reason being you will sometimes have beads you do not want turning. The slot which makes beads usable on a jig hook is a prime example where having one size off either direction on your weighted wire makes the tying process a hundred times easier.
You can also secure beads on hooks with thread dams, small mounds of dubbing or other materials. Foam can be very effective as well. I have seen toothpicks glued in and snapped off, but I don’t recommend that as a top 3. Like many things that are new, tying with beads is a lot more fun than it can ever be intimidating. And the true beauty is most of the fish we pursue are not going to turn down a fly whose bead is the wrong size or slight askew. Tie a couple new flies, fish a couple new flies and learn a mountain’s worth of information. Just remember to have fun while you’re doing so.
One last note. Don’t use you nice, sharp, expensive scissors to cut wire. Use a cheap cuticle cutter type that will last longer than your hands and has a curve just right for smoothing down the edges of your trimmed wire. Practice even tension with your weighted wire wraps. It does have some pliability, so avoid extreme tension or your wraps may be inconsistent or you can break the wire. Thanks for reading and hope to see you on the water.