The incredibly talented Jay Nicholas has been helping me with product descriptions for The following discussion, description, enlightening tale, delves into the world of fly tying beads. Keep in mind most of this is true and was written after hours and days of fly tying sessions, fly tying research and 50,000 fly tying related words being typed into a Macintosh.–CD


A glimpse into the Arcane, Obsessive World of Fly Tying Beads, Cones, Coneheads, Eyes, Barbells, and – – – – –

Fly tying beads are simple, right? Wrong. Nothing is simple in the world of fly tying these days. In 1962, here in Oregon, any self-respecting fly tyer used Nymo threads. A few fancy-pants European knock-offs used something fancy like Pearsall’s or some such silkilsh stuff. But to a thirteen-year-old learning to tie flies from Audrey Joy in the Portland Meier and Frank Store, there was Nymo and – Nymo. Hooks, too, were simple. It was Mustad or some Partridge like thing, which at the time I thought was a bird.

When fly tying beads came along, it was yet another foot in the door of obsession for fly tyers. IN the beginning, which I think was deep in the heart of Europe, fly tying beads began oozing out of an ancient Roman Aqueduct, or a volcano, or a hot springs frequented by aging European men wearing Speedos, or some such portal to the underworld.

At any rate, one day the fly tying world was clean and fresh, free of beads. Boom. Next day, there were these tiny, innocent little things called fly tying beads all over the European continent. Like pearls, they were scooped up by fly tyers who had no real idea what to do with them, but as they were free at that time, and fly tyers are notoriously stingy, the beads were scooped up and stashed on fly tying benches and in Man-Rooms across the Old World.

Ah-ha. That was the diabolical plan of the fly tying bead goddess, she who must not be named. Within a few years, these simple brass balls with tiny holes in their centers began to mutate and morph into — into a staggering roster of metallic thingamagigs that are now-a-days attached to fly hooks. By this time, us fly tyers were doomed. The rumor had already spread that nymphs and wet flies had to be tied with beads in order to catch fish.

This is silly, of course, because humans had been catching fish with normal Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ears nymphs, sans bead, for at least three million years. Ahhhhh, those, too were the simple days when there was only one kind of fly rod (a stick) and one fly line (dried tree-roots), and one hook (the toe bone from a saber-tooth tiger).

Anyway, for millions of years, fly fishers caught fish all over the globe. Suddenly, however, we all woke up believing that flies tied with beads were better than flies without beads. This imaginary factoid lit the fly tying plains like wildfire when ordinary anglers began crawling home from rivers and lakes with harrowing tales of the number and size of fish they had just caught on flies tied with bead heads. Little flies with fly tying beads. Big flies with fly tying beads. Wet flies. Nymphs. Soft hackles. Streamers. Buggers. Midges. Leeches. Even dry flies with bead heads were being touted as super fish attractors.

We were hooked. All us obsessive fly tyers were hooked and we remain hooked to this day. Simple brass beads with holes morphed into a staggering number of variants, just as the common cold mutates constantly, forever eluding clear classification and – heaven forbid – development of a “cure.” So too with fly tying beads, they continue to mutate and evolve, defying any attempt to ever settle on a favorite style, size, color, or weight.

The permutations are as perplexing as they are multitudinous. Bead head Gold Ribbed Hare’s ear. Bead Head Possie Bugger. Bead head Prince. Bead Head Pheasant Tail. Bead head Wooly Bugger. Bead head mini Leech. Bead Head egg sucking leech. Bead head midge. Bead head Crazy Charlie. Bead head Clouser Deep Minnow. Bead head rabbit leech. Bead head Copper John. Bead Head French Onion Soup. Bead head soft hackles. Bead Head Green Rockworm. Bead Head October Caddis. Bead Head Pulled Pork Sandwich. Yummmmm.

This reminds me, did you hear the one about the Hareline Gold Cyclops bead at the Simms Ice Out event in Bozeman Montana? Well, this Gold Cyclops Bead was standing at the bar, quaffing a Coors Light, when up steps a Hareline Copper Slotted Tungsten Bead, a hot feminine fly fishing industry rep who ordered some sort of fancy hefeweizen with a name like “Sunset over the Rockies after a June white-out with a Hareline fly tying bead designer at my side.”

The Hareline Gold Cyclops Bead, calm as could be, turned to the bartender, who just happened to be a fluorescent pink Hareline Countersunk Tungsten fly tying bead, said, with a quiver of anticipation clearly evident in his voice, “the lady’s drink is on me.” Maybe you had to be there. Hickman can vouch for every word.

As I write this, I am recovering from seventeen straight hours writing about fly tying beads, cones, eyes, barbells, mono eyes, lead fly tying eyes, painted lead eyes, tungsten beads, tungsten slotted beads, faceted tungsten beads, faceted slotted fly tying beads, bead chain eyes, countersunk tungsten beads, pseudo eyes, aluminum sea eyes, and, lord save me from myself. Forget that. Lord save me from the fly tying beads in my head when I close my eyes. Humm. Come to think of it, when was the last time I closed my eyes?

Here, for your fly tying bead obsession, just because I love to share my pain, are a few snippets about these critters.

Hareline Cyclops Beads are like Wheaties were in the good old days. The breakfast of Champions. Pour a hundred Hareline Cyclops beads down the toilet and it will do the same job as Mr. Roto, at a tiny fraction of the house-call fee. Use these in the cat’s litter box. Fish eat these on every imaginable fly style and size. Use with caution. The Hareline Cyclops fly tying bead is the gateway drug. Once you start down this road you are on the Highway to bead-o-mania.

Hareline tungsten beads. Start with the gateway bead-drug and make it sink better, here is what ya get. Tungsten sinks faster than depleted uranium.

Hareline Slotted Tungsten beads. We know that we are suffering an economic crisis on planet earth. Unemployment is high, retirement nest eggs disappeared, and swine flu still lurks in the shadows. Slotted Tungsten fly tying beads are one small step to improving the human condition. Buy these now. The slots will allow swift passage of your hook barb, thereby reducing karmatic angst, and every bead you purchase will put someone to work in Monroe, Oregon.

A side-note on bead and cone colors at this point. Gold is great. Copper is great. Black is killer. Nickel is for mid-day when water temperatures are hovering around freezing. Fluorescent orange makes fish think they are eating salmon eggs. Fluorescent white imitates worm larvae. Fluorescent green makes salmon think they are eating shark eggs. Flies tied with several beads in contrasting metallic and fluorescent colors on the same hook shank trigger psychotic mental lapses in the most gigantamundo salmon and cause them to swallow said flies shortly after they hit the water.

All of this is true, more or less. Maybe less more than more. But there could be some truth in this line of thinking, but maybe not. Are you going to be the one to de-bunk the mystique of fly tying beadology? I think not.

Another side-bar note here. The SEC has recently announced initiating an investigation of insider trading on the stock market related to Hareline fly tying beads, cones, coneheads, Pseudo Eyes, and Dazzle Beads. The tipping point for the SEC occurred when an anonymous caller blabbed that the Caddis fly had invested seventy Million bucks in the fly tying bead futures market. This by itself was not curious, but it then came to an accusation that the Caddis fly was trying to corner the worldwide fly tying bead market, control supply, fix prices, and influence color and style release dates.

This news was heartbreaking, to say the least. I now realize that all of the allegations are false and that the Caddis Fly will be absolved of any “wrong doing” when all the facts come out.

Have I mentioned Beads-R-Us? The people at Hareline Dubbin have pretty much proven that they are out to get us innocents with their onslaught of fly tying beads. But imagine what their daily lives are like. Surrounded by seven thousand packages ready to be picked up by the UPS guy wearing shorts in winter; hands all purple, orange, and hot pink from the latest schlappen dye party; every room littered with bar-coded labels and itty-bitty plastic bags; eating pizza next to twelve tons of cute little rabbit faces; stepping around thirteen thousand tanned deer hides; and dreading the day when they need to transfer seven miles of ultra-fine copper wire onto eleven million fly-shop spools – maybe their proclivity to obsess about fly tying beads is – nearly normal.

Sad to say it, but Ed Ward and George Cook do not use Hareline Faceted Slotted Tungsten Beads on their signature Intruders. This is perplexing because these guys are smart fly fishers. They catch a ton of giant king salmon every year. At least that’s what I’ve heard. Maybe it’s an exaggeration. Why wouldn’t they want to catch two tons of giant king salmon. I know it is a slight problem that these faceted tungsten fly tying beads don’t fit on a Waddington Sank. So what, I say. These guys, and people like Rob and Jeff and Jason are all savvy enough that they could use Super Glue to gob a bunch of these fly tying beads on their intruders. Then they could fish these on a Scandi Compact or Rio AFS instead of a Skagit line with twenty feet of T-17 sink tip.

By the way, you, the insane reader, should buy at least three hundred and seventy four packs of assorted beads, no matter what. Here is why. It will stimulate the Eugene, Oregon economy. It will stimulate the Monroe, Oregon economy. It will keep the French pastries in stock on Fridays at the Fly Shop. It will keep cold water in the tank and a case of Coca Cola in the fridge. It will keep bathroom tissue in the restroom (toilet paper in the bathroom). No there is no bath in the bathroom at the Caddis Fly.

Oh my gosh I have fly tying beads on the brain. Doing my internet research, I learned that NASA buys Hareline fly tying beads, cones, and eyes, — melts them down, and injection molds them to make parts for the Mars Lander. The USMC buys Hareline fly tying beads to make tank tracks. The USN uses fly tying beads as bearings on their missile turrets. Skate boarding punks buy fly tying beads to re-pack their wheels and surfer dudes use fly tying beads as shark pelting devices.

Rick Hafele is rumored (sorry Rick) to have documented that stonefly nymphs on the Deschutes have evolved to have actual gold-colored bead-heads just like the Kaufmann Bead head rubber leg stonefly nymph sold by the gazillion in Fly Shops. Art imitates nature, and nature imitates art. Fly tying beads should not be used as strike indicators, although they are useful for many other things like boat anchors.

Last thought, if you are still with me, the Caddis Fly stocks several thousand metric tons of fly tying beads, craft beads, depleted uranium beads, invisible beads, sub-atomic beads, big-as-a-house beads, and imaginary beads. Just a hint.


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8 Responses to Beads-R-Us

  1. Dunn says:

    Enjoyed your sense of humor.

  2. Jessie says:

    Jay, that was pure madness. It is good to know that someone else suffers from this disease.

  3. Jon says:

    The rivers must be high and brown.

  4. Anthony says:

    Wonderfully helpful article. I am left wondering, however, where one might find some of these coveted beads here in Eugene, Oregon with which to lash to a hook to use to pull a beautiful Redside to shore. Bi-Mart perhaps?

  5. Stevie says:

    Do you have the ones with the little eye bulges on them I saw in the magazine where the guy was catching huge fish on every cast? Just wondering… 😉

  6. tw says:

    I thought Nymo was the type of girl you wished you dated in college…..

  7. Jay Nicholas says:

    All: Thanks. Yes I do. Yes they are. Dunno, but you might try the Caddis fly — long shot — but worth the try. Tungsten pupil eyed beads — got ’em. Close, but no. Bunch of psycho fly tyers. JN

  8. David Swart says:

    Beads,cones,tthe subject is mind blowing for a new tyer,love the humor approch to looking at beads but seems like every day a new type of bead hits the market,how to decide which one to use is a question that has no real answer.

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