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Thread: Weighted Flies

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Portland and Maupin, Oregon

    Default Weighted Flies

    I'm in the process of tying some Seal Buggers for the NAFF's annual fly donation to Project Healing Waters. As I was winding 18 wraps of .025 lead wire around the body of the hook it got me thinking of why I take the time to do this over simply using a steel bead. It's not anything I take credit for, Im following the advice of Denny Rickards, a well know stillwater guru out of Southern Oregon. He likes a lead bodied streamer over a bead head one because the fly swims at the end of a full intermediate line at a more even plane. Whereas, a bead head tends to fish in more of a jigging motion on the retrieve. Since insects swim up to the surface during emergence it makes sense to me. I also wonder if a fish would reject a fly more readily if it chomped down on a hard headed fly.

    Bead heads vs lead wrapped bodies? What's best, does it make a difference?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Whitefish, MT

    Default Re: Weighted Flies

    I personally do not think that it makes a difference from the weight stand point. I think flash from the bead head helps though. Multiple colors of bead heads out their that make the fly more flashy. Although, I also typically add a wrap or two of lead-free lead to the hook shank that I push under the bead head to make sure that the bead head stays in place. I find that helps secure the bead head and makes the fly last longer.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Weighted Flies

    [QUOTE=dillon;1249358] I also wonder if a fish would reject a fly more readily if it chomped down on a hard headed fly.

    One of my most successful bugs of the last few years consists of a tungsten bead and a chenille body, nothing more, I let it swing round with the wind,(stillwater) no retrieve, you see the line start to straighten as a trout picks it up and swims off with it, there is no need to strike the hook home, they just keep going until the line is tight to the reel. A hard bead certainly doesn't deter them.
    I also tie spiders with coloured copper wire bodies and they are very successful also.
    Streamers are different in the way they "swim", usually, but not always, on a level plane (as in a darting small fish), so an even lead body makes more sense, rather than a bead, unless you are attempting to imitate a Goby.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Weighted Flies

    I think it depends on the targeted species. If you target smallmouth, they are often keyed in on crawfish, which will shoot up and then drift back down. Also, with streamers, they are not just effective because of their resemblance to a particular forage, but they also trigger predatory response through movement which is interpreted as prey-like. That movement can be indicative of a fleeing prey animal, or, in the case of an erattic retrieve, a wounded prey. I think the jigging retrieve does many things. It provides that erattic movement, it helps the angler keep the fish from getting a great look at the fly, and it draws more attention. I think there are applications for weight in both places. If fish are actively feeding in still water on shad, (here in GA) they are often killed or stunned and sink to the bottom evenly or with a side to side or fluttering motion. In this case a centered weight seems the most appropriate. If I'm blind casting along a river bank, I think the front loaded weight works best for a searcher type retrieve.

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  8. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Wasilla / Skwentna, Alaska
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Weighted Flies

    Never tied a bead head nymph in my life Dillon, I grew up in the age of lead wire and that's how I tied nymphs. By the time the bead heads made their appearance on the fly tying scene I had left the nymphs behind and fished only streamers with the occasional dry flies when they were the intelligent choice. I say wrap the wire.

    Anywhere can be the land of great expectations, broken dreams, or paradise found, it's all up to you.

    Life On The Line - Alaska Fishing with Ard
    Ard's Forum blog, Alaska Outdoors

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  10. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Ontario, Canada

    Default Re: Weighted Flies

    I am biased towards beads. They are super easy to add to a fly and I believe fish like them more too. I think the tiny bit of flash of the bead makes a big difference to the fish, it could be that it mimicks an air bubble on a rising nymph, I'm not sure. Here's a good read.

    Beads are the best | Hatch Magazine - Fly Fishing, etc.
    Last edited by huronfly; 11-08-2018 at 09:23 PM.

  11. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Northern Colorado

    Default Re: Weighted Flies

    There isnít a nymph I tie without a tungsten bead.

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  13. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Western Portal Sequoia National Forest / Kern River.

    Default Re: Weighted Flies

    As far as rejecting that fly, its not a midge or a #14 emerger, it's a chunk of meat with a gaff hidden in it. If a fish strikes only the tail it will result in a miss, a fish taking that whole fly, bead vs lead wraps, either way he's screwed. So by the time he'd feel the bead, the tip of the tail would be nearing his throat. Basically to feel the bead, he'd have two inches of fly in his mouth with the point of a fairly large gap hook near the mid point. The important thing to focus on here is the Seal and not the Bugger. Buggers don't really grab, its the Seal that provides the nappy body of the fly that resembles a large loose weave female velcro and the fishes tongue and jaw are lined with inward facing male velcro ( teeth ). Once that fly is in and makes contact with the lower surface of the mouth, you'd have to be pretty slow to miss finishing with a sucessful hook set.

    But to keep the fly working the way it needs to, it should be shank weighted as Denny indicates.
    Since you didn't list the size you intend to tie them in, my only advice, back down the weight unless you are going to be tying #4's and up. I fish a very near version of that fly often and with that much weight in smaller sizes it simply would out sink my I lines, two or three to one, which defeats the usefulness of the fly. # 6 or 8, 8 - 10 turns of .015 is plenty, I need that fly to stay somewhere near the same plane as the I line at slow and moderate speeds, over submerged rock and weed beds.

    To answer your question, I use no beads or cones on stillwater Trout streamer patterns, it's counter productive to my goals. If you watched a major damsel hatch first hand, the vast majority of the time, before they go teneral, they are cruising at or near the surface, more or less horizontal looking for something to climb out on, like a reed, stump, shore, your tube, boat, rod tip dipping in the water. It takes far longer for them to find those things, than to make the short swim to the surface. Hence the I line and swimming in line with it. Plus, with with the shank wrapped weight, you have the choice of dead sticking the fly after the cast, until it gets way down, then swim it back up. With the bead, it's bobbing for apples or nothing. You're applying an emergence motion in your swim up to the surface scenario that more closely follows that of mayflies, midges and caddisflies. That's not what you are trying to replicate with a seal bugger. Think leaches, damsels, dragons, sculpin even crayfish.

    Good tying Dave.
    Last edited by trout trekker; 11-09-2018 at 03:10 PM.

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  15. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Los Angeles, CA / Pullman, WA

    Default Re: Weighted Flies

    I have been tying and using Seal Bugger patterns all over the West, in rivers and still water since 2001. I have tied them beadless, with weight and more recently, with weight, coneheads and hot spots. They have taken large trout in all of the Eastern Sierra waters that I have used them in as well as on the Delaware, Beaverkill and Esopus Creek. They have also delivered on the Madison, Stillwater, Boulder and Yellowstone Rivers in Montana. I tie them in #2 - #10.

    I use this dubbing as a base for all of the Seal Bugger and SB Variants that I tie:

    ...and add other dubbings as desired. These are two of the patterns that have been particularly effective for me and my kids over the past three years:

    The Hot Spots are generally tied using Datum Glo-Brite Floss #3, Red or #5. Fl. Orange. I will be taking these guys down to the Grande Ronde, Clearwater and Snake Rivers to toss at steelhead, along with classic steelhead and intruder patterns:

    My son caught this 9lb. 4oz. Triploid Rainbow out of a certain high elevation lake using the Olive pattern above:

    In my experience the jigging ( rise and fall ), of these weighted conehead patterns, when stripped, adds to their effectiveness...They worked really well here, between the lakes, on the Madison for Fall run-up Browns:

    Daughter to Father, " How many arms do you have, how many fly rods do you need?"

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  17. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Hudsonville, Michigan
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Weighted Flies

    I use the beads, especially tungsten for nymphs, streamers I use either the lead wire wrap or a bullet head.


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