Fly Tying Beads

Beads are a common and versatile component used in fly tying. Fly tying beads serve various purposes in fly tying and can enhance the effectiveness, attractiveness, and functionality of your flies.

Key Information About Fly Tying Beads

1. Purpose

Beads are primarily used to add weight to flies, enabling them to sink in the water column at the desired rate. They can also act as an imitation of the head or thorax of an insect, adding a realistic element to the fly.

2. Weighted Flies

Adding beads to a fly pattern helps it sink quickly, making it suitable for fishing at various depths. The beads can be placed near the head of the fly or even threaded onto the hook shank, providing a streamlined and balanced design.

3. Fly Tying Bead Materials

Bead heads can be made of various materials, including metal, glass, plastic, and even natural materials like bone. Most beads are made of brass, tungsten, or glass:

Brass Fly Tying Beads: These are among the most popular and versatile. They are relatively inexpensive and come in a variety of colors and sizes.

Tungsten Fly Tying Beads: Tungsten beads are denser than brass beads, which means they're heavier for their size. This allows for smaller bead sizes while maintaining the desired weight. Tungsten beads are particularly useful when you need to create heavily weighted flies that are still relatively compact.

Glass Fly Tying Beads: Glass beads are often used for creating more delicate patterns or for imitating certain insect species. They can add a lifelike translucency to the fly.

4. Bead Colors and Finishes

Beads come in a wide range of colors and finishes. Common colors include gold, silver, copper, black, and brass. Beads might have a metallic or matte finish, giving the fly a different appearance in the water.

5. Bead Sizes

Beads also come in different sizes, typically ranging from very small (1/16 inch) to larger sizes (3/16 inch or more). The size of the bead affects both the weight of the fly and its appearance.

6. Applications

Beads can be used in a variety of fly patterns, such as nymphs, streamers, and even dry flies. Nymphs with bead heads, for example, imitate the natural behavior of nymphs as they drift and tumble in the water column.

7. Bead Placement

The placement of the bead on the hook shank can influence the balance and swimming action of the fly. Placing the bead closer to the hook eye will result in a fly that has a more downward-tipping posture, while placing it farther back on the shank will result in a more level or upward posture.

Because fly tying beads provide versatility in terms of sink rate, depth control, and visual appeal, incorporating beads into your fly patterns can greatly enhance your success in various fly fishing scenarios.

One key decision every tyer needs to make when using beads is matching the size of the bead to the size of the hook they are tying with. Tyers can use trial and error, testing different hooks with different size beads. To make that process easier, weโ€™ve developed this chart to help you match recommended hook and bead size combinations:

mm inches ย 
1.6 1/16 18 - 24
2.0 5/64 16 - 18
2.4 3/32 14 - 16
2.8 7/64 12 - 16
3.2 1/8 10 - 14
4.0 5/32 6 - 8
4.8 3/16 4 - 8

These recommendations are based on a survey of a half dozen hook manufacturers and three or more hook styles for each brand. We always welcome your recommendations for improving our information.

If you would like to keep a copy of our Fly Tying Hook and Bead Size Combination Recommendations on your tying bench, you can download it here!

And, don't forget that we have hundreds of fly tying beads in stock and ready to shop.


Mike Weber

Mike Weber

Thanks a million. I was having a terrible time with the bead size and hook size. Now I can get it right. So appreciated!

craig Serrels

craig Serrels

Hello and thank you, fly Fished for a number of years and resent two seasons have started to ty. This chart is helpful. AND!!! this easy access email location.
Bravo! all the way around your selections and sails.

Jim Coverdell

Jim Coverdell

I really appreciate your chart. Thereโ€™s a lot of overlap though, of bead size to hook. E.g., 1/8,7/64, and 3/32 are all stated as an appropriate match for size 14 hooks.
J.P. Boblett

J.P. Boblett

A Helpful table. Thanks.
Do these measurements apply equally to either brass or tungsten and to whether or not the bead is a standard round bead or slotted?

M S  Loughrey

M S Loughrey

Your catalog is great. I really appreciate the way it is laid out. It is very organized and easy to find what I need. The index is the best, I find just what Iโ€™m looking for.

C W Hendricks

C W Hendricks

I use you guys exclusively now because you still send out catalogs. I love to mull over the pages and then order on line. Thank you! CW

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