Material of the Week: Realistic Tungsten Beads

Written by Shawn Brillon


These killer new beads are both heavy and realistic-looking.
All photos via orvis.com

Do you really need realistic beads to tie effective nymphs for trout? Of course not. Will you want some of these? Probably. Fly tying is about a lot more than just creating flies to catch trout, because if it were, we’d all just tie lumps of hare’s ear fur or strands of pheasant tail or just red thread to hooks. Those things work, sometimes very well. But they aren’t much fun to tie and aren’t very pleasing to the eye.

New realistic tungsten beads designed by Flymen fishing Company do have some practical advantages. First, they’re tungsten, which is a very dense but non-toxic metal. Tungsten on the head of a nymph often gets flies to the bottom without the need for additional weight on the leader. Weight on the leader is hard to cast, creates more tangles, and will sometimes pull the fly out of a trout’s mouth when it jumps, especially when you’re fishing barbless hooks.

In addition, these beads come in more realistic colors than most brass and tungsten beads. I’m convinced that in heavily fished rivers, trout frequently get caught and released on flies with shiny beads, so they learn to avoid them. In dirty water, in riffles, and in places where trout don’t see much fishing pressure, I think shiny beads have their place, to help trout locate our flies. But day in and day out, I prefer most of my beads dull-colored. It’s the weight that I am after, and it’s much nicer to put weight on the head of a fly with a bead than wrapping the whole hook shank with wire. Plus you don’t get as much weight with wire. These beads come in black, olive, and brown—more muted colors, more suited to the overall look of your flies than a piece of shiny brass, silver, or copper.

And then, finally, there’s the shape. You may get a small amount of better acceptance by the trout when the heads of your flies are shaped to the profile of the natural bug. It can’t hurt. But even more important to most of us is how our flies look in the box when we show our buddies. And these beads make some truly sexy flies. If you want, you can even paint little black pupils on them with model-airplane paint to complete the picture.

So why take a chance with nymphs that are too light, too flashy, and not quite the right shape? These new beads are the perfect way to complete your mayfly, stonefly, and caddisfly imitations. In case you need some guidance, here are my recommendations for when to use each bead.

Nymph-Head Evolution Stonefly Tungsten Beads.

Well, these are the ones to use for stonefly imitations—all species except the very tiny, skinny stonefly nymphs in size 16 and smaller where you really don’t want a broad head. Use the black ones for giant black stones (salmonflies), and use the brown ones for golden stones and Skwala nymphs. Use the gold ones for wilderness cutthroats and brook trout, or tie a few for dirty water. But I would stick with the brown and black for most patterns. Size S works on hook sizes 12 & 14, M for sizes 8 & 10, and L for hook sizes 4 & 6.


These stoneflies will get to the bottom fast.

Nymph-Head Evolution Caddisfly Tungsten Beads.

These perfectly imitate the shape of caddis-pupa heads, great for fishing deep pupas when they are beginning to rise to the surface during a caddis hatch. They are not for caddis larvae, which have a tiny head, but caddis pupae are far more available to trout than larvae, because pupae are throughout the water column, whereas larvae are always hidden on the bottom. The beads come in olive, brown, and black, so just match the head to the overall color scheme of the caddis pupa you are imitating—or if you don’t know what color the naturals are, use black to be on the safe side. They come in sizes XS (hook sizes 14 to 18), S, (hook sizes 12 & 14), M (hook sizes 10 & 12), and L (hook sizes 8 & 10).


These patterns will work great with a Leisenring Lift presentation, as well as on the dead-drift.

Mayfly Swimmer and Burrower Bead.

These are best for the slightly narrower head shape of mayflies like the Hex, brown drake, Eastern green drake, Baetis, and Isonychia. The shape is also great for damselfly nymphs. Choose a color to match the overall body color of the mayfly you are imitating, and for general or prospecting nymphs, use brown to be safe. They come in sizes XS (hook sizes 16 & 18), S, (hook sizes 14 & 16), M (hook sizes 12 & 14), L (hook sizes 10 & 12) and XL (hook sizes 8 & 10).


Dull-colored beads will help you fool pressured trout.

Mayfly Clinger and Crawler Bead.

These are for the more flattened mayfly species, probably the most common ones we imitate, such as the Quill Gordon, Hendrickson, PMD, Western green drake, March brown, light Cahill, and all the various cream-colored summer mayflies. Choose a color to match the overall body color of the mayfly you are imitating, and for general or prospecting nymphs use brown to be safe. They come in sizes XS (hook sizes 16 & 18), S, (hook sizes 14 & 16), M (hook sizes 12 & 14), L (hook sizes 10 & 12) and XL (hook sizes 8 & 10)


The flat profile of these beads is more imitative than that of standard round bead.

11 thoughts on “Material of the Week: Realistic Tungsten Beads”

    1. Its more about the weight and the aesthetic look of the beads. One can build plenty of movement into a fly by way of soft hackle, cdc, rubber legs. Beads are just a method of providing mass to aid in sinking the fly. A bead shouldn’t hinder movement of materials.

  1. Cool looking product but as something of an old fashion curmudgeonly type I do wonder if this is fly fishing or jigging with a fly rod …. not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that. But as products do evolve the lines between fly fishing and others are definitely becoming blurred … not a criticism; just an observation.

  2. I am older and more curmudgeonly than Doug Lyons but I love them! And any weighted fly is a jig, no matter where you put the weight. These are just more elegant and efficient than wire under the body.

  3. I am sure they are great Tom. I am sure I will try them … just an observation of how fly fishing has changed over time …. not a criticism in any way at all. You are indeed older but especially on cold days like today I can be pretty cranky : >

  4. Pingback: Tippets: Investing in Gear, Realistic Tungsten Beads, Water Footprints | MidCurrent

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