Craft Beads? Alternative Craft Store Materials to Add "Naturalistic" Characteristics?

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy quiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
Forum Supporter
Is anyone using craft beads?
A few years back at an IFF Washington Fly Fishing Fair, there seemed to be a theme going on among many of the fly tiers with low cost alternative materials. One of which was beads. I stopped by a local bead specialty store and was amazed by the variety and the very low cost compared to what was available in fly shops. There was glass and plastic in a myriad of colors; even white glow in the dark. The better grade of glass beads were very uniform in size.
There was also gloss black Hematite magnetic. I remember Doug Swisher writing he preferred the more natural appearance of black beads. And the Hematite's magnetic characteristic of a moving electric charge made me curious :unsure:.

So I spent about $15 for a few strands of glass and hematite beads to check out.

Problem: I found many of the beads had holes that are too small to go around the bend of a J hook up to the eye.
Solutions?
I remember one of the tiers at the WFF Fair mentioned he was drilling them out. Is anyone doing that? What kind of vise and drill do you use?
Is anyone tying in a straight pin to the hook shank for the bead and tying the tippet into the hook eye below the bead (or likely above once in the water)?

Naturalistic and Alternative Materials
Back in 1990 I purchased a book titled Effective Lake Flies - A Float Tubing Guide to Productive Patterns by Mike Andreasen & Allan Ryther. They mentioned the term "Naturalistic" for fly characteristics in addition to size, color, shape and action. They specifically called out the iridescence of peacock herl, soft, fuzzy, furry, materials, materials that hold air bubbles and have the "halo effect" (subtle flash) when wet, and "spectrumized colors". They used the spectrumized Canadian Mohair yarn in a few unweighted sparsely dressed leech pattern variations that are stupid easy to tie.
1669228060121.png1669228329401.jpeg1669230264902.jpeg
I found them to be fairly consistent for trout and bass at a couple of small local lakes. At some point I began to fish streams almost exclusively and more or less forgot about spectrumized Mohair. Later I heard about synthetic Dazzleaire yarn that has clear filaments in the plies that give off a flashy sheen (halo) when brushed out and began tying flies with it in various colors. It works well tied sparsely as a body material in dry flies because it doesn't absorb water.

And I thought more about hematite.
Is a magnetic field; a small moving electrical charge another "naturalistic" characteristic that a fish can sense, enticing it to strike?

Some of the hematite beads have the problem with the small hole size going over a J hook bend. Unfortunately hematite is brittle so I don't think they can be drilled. However picking through them with forceps I find many beads that work.

I decided to take up Tenkara sometime after visiting the bead store and tied my first fly with a hematite bead; a variation of this using rust colored Dazzlaire yarn (lots of flashy strands when brushed out), Olive Ice chenille (now use dubbing), soft variegated Guinea Hen hackle (intended to sink and have an exaggerated flowing movement).
1669223681629.jpeg
Standing on the bank near a spot where I'd had success over a number of years with a fly rod & reel, in mid-May with high water that I could not wade into and no backcast room because of trees behind me, I did a slingshot cast about 15 feet out and hooked - landed this; my 2nd fish on a T-rod.
1669224588167.jpeg
:unsure: +1 for Tenkara, Dazzleaire and hematite!

Recently I have decided to start fishing lakes more. A friend has had consistent success at several area lakes popular amongst fly anglers with a gold bead - black & red Simi Seal leech (dubbing loop method). I purchased some Simi Seal and the ~1" long Simi Seal fiber lengths make it very nice for tying bushy, "flowing" body profile when brushed out. I have tied up a few with the black hematite bead to to see how they do soon at a private lake I help to stock.
1669224919670.jpeg
Wanting to tie up a few more leech patterns in spectrumized yarn I discovered my supply was getting low. The Mohair yarn in strands is no longer available but it can be purchased as dubbing. However when purchasing the black and red Simi Seal, I found he also offers spectrumized brown and olive Canadian dubbing so I also got them. Here is the Canadian brown color with a hematite bead.

1669230381942.jpeg
Another thing I do to add a subtle naturalistic(?) flash is use a (light) coat of glitter nail polish as head cement that leaves a small amount of colored speckles on thread heads and beads.
1669233855119.png1669235245802.png
Mrs. Brian likes to go on vacations where she can quilt while I fish. When out and about with her, she likes visiting quilt stores. I go in to take pictures of cool quilts for her and look for alternative fly tying materials and tools. She's often amused (or bemused-annoyed) that she has to wait for someone to help her but I will often quickly have a clerk come up and ask if I'd like help to find something. I once bought a whole box full of discontinued Dazzleaire yarn skeins in various solid and variegated colors for $12 and brought them to the fly club for the guys to take whatever they wanted. Recently I found some glow in the dark polyester thread and am trying to think of patterns and situations to use it.
1669238262544.png

Other thoughts on using craft beads, craft fur, and other alternative materials to add "naturalistic" characteristics to your flies?
 
Last edited:

FinLuver

Native Oregonian…1846
Forum Supporter
Do you enlarge the holes?
No...
I can just buy a larger sized bead in the same brand/color.
Hooks size and style/shape considerations are helpful as well, when choosing a bead.

I went to school with the owner and she lets me try the hook/bead combos there.
 

RCF

Life of the Party
@Brian Miller - welcome to the dark side and the proverbial hole that never ends. At least you are saving money and have such a wide variety of choices never seen in a fly shop. Craft shops, bead shops, yarn shops, hobby shops, ---> so many choices so little time.

May be time for a fly of the month thread only using materials from those shops (excluding hooks of course) --> call it the 'Craft Fly'?
 
Last edited:

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy quiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
Forum Supporter
Hooks size and style/shape considerations are helpful as well, when choosing a bead.
Here are 2mm(?) red, 3mm(?) white (glow in dark), 4mm(?) black, and 5mm(?) hematite bead diameters and profiles I have that will go around the bend of a #10 TMC 5263 2X heavy hook bend.
20221123_212341.jpg
The things to consider for fitting over the bend of the hook are the relationship of diameter of the hole and any chamfer to outside diameter and overall profile shape (top to bottom) of the bead.
 

Northern

Seeking SMB
Forum Supporter
I don't think I've ever bought glass beads anywhere other than a craft shop!

I tie most of my buggers with marabou tails and Martha Stewart Glitter Eyelash Yarn bodies - an "Eyelash Bugger." White ones are one of my go-to lake flies, and often with a craft store glass bead head. Tail's too long on this one, but it still works. The thread & mylar "hackle" pulses nicely when stripped.
20211107_200321.jpg
20211107_202450.jpg
20211103_164241.jpg
Even simpler, green eyelash yarn wrapped a few times around, then left trailing as a tail, sealed with flame as an Eyelash Leech
20211223_141138.jpg
20211223_164835.jpg
 

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy quiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
Forum Supporter
Even simpler, green eyelash yarn wrapped a few times around, then left trailing as a tail, sealed with flame as an Eyelash Leech
Nice! Do you tie the yarn on at the hook bend and off at the bead ?
 
Last edited:

FinLuver

Native Oregonian…1846
Forum Supporter
Here are 2mm(?) red, 3mm(?) white (glow in dark), 4mm(?) black, and 5mm(?) hematite bead diameters and profiles I have that will go around the bend of a #10 TMC 5263 2X heavy hook bend.
View attachment 42405
The things to consider for fitting over the bend of the hook are the relationship of diameter of the hole and any chamfer to outside diameter and overall profile shape (top to bottom) of the bead.
Barbed vs nonbarbed too
 

John Svahn

Steelhead
Forum Supporter
I bought a glass bead necklace where the beads are that chameleon color that looks green sometimes and purple at others. The necklace is one that is a bunch of necklaces braided together so a lifetime supply. The sizes are imperfect so i can make a super heavy segmented tapered body with several different beads. And of course bead heads. I also have switched to using these beads in place of split shot. They do break off from time to time but not as much as initially thought. The necklace was a few bucks at the craft/bead store.
 

Northern

Seeking SMB
Forum Supporter
SRC really like these craft bead ones, but you gotta be really careful with your beach backcast!
20191108_222109.jpg

And my answer to the swivel controversy on the very rare occasion that I choose to fish chironomids under an indicator (tied on a dropshot swivel hook)
20221124_140229.jpgthe
 

rattlesnake

Steelhead
Forum Supporter
I tie a caddis emerger, basically an x caddis with a clear glass bead at the thorax. Used to tie a lafontaines emerger that way too out of laziness but enjoy the original lafontaines more now. Similarly have used other glass beads for soft hackles, really like them. And some of the things you guys are doing for leaches and stuff is really cool too (I just don’t fish a lot of leaches)
 
Top