5 Reasons Beads are Better Than Egg Fly Patterns

If you're going to fish an egg imitation, you might as well fish one that catches more fish and kills less
Dolly varden eats bead.
This dolly varden from Alaska'a Tongass National Forest is hooked in the outside corner of the jaw, typical of a hook set with a properly setup bead rig.

I don't get excited about fishing egg patterns like some fishermen do. But, there's good reason for their excitement: they work. It's a simple fact. When spawning salmon are in a river dropping eggs, other fish are eating them. In these situations, fishing an egg imitation will almost invariably out fish any other method available to the angler. That angler typically has two options in the world of fly fishing: the more traditional yarn-based egg patterns such the Glo Bug or the more recently adopted plastic bead egg imitations.

Beads, however, are considered a dirty word by some fly fishermen. Most commonly, bead detractors will claim that "beads aren't flies", typically because they're made of plastic, not hand tied and so on. Essentially, those who would sneer at the idea of fishing a plastic bead are making the argument that glo bugs, eggs tied with antron (plastic) and other similar yarn-based egg patterns represent a more purist, creative presentation of an egg imitation. Anyone who has tied an egg pattern—which takes about 10 seconds even for a scandalously unskilled fly tyer like myself—should quickly dismiss this as nonsense. More important, however, is the reality that anyone that has fished both beads and egg patterns should quickly realize many reasons why beads are considerably superior to their yarn-based alternatives.

Beads are More Realistic

Beads, practically inarguably, are a better imitation of real eggs than an imitation made of yarn. Beads are available in an almost endless array of colors and sizes, in varying degrees of opacity, with and without mottling, with and without blood dots and so on.

They're Cheaper

Your typical bead is about one-tenth to one-third the price of an egg pattern, if you're going by typical fly store prices. If you tie your own flies, this difference will be smaller, but you're still going to be paying almost as much for a bare hook as you will for a bead. When you consider that egg patterns catch lots of fish and thus take lots of abuse, this difference adds up quickly.

More Durable

Beads are practically indestructable, at least during exposure to the normal rigors of fly fishing. Yarn egg patterns, on the other hand, don't hold up very well. Rocks, fish teeth, branches and other in-stream hazards shred yarn egg patterns easily, making them lose their shape and profile, rendering them unfishable.

More Natural Flotation

Many plastic beads are designed with neutral or near-neutral buoyancy in an effort to mimic real fish eggs. This means that when they float in the water, they do so the same way that natural fish eggs do. The result is a more realistic presentation, which equals more fooled fish.

Significantly Lower Fish Mortality

The evidence for this is anecdotal, but considerable. If you're pegging your bead an inch or two above your hook (which you should be), fishing beads normally results in a jaw hook set as opposed to a swallowed egg and a deep-hooked fish. Trout and other fish that are gorging on eggs are doing just that, gorging. Eggs are taken with abandon and are often swallowed. If your hook is trailing behind your egg imitation, setting the hook will more reliably result in fish that are hooked in corner of the jaw or elsewhere in the mouth, instead of down deep where the chances of a successful release are greatly decreased.

Finally, whether you're fishing an egg or a bead or any other fly, you should never target spawning fish and always take care to know how to identify redds and avoid trampling or disturbing them.

Comments

Glo bugs are a thing of the past. Beads work better and are better for the fish.

Graduate!

Yes, beads are great. In states like NY, where only one hook is permitted, I peg a bead 1" above a stonefly or bugger and thus am fishing two "flies" with on hook. Each trout I catch I can't tell whether it was after the bead or the stonefly. But who cares? It's all good.

You may as well be dunkin a worm or spin fishing

I guess opinions are like -ssholes. Everyone has one. Only some stink more than others. I'm sorry ,I was talking about your opinion. I fish every style and type known . I'll swing a fly, I'll center pin, I'll spin with float, heck I'll even use nightcrawlers to fish for steelhead. I think beads are the greatest thing in their application. I even tie jigs to go under float. This message is for all people, if you're not going to add to the conversation then keep your stink to yourself.

Plastic bobbers and beads....what could be more challenging!

Chad,

Great post man. I've got boxes of beads of all sizes at the house and I don't break them out near enough. I'm going to tomorrow courtesy of you my friend. I do agree that beads are deadly and much better for the fish pegged above a hook. That being said, I still always have my yarn eggs in my box. It might all be in my head but I think sometimes the texture of the cut yarn provides some attraction value to the trout that at times can be helpful for getting tough bites, and the smooth finish of beads can't duplicate that very well. Situations where this would be a factor is when you're using the egg as an attractor. Another reason I think yarn eggs work so well is that they absorb water and that makes them sink very quickly, which allows to get down in the strike zone fast. That's why I always carry them. In a situation where there's lots of natural eggs in the water though, the bead will out fish the yarn egg in most situations. Again, great post man.

Kent Klewein

Thanks, Kent. All good thoughts. There are certainly situations where a yarn egg will hold value, I do not doubt. But the convenience and efficacy of beads seems to trump the use of yarn under most circumstances, it seems.

Hopefully I haven't steered you wrong. Eager to hear how your bead trials go!

Two tips Kent. Try dipping your beads in a rubber epoxy / head cement, so they don't have the hard texture. Also, try experimenting with the new hevi-beads, sink better than yarn or plastic.

For me, I have recently discovered the potential beads have, especially on drop-back steelhead this spring. Flyfishing is fun, flytying is fun, but catching fish is the most fun. My tips for easy bead fishing. go to the craft store and look for GLASS bracelet beads, they should be reasonably priced and a few aisles down you can get some mini "lomb-bracelet" to use as your pegging material, and turn your weight into bait!

Call me an old asshole (I'm 25, but the asshole part would probably be accurate) but I think everyone can agree on the simple fact that beads aren't flies. That was never even debated here in Michigan, even before the newly minted law stating it in terms even bait fisherman can understand. I've fished them, they work well. So do real eggs and plugs. They are all superior over flies in every single category. But you don't see articles written by spey guys preaching the merits of swinging plugs over flies. Sure glo bugs, nukes and clowns are super easy to tie, but you still have to TIE them. And for all the talk about how easy they are, I still see plenty of dogshit patterns tied so somebody must be struggling. Fly fishing is supposed to be more difficult, it's supposed to force you to drive home with fewer fish and the satisfaction of knowing that you did it on flies. Ya you'll probably get fewer Instagram likes, which I guess is a deal breaker for some dudes. As far as fish mortality goes, I can't remember the last time I hooked a fish deeper than the lips with anything but a streamer or mouse. You know what kills fish? People that don't know how to handle them. But that's a different rant. Carry on.

I guess it's not humane to fish beads but I can watch a fly fag line fish all day beside me using a pheasant tail with a huge chunk of lead four feet up. Ya that's fishing typical fly fisherman And or glorified snagged no pun intended go the real fly fisherman

My god. Speak english next time. I don't even undertand what you're trying to say other than railing on fly fishing...

This makes me sick... A bead is not a fly. If you are that into catching more fish id recommend tying some spawn sacs or investing in a center pin. How about I swing plugs because there cheaper, and more realistic than intruders?

What about the growing number of bead anglers who all home make all their "beads"?

If beads are not fly materials than throw away all of your weighted flies. Lead is metal right. And lead is used to weigh flies down. (Stares and drops microphone)

I couldn't agree more old chap. How dare they?!? Someday they will be judged at the pearly gates and we know what the result will be. The unpure will be sent to the depths of hell where they will be forced to spin fish for eternity. We will be above them looking down as we only fish dry flies upstream with bamboo rods made by god himself.

Hahahaha!!! "Makes me sick". You gotta love it.

To all
If you fisherman that tie, consider the more Moral point of dumping lead in our rivers. The is a study here in Jackson Hole that documented high lead levels in Eagles. More lead in the river means more lead in fish which travels up the food chain. Lead is illegal in yellowstone. I love how everyone writes in so proud and with strong opinions on how they tie thier flies or don't fish eggs but then use lead wire, eyes, beads, and shot that they dump in our rivers to poison the water. Same or worse with bullets. Why are we talking about this? Educate yourself . http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/get_the_lead_out/pdfs/healt...

I do pin and most guys prob like you fly fishing below us are tossing size 4 buggers with a chunk a lead no indicator or the guy trying to Spey fish on the oak. Do the rest of the normal fly pin and spin fisherman a favor and sit on the bank with Donny beavers because all your doing is taking up good water being a space waster!

One thing about beads is that they do kill more immature fish. They work great if all you have are trophy trout, big dollys, or mature steelhead around. I fish beads a lot, but have learned to be selective where I use them. A small trout or juvenile steelhead can't get their mouth around a gob of eggs, but a bare hook or fly pegged an inch or two below a bead will stick them in the gills a lot of the time. As far as the gear vs. fly argument goes, there are some places where the fly rod and line work great for bead fishing, some places where the centerpin works better and some places where the spinning rod works better, fly rods are just good for throwing light gear and fishing a low angle, and fly fishing is fun. There are all kinds of fishermen who are just fundementalists however they fish, avoid them. The point of fishing is to catch fish, not to fish a proper format when you know a better way to fish. Most fly fishers don't know how to gear fish and most gear guys don't know how to fly fish, both take practice, but none are "better" than the other. And just a note, fishing a dry fly is the most purist form of fishing right? well the last steelhead I caught was on a dry, it was wild, and it gobbled the thing down to its gills, and had bled to death by the time I got it in my hands. Hooks hurt fish, go figure.
Just go out there and enjoy yourselves

I can't say IME that beads kill more immature fish. In fact, most of the time when I am fishing, I hook fish through the outside edge of the mouth with a bead (similar to the photo above). the hook never even gets into the mouth at all, which is about as good for the fish as it gets. Most of my fishing is on rainbows and half pounder steelhead from 14-22".

And, don't forget, since they are cheap, you can just launch a handful into the river as chum. Does fly fishing get any better than this....I ask you.

try fishing the yarn eggs the same way as the bead pattern. same principal, just using the yarn egg. save a trout today.

Is the idea that beads are better for fish than flies based on the idea that they have a stinger hook, which normally injures more fish, in other applications. But if it is a good thing in this application, a trailing hook can be part of any rig regardless of the "lure" part used. You could tie the egg to the leader, a tube, or simply apply a trailing hook to the fly. In any case if folks are using beads to run two flure systems one of which is a fly that is not a trailer deal, then they are hooking fish the lethal way some of the time, anyway.

I'm not against beads they are used in flies generally, worst thing you could say is that a bead is a bead tube fly. Lee Wulff one of the great proponents of ethical approaches to fly fishing marketed a plastic body stone fly. I'm all for retaining standards, but most of the those ships have sailed.

Why do people who want to use non-flies want to call it fly fishing? Is it an ego thing, or are there fly fishing only areas on popular rivers that are the issue? I'm in Ontario, and we don't have many of these issues.

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