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Bead flies with a difference - Bead "bulging" nymphs

by David Higgins

One of the greatest innovations to fly fishing and fly tying, particularly in recent times, is the use of "Bead Heads" nymphs.There is no doubt that bead head flies in their many forms catch fish. Over the years, a huge number of fascinating fly patterns have been developed.

If you look in the average fly fishers fly box or on his or her fly vest you will no doubt find a large selection of bead head flies. In fact bead heads have taken the world by storm and are the biggest selling single pattern. The concept of using a metal Gold - Silver or Brass bead is a brilliant and very versatile concept.

Many fly tiers are using the bead head concept in clever and unusual ways and my fly box was also filled with dozens of  them until recently.

I have never been completely satisfied with the swimming action of bead head nymphs, which when retrieved normally, swim in a straight line or turn head down during the pause, or drift down the river current in a head down, tail up fashion. Nothing like the naturals, which are struggling to swim to the surface, head upwards.

I was tying an ascending nymph pattern and was really pondering how I could improve the fly, when I realised that the silver bead (my blank stare was focused on) could I use this in some way to create a better Nymph?

As in most things the answer is "Oh" so simple when you resolve the problem. I now have a fly box filled with bead flies with a definite difference.

You can modify your flies in two distinct ways to create a better bead bulging nymph pattern.

1. Bulging Wing Case - move the bead one third back from the eye of the hook and incorporate the bead in the tying of the wing case to simulate an air bubble. By shifting the weight of the bead from the eye helps the fly maintain a more even keel. The bead bulging wing case helps to make the nymph twist and tumble in a very enticing manner, mimicking a struggling nymph larvae as the fly drifts along in the river currents.  

2. Move the metal bead from the normal position behind the eye of the hook, to the top of the bend of the hook shank. I favour this pattern for lake and slow water fishing on rivers. By transferring the weight of the bead to the tail of the hook makes the fly swim in a natural ascending, head up, tail down position, just like the naturals!     

I should explain right here that using the beads in the way described above does not necessarily "only" involve threading a bead onto a hook shank when tying bead bulging nymphs.

When tying standard bead head flies you must match the size of the bead to the size of the hook shank to allow the bead to slip around the bend of the hook up to the eye. If you are tying a bead Bulging nymph, you may wish to use a larger bead to highlight the bulging wing case and simulated  air bubble. .

The problem!   A larger bead will not go around the hook bend you wish to use.

Answer!  Tie on a bead separately to the hook shank.

How To - In this example we will assume you want to tie on a bead on a  hook size which will only accept a 3mm bead but you want to exaggerate the wing case with a 5mm bead.

Tying Tips - wing case bead bubble 

1. Complete the tail and abdomen of the pattern you choose as usual.

2. Attach one end of a short length of dental floss or light wire, just past the mid point of the shank so that the free end is long enough to protrude past the eye of the hook (use the remaining wire ribbing if applicable).

3. Thread the free end of your floss or wire through the bead and tie the bead down securely front and back with the attached thread.

4. Complete the thorax - wing case with your chosen material, taking several turns behind the bead. Make several wraps under the bead and in front of the bead. You want the effect of hiding the base of the bead causing it to bulge out of the thorax.

5. Finish the fly with a thread head if required.

NOTE - When adding a bead to the rear of the hook shank, you can thread the correct size bead straight onto the hook or use a much larger bead and attach it as described above. Remember to wind the dubbing material around the bead as described in (4)

Bead Bulging Nymph

Hook - Kamasan B400 size 12.

Bead - Gold 3mm

Thread - Black 6/0.

Tail - Wood Duck Fibres.

Body - Natural Hares Ear Dubbing.

Ribbing - Gold Wire.

Legs - Partridge (a few turns).

There you have it, two distinct bead bulging nymph patterns with a definite difference and all the vital elements - bulging wing case - simulated air bubble - hint of flash or glint and the nymph swimming or drifting "head up" as the naturals do!