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Tying With Tungsten

Published: 6th May 2020 | Author: Alex Jardine

Tying river nymphs with tungsten beads has become almost standard practice these days, with anglers favouring the heavier trait when compared to brass. As demand has grown for these beads, and Euro-Nymphing has become a global phenomenon the manufacturers have tried to keep pace with the ever adjusting demands of anglers. It is now easy to get lost in the variety of tungsten beads you can choose from.

There is a huge variety of colours and also two differing styles; slotted and countersunk. There are also some evolving shapes such as faceted, conehead and tear drop stylesbut these are largely more aesthetic differences.

Fulling Mill’s NEW Slotted Tungsten Coneheads

This blog is based on my own tying styles and aims to try and make selecting the appropriate beads for your own tying simpler.

Slotted or Countersunk, which is best?

The short answer is…both. They both have their specific purposes. Essentially, slotted beads work best on jig style hooks and countersunk beads are most suited to standard shank hooks (straight or curved). It is true that either bead will work on both hook styles but you will not get the best profile of fly using slotted on standard shank hooks and countersunk on jig hooks.

A slotted bead on a Jig Hook

Slotted beads work best on jig hooks as they allow the bead to easily navigate the hook shape. When positioned correctly they sit evenly above and below the shank with the eye of the hook facing down. This means that the fly will fish upside down in the water, thus keeping the hook point away from a lot of structure.

Countersunk beads may not navigate a jig hook fully, and once in position the weight will be disproportionally distributed towards the hook point. A gap is also left in the thorax on the topside of the fly where the bead over-rotates on the shank.

On standard shank hooks, countersunk beads tend to sit evenly above and below the shank with the eye of the hook facing forward. This often means the fly will sink with the hook point facing down, a good way to fish mid-water flies.

Countersunk Beads on Standard Shank Hooks

Slotted beads on a standard shank hook tend to over-rotate, often distributing weight in whichever direction the bead finally settles. It is often a challenge to get the weight to consistently fall in the same place from fly to fly.

Bead Size to Hook Size

The big question… what size bead for what size hook? The ground breaking answer is… it is really down to personal preference and the job you want the fly to do. Bigger beads carry greater weight and thus will obviously make the fly sink at a faster rate, but using a bigger bead on a small hook will change the profile of the fly. When deciding on the best combination you need to decide what job the fly needs to do in terms of imitation and fishing depth.

For me, I can roughly break each hook size down into three bead sizes that complement the fly and fishing style. These would cover three options per hook size; slim profile fly & slow sink, standard profile & medium sink, bulky/big tapered profile & fast sink. If you are looking for alternative profile to sink ratios then you will need to look at more than just tungsten beads.

Hook size Slim & Slow Sink Standard & Medium Sink Bulky & Fast Sink
10 3.2 mm 3.8 mm 4.6 mm
12 2.8 mm 3.2 mm 3.8 mm
14 2.4 mm 2.8 mm 3.2 mm
16 2 mm 2.4 mm 2.8 mm
18 1.5 mm 2 mm 2.4 mm
20 1.5 mm 2 mm

Please note that there will be some variation due to different hook and bead manufacturers.

What Colour Bead?

There is a huge amount of discussion on what bead colour you should tie with. As tying with tungsten beads has increased in popularity so has the selection of colours, from the standard gold, silver and copper to a whole rainbow range of colours. Like matching hook size to bead, a lot of it is down to personal preference and the application at hand.

Gold beads remain the most popular across the board, but for me my boxes have seen a change to copper and now silver beads. My most used colours in order would be silver, copper, gold, black and then a range of more colourful options. My advice would be to try new colours and see how they work for you, but don’t throw out the old favourites – they won’t stop working!

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