Bead head colors

Admittedly I have a tendency to way overanalyze things and this question has been consuming way too much of my limited biological CPU. Here are some possible considerations I’ve mulled around:

a) It doesn’t really matter.
b) Match the color of the fly when possible.
c) View it as an attractor/flash element.
d) Think like a bass angler; brass for stained water or overcast days and silver for the reciprocal.
e) Choose a bead color that will best suggest the gas bubble given the color of the ascending nymph
you are tying (if tying these).

Any help/comment very much appreciated.

pond monkey

Hi Thom,
I'll attempt some sort of a response. To start with my "philosophy" is generally centered around doing my best to "match the hatch"...I want my flies to be "realistic" not cute.... all within reason of course. Since I m not tying to win shows but merely fool fish , I want to use patterns that can be tied quickly..... not exotic super realistic patterns...that is because I believe that presentation accounts for 80-85% of our success anyway.... assuming all that our flies are in the general ballpark.
That said .... cute flies do work but I would rather push the realism envelope( within reason)... not the cute one......
Therefore I will generally use white beads (not too big) w/no gill filaments or black with gills... gills are a prominent feature for sure ..... one can actually observe the little white dots emerging from the depths from several feet away...... as for bodies, I would stay with "natural" colours.... and keep them size does seem to really matter .... at times....I personally never go smaller that 14s ( scud type hooks with extra wide gape) though.... big fish over five pounds do get harder to land in reasonable time..... and I want to put a lot of pressure on 'em and get 'em in quickly. I see some guys taking way too long to land a fish.... you could worry 'em to death....



Active Member
Leech's- nymph's-chiro pupa- I or we tie all these - some with beads some without, I tend to stay away from brass beads and use copper instead for the simple fact that a lot of fly fisherman use brass. Most the time when i buy tungsten beads I purchase dark ones and try and hide them under dubbing, since i use them mostly for weight and not to enhance the look of the fly.

When i started tying chiro's i went and bought all kinds of glass beads - great looking air bubbles on top of the pupa, but what i found is they like the plain white steel bead better then the fancy clear glass beads.

I have found when matching hatch's that bright brass or colored beads might spook some fish. depending on what body of water you are fishing, stockers seem to love the "ATTRACTOR" bead but for fish in hard fished trophy waters this might not work.

River nymphs and patterns use a lot more "flash" for nymphing heavy current where the fly shoots by in the current so brighter beads work better to attract - a quick take. still waters are a different monster all together if you ask me. I once had a 8 pound rainbow raise to a nymph and suspend under it about 2 inches, staring at it for what seemed like forever before just sinking back down to the depths with it's refusal. that moment changed the way i tie and fish still waters.

Like pond - white beads or black with white gills for me also. good advice!
Beads can be weight, too, not just attraction/gas. I'm with these guys: matching color for purpose--if I want attraction, I go bright, shiny, or contrasting color. If I want weight but minimal shine, I try to match color and/or go subdued. I will often tie patterns in two versions. Some people like beads for the jigging motion they can sometimes impart (especially on longer patterns). So you might not really care about sheen or shine, you just want some up-n-down on the retrieve.

As far a chironomids go, what Mark and Paul said as far as white. Also, look up the Chromie pattern--lots of shine...but not in the head, despite having a bead head. And a gold-beaded black-bodied chironomid has been used a thousand times over. Some people just add the bead on top of the pattern, other people incorporate them, like the snowcone style. Or even tuck them in under a wing case so they're more a part of the thorax. In my opinion, the more pressured your fish, the more precise/realistic your pattern should be. A local stocker lake, you could put any darn color or sheen of bead on there you wanted to.
Thanks for the comments and suggestions, good stuff. Looking forward to trying some new creations that incorporate this sage advice later this week.

pond monkey

i use black, live, white, orange, pink, chartreuse with much success.
Prior to the modern flyfishig era, there was little popular understading of hatches....much less attempting to match seems like a step backwards to ignore the advances...granted power bait guys argue about what color and flavor are currently working best....garlic seems to work well...for whatever reason...I would rather examine what the fish are actually eating and attempt to fool ,em that way...but that is maybe just me...
Depends on who you ask..
Fishermen: Any of B-E
Fish: A

Since A holds true, so do B-E in terms of catching fish. The beauty of this question is everyone gets to be right.
I am not a chironomid fisherman, but I do fish below the water line most of the time.
For me a bead head gives the fly some action that I could not otherwise impart to the fly.
It also gives some flash to the fly on bright days, to help the fish find the offering. I guess I have never given a lot of thought to the color except that it match the design of the fly.

Dressing flies can be rocket science if you want, or not. Sometimes simple is the payday
and sometimes it is not. Who knows what goes on in a fish's brain other than response to
an immediate need or desire.

In reply to the original question, I like to dress the fly with a beadhead. I mostly use the
black and brass colors, although red and white are in there also.


Active Member
Watch a light nymph in the water on a slow retrieve
Without a bead, the hook makes the rear heavier and the fly will slip rear down and backwards on pauses in a most unnatural way.
I think this could be a factor in favor of beads.
I use copper or black except chironomids where I use only white
Actually, I use whatever bead color I have the most of......I also think a GOOD fisherman can catch fish and the color of the bead in most instances really don't matter...just my 2 cents
i really dont think it matters on the way we think it matters fish arent entomologist they just know what food looks like and they just eat it most the time what it comes down to is the human if we think it looks nice or the colors match or if its the same color as the insect trying to be imitated even though most the time i do believe it doesnt matter although i do believe certain colors do stand out more to fish thats why for example in the book The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing theres a part in there where they say when on a slow day to go purple because it seems to catch a fish's eye more than another color i think you could go out with a chironomid with a flourescent hot pink bead with a flourescent charteuse body with a baby blue rib and find a fish that will take it because even though its probably the ugliest looking thing to us humans its basic shape still looks like food dont get me wrong im not saying dont go out and change all your chironomids out from olives, browns and blacks to pink and charteuse its just that if you have a charteuse bead or some other color that something that small isnt gonna matter to much to fish if it looks like food its food to fish its not like they have a big brain to think about it they only go by their instincts and experiences


Sculpin Enterprises
I attended a seminar on lake fishing by Denny Rickards two years ago at the Sportsman's Show. Among a number of his strong opinions was the assertion that because lake nymphs lie primarily horizontal in the water column, one should use lead wraps evenly spread on the hook shank rather than beads to add weight to lake nymphs. I have had success with knockoffs of several of his lake nymph and streamer patterns. Of course, he does not fish chironomids much for which beads make sense.



Active Member

I have posted this before but post it again to point out the white gills of the midge. When the pupa is ascending, looking from underneath it plainly looks like a bright white bead. to me the gills look just like a white bead being able to see it from underneath looking up from all sides, it does look like it has a "split" when it turns one way but for the most part it looks like a large round white bead to me. I tied some with white antron posts coming out of a dark bead but if it's to thin of a post is not visible from underneath, only from the side or above. Also putting to much dubbing under a white bead might hide this "white" from the fish's view from underneath. just some thoughts!