The subject of bead head nymphs came up on another thread on another board, and it got me to thinking some thoughts that might result in better angling success for some of you in the future.
I must frame this by telling you that I almost never fish bead head nymphs in running water, that's because I like to fish lakes early and late in the angling season, so I fish streams after the runoff has subsided, when dry flies arer all that you need to catch fish. But I do fish bead head nymphs in lakes and employ the things I am going to talk about here.
Of the bead head nymphs mentioned in the other thread (The Prince Nymph, Hare's Ear and various fuzzy caddis imitations), the Prince Nymph is usually considered to fish for stonefly larva or, to a lesser extent, water boatmen and back swimmers. The Hare's Ear is usually considered to be a mayfly nymph imitation, and unless the bead head caddis patterns are tied on caddis style hooks, with long soft hackles used in their construction,they do not make for very realistic caddis pupa imitations.
That is not to say that bead head nymphs are not highly effective, because they are. The reason that they catch so many fish so well is because they do such a good job of getting your fly down to the level of the fish. If you want to catch fish, the first rule is to put your bait or fly where the fish are, on their eye level.Bead head nymphs do thie very well and are justly popular for doing so.
There are a couple of other reasons bead heads are popular that have nothing to do with their fish catching abilities. For commercial fly tiers, they are much more profitible patterns to tie than conventionally weighted nymphs. They do not require laying down a thread base, over which to wrap in lead fuse wire, requiring the cutting and tapering the ends of the wire, then wraping ovel all of that to secure the lead in place, then laquoring over all it to prevent the subsequently added materials from discoloring down the line, then curing the laquor before the rest of the fly can be tied. It is a lot faster, easier, and cheaper to slide a beed on the hook, secure it in place with thread and head cement, then tie in the the rest of the fly.
Bead heads also make life simpler for fly shop owners, fishermen, amd wardens to tell which flies are weighted and which are not, especially where lead weighted flies are banned, so a lot of their popularity has to do with things other than their fishing success.
There are several ways that bead head nymphs can be made into better patterns and more specific imitations of aquatic insects. Using caddis style hooks and long soft hackles for caddis pupa patterns has already been mentioned.
For mayfly nymphs, it would be better to place the bead in the thorax position, behind the legs. It would also be better to use dark beads instead of the shinny ones in this application because mayfly nymphs' wingcases enlarge and darken just prior to emergence. Mayfly nymphs will drift and swim more naturally with the bead tied in farther back, with dull instead of shinny beads placed behind the hackle instead of at the head of the fly.
Water boatmen and back swimmers carry a shinny bubble of air so they can breath under water, but it is at the back of their bodies and not at the head, and they only need to have two legs included in the center of the imitation, set at a 90 degree angle to their bodies.
A lot of aquatic insects return to the water to lay their eggs by swimming or crawling to the bottom of lakes and streams. The do this by encasing their bodies in air, so the shinny surface is not just at their heads here either. And, rather than being shinny and metalic, the color of their bodies shows through the air that they carry.
A better imitation of this life stage can be made by using an above freezing, highly fluorinated, cross country kick wax as a dubbing wax. Natural hair from water born mammals, such as muskrat, otter and beaver, that have not had all the natural oils removed in preparation for sale, work better for this application than the hair of land animals and the synthetics do. The kick wax works better than the dubbing waxes do that are made for the fly fishing trade.
Fluorocarbon waxes are naturally negatively charged. Water is also negatively charged, and the two repell each other like like charged magnets, attracting air bubbles that naturally occure in the water, coating your fly in the real thing. Just like the ovapositing aquatic insects and emerging nymphs do, making for superior imitations that will increas your catcrates considerably, whether you use bead heads or not.
A tin of Swix VR-75 costs 14.50 and will last for many years. Pure fluoro additives and waxes are also available in liquid, powdered and solid forms. But at 99.00 dollars for 20 grams, the cost is too prohibitive for most of use to use the most effective sources of bubble retention ever developed.
The grip wax w
will give the pure powder something to adhear to, making it infinently easier to use. Afther the fly is tied, you use a blow dryer, set on high, to evenly distribute the fluorocarbon substances throught the materials tied on the hook for a superior imitation.
Fish can be attracted to your bait by smell,sound, and vibrations sensed through their latteral lines. But, in the final analysis, it is sens of sight that delivers the prey to the fish for its taking. Tying or buying the most life-like patterns it is possible to have will improve your future catch rates considerably. I hope that you have good fishing in your future, Rusty.