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Heavy Metal for Fly Tying

“Running silent, running deep, we are your final prayer…”

That is a line from Iron Maiden’s Run Silent, Run Deep off of the 1990 release No Prayer for the Dying. Decent song, decent album. It is nothing near as good as 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. But I digress. The song, and the lyric above, is about submarines, not fly tying. But the sentiment is basically equivalent.

Especially come winter time, your prayers for trout will only be answered if you get your flies running deep.

You’ve got two choices in the matter. You can fish harder or fish smarter. Fishing harder means calculating the best position from which to present your fly. It means learning new casts that plunge your fly deeper, quicker. It means fiddling with different lines, leaders, and boring. It means mending and mending and mending some more. It means working. Fun, right?

Fishing smarter means packing the weight on.

“But,” you say, “there are so many materials and methods for adding weight to flies! It is sooo confusing!” Yes, there are. And yes, it can be.  That is why I’ve created a bit of a hierarchy for bulking up your buggers. Here’s a guide to what kind of weight to use in your tying if you want to get your fly down in front of fish:

No Weight Seriously? We’re trying to catch fish here, not create a presentation fly to be presented in a shadowbox for the local muckety-muck gala.

Bead Chain This is the fly tying equivalent of putting a hockey puck in your back pocket to make it look like you chew Skoal. Bead chains are all for looks. They increase the sink rate of a fly .00001% That’s simple, indisputable math.

Beads Now we’re getting into some legitimate options. But beads are a halfway measure. Maybe if you’re fishing in an inch of water. Plus, everyone uses beads. Why be like the crowd? Fish are smarter than that anyway.

Cones You get points for trying, but cones are just glorified beads. Weak sauce.

Non-Lead Wraps Here’s the appeal of using wrappable weight: you can go nuts. Like a grandma who uses layers of gift wrap as an anti-child device on a Christmas present, you can create a solid angling anvil with enough turns of the stuff. On the downside: work. Boo.

Dumbbell Eyes Saltwater guys get it. You’ve got tide and current and whatnot. You’ve got to make those flies dangerous if they’re going to work! Dangerous to fish, maybe. More so, dangerous to ears and the back of your neck and your graphite rod blank. But…

Bigger Dumbbell Eyes Much better. Still not the best.

Fly Heads These things are fancy. They come in different colors, they look like a real fish’s face, they weigh a ton. I am not complaining about the results. The hassle is that you have to do some fly tying trigonometry to ensure the thing goes on right. Like, you’re expected to be a phrenologist when it comes to finishing your flies.

Jig Heads All the benefits of everything listed above, but better. And Bass Pro sells the things in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4 oz, pre-tied (with rubber skirts! [and with nylon weedguards!]) for $2.99. Boom. Done.

Pyramid Sinker If all of this still sounds like too much work, tie eight inches of tippet material to the bend of your fly. Then, tie a  6- or 8-ounce pyramid weight to the tag end. That should basically get pretty much any fly into a trout’s feeding lane.


Got it? Here’s some music to get you pumped for chucking a half-pound fly rig using your five-weight (again, from Seventh Son – a much better album):


  1. Clams says:

    Love the Maiden reference! I’m a music nerd and I frequently think about good fishing music. Lately I’ve been partial to a couple of new guys – Tyler Childers and Colter Wall. Their music really hits the sweet spot when careening through woods, over mountains, along streams and other places where fish like to hang out. Anyway, love the updated site and appreciate all that you do. Carry on!

  2. JZ says:

    Interesting thread. I fish hard and prefer it that way. What does it mean though? To me, getting there to a spot early after a three hour car ride and working the water thourghly

  3. JZ says:

    Interesting thread. I fish hard and prefer it that way. What does it mean though? To me, getting there to a spot early after a three hour car ride and working the water thoroughly while fishing to dark, is working hard. Fishing smart, showing up during prime time and calling it a day after 3 hours of fishing. Hey, I do that too, not knocking it. Lets be real, fishing the trico in the morning and taking a pass on water during the hot afternoon only to show up in the evening is a smarter approach. In most cases, its not me though. It doesn’t make be better or worse. Its really a personality trait that translates into fishing life…

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