Fly Tying (Shady Flies)

Slotted Beadheads Saved My Midge Game

“We sure are losing a lot of beadheads Pop.”

His statement inspired a solemn half grin.  I reflected, pivoted in my swivel chair at the fly tying table, and looked him in square in the eyes. 

“Yes, we are son.”  Eyeball to eyeball.

He shrugged his shoulders and continued flatly with a pursed mouth. “We should probably not lose so many beadheads.”  Wiser words were never spoken.

My son is an accomplished fly tier in his own right.  While his skills are improving at a dramatic rate, his attention to detail and finesse could stand refinement.  He is not a big man and often he must stand on a chair to effectively maneuver the thread and leverage what dexterity he can muster to assess and devise his flies which inevitably impress.  

I respect my son’s fly tying abilities, but it is still obvious that I, the father, the old bull as they say, is the more experienced and superior fly tier.  Also, my son is four.

The Problem

Midges are a great fly.  They catch fish, they are mostly easy to tie, and they range in diversity from simple to complex in their imitations.  It is safe to say that I am both a fan of the midge in all forms and sizes.  And there lies the problem.  The sizes. 

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | Eight Reasons the Zebra Midge is the Perfect First Fly to Tie.

Most midges are extremely small.  I tie them in sizes 18-22 with 20 being my preferred.  I have even fished down to size 26. Beadhead sizes are labeled on the package and you can match them with the appropriate hook sizes to keep your flies proportionate.  Even when using the correct size beadhead for the tiny midges I was tying, I was still losing a good amount of beadheads trying to push them past the barb on tiny hooks.  My efforts to make the small shiny orbs fit around the hook, would often result in the beadhead popping off the hook and subsequently rolling off the table.  After one too many beadheads vanished into my basement carpet while trying to tie one of my favorite flies, combined with the obvious and innocent observation from my stoic and inspiring son, I did some research and made a change.

The Solution

Searching online I discovered the slotted beadhead.  These beadheads have a normal hole on one side, but they have slot on the other that allows them to shimmy past the bend in the tiny hooks that most midges are tied on.  It is as simple as that, and they cost about the same as regular beadheads.

Another option that sometimes helps is barbless hooks or pinching the barb down to allow for the small hole of the beadhead to be fitted across the point and slid up the shank to the eye of the hook.  Both are descent options.

Don’t let the tiny hooks and beadheads keep you from tying the small midges that you know will catch trout.  Use a slotted beadhead to keep your midge game strong and Wadeoutthere.


Jason Shemchuk

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  • Reply
    Gary Foster
    November 24, 2023 at 2:06 pm

    I started fishing small flies last year. I get good results. Thanks for the tip!

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