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How to Tie a Bead Head Baetis Nymph

Producer: Tim Flagler

“Every year at about this time I start seeing significant numbers of baetis nymphs when I do stream sampling here on the South Branch of the Raritan River in New Jersey. They’re fairly small, size 20 or 18 at best.

So, here’s my interpretation of the naturals that I sampled. I really hope they work because I tied better than 3 dozen of them. Of course, only time on the water will tell.

I start with a Dai-Riki #730 in size 18. The 2X long seems to yield the correct proportions for the fly. A 5/64” gold Cyclops bead adds just a bit of weight and shimmer to the pattern and matches the hook well. Insert the point of the hook into the small hole of the bead and slide the bead around up onto the shank. You can then get the assembly firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise, making sure the bead rests at the back edge of the hook eye.

For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of UTC 70 Denier in a color called yellow olive. Get your thread started on the hook shank right at the back edge of the bead and take several wraps rearward before snipping off the tag.

For the tail, I pull down 6 or so Coq de Leon fibers perpendicular to the stem and strip them off. I’ll then align the butts to align the tips. Pass the fibers to your right hand with the tips pointing toward the rear of the fly. Measure to form a tail approximately a hook shank in length and transfer that measurement rearward to the start of the hook bend. Using the back edge of the bead as a guide for your scissors, snip the excess butt ends off square. Give your bobbin a counterclockwise spin to uncord and flatten the thread. This will cause it to jump rearward when you take the first wrap catching the fibers in the process. Continue taking thread wraps to secure the fibers to the top of the hook all the way back to the start of the bend.

A single peacock herl snipped from the area below the eye is used to enhance the look of segmentation on the fly’s abdomen. You can of course use commercially available stripped quills if you like. Although a little time consuming, stripping the flues off with either an eraser or your fingernail also yields good results.

With the quill stripped, trim away the brittle tip leaving a quill segment an inch and a half or more in length. Get hold of the tip end and lay it against the near side of the hook; which side of the quill you have facing outward is really up to you. Take wraps of tying thread to secure the quill back to the base of the tail, then forward up the hook shank. Once it’s locked down, trim the excess tip off and continue taking thread wraps forward to the back edge of the bead.
To add some taper to the body, wrap back with your tying thread a third of the way down the hook shank then forward to behind the bead. Now go 2/3’s of the way down the shank and back to the bead. On the third trip down, go all the way to the base of the tail. There, give your bobbin a counterclockwise spin to flatten and floss out the thread. Take wraps with the flattened thread to fill in any lumps or bumps on the tapered body. End with your thread at the back edge of the bead.

Get hold of the quill and start making open spiral wraps with it up the hook shank like so. 6 or 7 turns generally looks pretty good. Attach the quill with wraps of tying thread behind the bead then snip the excess off close.

To reinforce the delicate body, I like to use a very thin UV cure resin, here, Bone Dry from Solarez. Apply just the thinnest of coats to the entire body of the fly. You can use a bodkin to smooth out the resin so everything stays both even and svelte. When you’re happy with how the resin looks, pick up your UV torch and give the entire body an ample shot of UV light which will cure the resin so it’s hard and dry to the touch.

Pheasant tail fibers, dyed golden yellow, are used to create the wing case. Pull down a half dozen or so perpendicular to the stem and strip them free. It’s a good idea to cut off the curlies so they don’t get hung up. Then switch the fibers around and snip off 1/4” or so of their brittle tips. Once again give your bobbin a counterclockwise spin to uncord the thread. This will allow it to jump rearward when you take a wrap to capture the pheasant tail fibers right at the back edge of the bead. Continue taking thread wraps rearward to bind the fibers down to the top of the hook shank. Take wraps rearward and test every so often until you’re satisfied with the length of the wing case. To me, this looks about right.

Olive colored rabbit fur dubbing is used to create the thorax of the fly. A small pinch is all you need. Use the fur to build up a short thin dubbing noodle on your tying thread, maybe 1 1/4” in length. Then start taking wraps with the noodle to create a slightly enlarged thorax on the fly. End with bare thread at the back edge of the bead.

Pull the pheasant tail fibers out over top of the bead to form the wing case and anchor it with two tight wraps of tying thread. We’re going to try to keep the thread collar to an absolute minimum here so it’s almost invisible. With the wing case anchored, reach in with your tying scissors and snip the excess butt ends of the pheasant tail off close.

Pick up another very small amount of the same UV cure resin as before and use it to coat the wing case, the two thread wraps and the snipped off butt ends on the bead. We’re really not looking for a high build wing case on this fly, try to keep it nice and thin. Once everything is well coated, pick up your torch and give the entire area an ample bath of UV light. The resin should cure very quickly and completely. This will allow you to snip off your tying thread with confidence that it won’t come unraveled even though you never did a whip finish.

To bring the fly to life, use a little piece of velcro to roughen up the rabbit fur thorax. If things get a little too wild, just trim off any wayward fibers.

And that’s the Bead Head Baetis. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to work well pretty much year round.”