For the stillwater angler the problems are different, you want to get deep? You simply reach for a fast sinking line that will take your flies down to the required depth. The river angler however is faced with a whole different set of problems not the least of which is the strength of flow and the proximity to the fish. When I first turned my attention to river fishing I recall a trip to the river Soca in Slovenia where the guide rigged up my cast for me. He tied on a small #18 green nymph and proceeded to attach split shot to get the flies down to where the fish were. How quickly things have developed since then!
Hiding the weight on flies under the dressing is not new and Frank Sawyer found the benefit of tying some of his patterns with wire rather than thread. This of course increased the weight and led to him catching more fish. The modern angler need not go to such lengths, lead wire is still popular but there is now available adhesive foil which I much prefer. This is ideal if only a little weight is required for rivers with a more sedate nature such as the Hampshire Avon. These sorts of patterns would struggle on the bigger spate rivers such as the Welsh Dee or the Tees.
Brass beads were the next port of call for the avid nymph angler adding not only a significant amount of weight but a pleasing hot spot to the fly. Brass beads remain popular with a large section of the community but for my money the introduction of tungsten beads was a game changer. For their size they added a lot of weight and in recent years have started to come in many different colours. A word of warning though not all tungsten is created equal! I am what some would describe as anal when it comes to nymphs and weigh each fly before it takes a place in the correct section of my fly box.
In the past I would simply look for the best deal on Tungsten beads and go from there. This was false economy in a few cases some of the cheaper options I chose were not the same quality and the difference in the weight was noticeable. So, make sure you know what you are buying. TungstenBeads+ actually tell you the weight of the beads you are buying, I think all shops should do this. In my own experience you won’t go far wrong with Funky Flytying, Hanak and GetSlotted beads from all the ones I have tried these seem to be of excellent quality.
Tungsten beads come in two main varieties there are countersunk and slotted. There are also Jig Off beads which have their place but mostly I stick to the latter two. Good quality beads and hooks will save you hours of frustration at the vice. There is nothing worse than wrestling with an ill-fitting bead trying to get it around the bend on the hook. The situation only worsens if you are unfortunate enough to jam the hook into your finger. The blood can sometimes help ease the bead along the hook shank……silver lining and all that. I don’t mess about anymore just accept that you are going to pay a little more for quality and remember your doing it because you enjoy it!
There are a number of other options available the shrimp back which adds a lot of weight to a pattern. As the name suggests its best suited to shrimp patterns, I must admit that I am not a fan of these. I find them uncompromising and often do not sit right on the hooks I use. The jig back is another tungsten product, I really like these they add massive amounts of weight in a very small package. The bigger ones can produce flies that weigh 1g + which is extraordinary for a takeable fly. As you can see from the pic it might not be the prettiest fly you tie on but it does serve a purpose. Dumbbell eyes are available in both brass and tungsten and are ideal for those big streamer patterns that can be so effective on a big river. What weight you need only you can decide as someone who fishes many varied rivers and of course an addiction to fly tying I have most situations covered using the whole ensemble of available products.
If you would like to learn more about using weight on your fly patterns why not subscribe to my You Tube Channel? There is a Stillwater and River pattern released each week on a Wednesday and a Friday respectively. Thanks for taking the time to read my inane drivel I hope it was of some use to you, Tight Lines.