To Bead or Not to Bead – That is the Question

Trout Beads

It has become exceptionally apparent that there is a growing division between anglers that use beads to target migratory and resident species of fish in the Great Lakes watersheds.  For all intents and purposes I am taking a completely and totally neutral stance on this (at least officially) – however I want to encourage a healthy discussion about the topic and use this blog to collect feedback and data.  So please participate in the poll and leave a message in the comment section.  Please try and keep it under control, and engage in a healthy conversation.

29 responses

  1. I said that I do not believe they are appropriate for fly fishers to use, certainly locally. The only time I used beads was when I was in Alaska for a week, those rare times when not swinging flies, at the urging of the guides. Their rationale was that in the fast moving water and high competition for food the fish would take flies far too deeply resulting in high mortality. I do not know for sure the accuracy of that statement for a fisherman that is well versed in tightline nymphing, but can see how it would apply for those not giving it their full attention. Of the hundreds of fish that week I did not hook any in the eye or gills but did have my bead pegged no more than 2” from the hook. For GL fish I do not think that it is necessary; generally slower water and fewer fish/food competition. It may be effective and even not cause excessive harm if the bead is pegged closely, but then again centerpinning is effective and I don’t do that either… both feel like playing dirty to me.


    February 20, 2014 at 8:44 am

  2. no need to bead. at least not in Michigan. Alaska may be a different story. I hope to get up there and find out. CLown eggs, lemon parade and Nukes seem to work just fine. Won’t even get started on the Chum debate. Tight Lines.


    February 20, 2014 at 8:48 am

  3. The opaque pink ones are my favorites. The dark pink ones are too bitter.


    February 20, 2014 at 8:58 am

  4. I have to say that in the great lakes watershed, I don’t think they are necessary. I haven’t used an egg pattern for 7 years in the great lakes because I don’t nymph. When I guided in Alaska I worked for a lodge owner who did not allow us to use beads and I can’t remember a fish that took a glo bug deep. I guess that has stuck with me over the years. That was in the mid nineties when beads were just starting to enter Alaskan rivers. Bottom line is they are here to stay.


    February 20, 2014 at 9:11 am

  5. It should state in the article that it is illegal to have a bare hook for fishing in MI.


    February 20, 2014 at 9:34 am

  6. Steelyphil

    I don’t give a damn, as long as they aren’t chumming! Seriously though, my opinion that anything can be called “fly fishing,” if the line propels the fly or lure to it’s destination. “Fishing with flies,” is totally different, where I would group C & D, Centerpinning with flies etc. Beads are NOT flies and should not be used in flies only water, that being said I have 100% no issue with them otherwise and I’d rather have people running beads than running gut. I’d also add that I think they are a crutch for non or bad fly tiers. I used them fairly regularly for a few years and, with the exception of gin (and I mean GIN) clear water, they didn’t outproduce my Glo Bugs or McFlyfoam eggs…


    February 20, 2014 at 9:37 am

  7. TimmyP

    I’ve seen enough gnarled up fish faces from people not knowing how to unhook a standard fly to think that beads are really no worse than an uneducated/indifferent angler.

    Beads are not flies. You can use them like flies but they are not flies. They catch fish, no doubt – but so do worms and spawn sacks. At some point you have to draw the line and decide how far you’re willing to stretch your personal ethos to catch fish. For me, a nymph/glo-bug rig is pushing it – steelhead are too magnificent to be caught with anything but a beautifully tied swung fly.


    February 20, 2014 at 9:55 am

  8. Why do folks care how other folks catch fish? Does anyone think that two fly rigs and running lines are more ethical than a pinner using bait and the fish actually ate the presentation? As far as fly tying prowess, come on, you can snell a hook and slide yarn into the loop and trim and have your egg pattern that will work the same as a glo bug or nuke egg. bla bla bla


    February 20, 2014 at 11:10 am

  9. Hi, I am a fish! I won’t tell you what specie as, I know it will cause a big debate among you anglers, on were I fit in the list of most desirable to catch on a fly. And even more debate on what is right or wrong for me. I am most embarrassed when I take anything artificial! I can be fooled and if you release me without taking me out of the water to keep me from drowning without water, I hope I will learn to be more careful in what I eat. Will you give me that chance! I going to fight for my life when I fill that unseen hook! I know that excites you and that’s OK! Just release me if you can, because I have been there and done that. I know my body of water better than you! I will break you off and go hide If I can. I dare to show my stupidity to my friends. Besides the ones that don’t know better are not going to listen. So you won’t to keep me and were I live a secret ! Here my advise, quite talking to everybody about me and what I like or dislike. It’s just dumb! You won’t me all to yourself anyway, I know that. So next time I make that mistake and you hook me with whatever you think is politically right. Please be gentle with me as I will be very tired. Just remember you kindness will not be appreciated as much from some of my friends that have got mauled by otters and Bears! Most don’t live to tell how in your timely release and genteelness, you gave up on them when that bear starting moving you way! Sorry will not cut it when you say “hay fish you are on your own, I am out of here”. So next time we meet and I do as you please, just throw me a bone with a little meat on it! And remember I am not always hungry, if you give me some meat and I fill my stomach I will turn my nose up more often! I doth I will return here to read any comments as I seldom find a waterproof ipad that the battery is still good. Just remember God did not create all fish equal, but he did you! Be kind and love the life you were given and eat more chicken! An old not so wise fish. I do the best I can with my pea size brain.


    February 20, 2014 at 11:47 am

    • Svoboda

      Umm…WOW…in the words of Led Zeppelin, ramble on…aimlessly.


      February 20, 2014 at 1:17 pm

  10. DoG

    Fritz – I agree with your comment on pegging above the hook. It needs to be addressed in Michigan and falls into the snagging rig criteria. Chumming also needs to be removed from our streams. I do however, disagree with your assessment of the guide you mentioned in your comment.


    February 20, 2014 at 12:15 pm

  11. mickey g

    Well said. Totally agree. Elitism is ruining our sport. Who gives a shit if you use beads or squirmys. As Long as you aren’t bait fishing, chumming , snagging or using a gill net, who cares?!
    You other guys don’t want to use beads? Then don’t use them. But, don’t get passed that others are “catching” fish, while your sitting there drifting over and over wat thing the other guys reel em in.
    Who cares?.
    Wahh,.. no fare! That’s what it sounds like to me.


    February 20, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    • Ronny

      Amen, brother.


      February 20, 2014 at 7:25 pm

  12. Its the location of the hook to the bead that is the issue. If you fish with beads put them on the hook.


    February 20, 2014 at 4:03 pm

  13. I have been to Alaska a number of times and have fished beads. Sometimes it’s deadly effective, other times, estaz eggs or glo bugs vastly out fish beads. The biggest problem with fishing beads is that the best hooks for it, like size 10 Gamakatsu octopus hooks are so thin and sharp that they deeply go though the fish’s mouth and sometimes take too much effort to remove. I fished Margot Creek, a very busy creek in Katmai, with beads and did ok. The fish went crazy when I switched to an estaz egg. So you just don’t know. With Michigan not allowing bare hook fishing, beads have no place here. Personally, I think it would be better if beads weren’t allowed in AK but that will never happen AND nothing converts a no bead snob than seeing his buddies rope em in with beads.


    February 20, 2014 at 4:10 pm

  14. I still don’t understand why fishing bait is so horrible? Bait is more ethical than many of the Great Lakes fly fishing methods, because the fish willingly eat the bait, it is not a method of weights and angles let alone the vast majority of bait fisherman never target spawning fish,mean while every clyde in the states bouncing two fly rigs through beds with clients.

    The most deadly lining method I’ve ever seen (fished, guided the method in AK) involved a sink tip fly line. I’ve seen it used in Michigan with the “I spot em I got em” crowd too.


    February 20, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    • I don’t know who said fishing with bait is horrible? Personally, I own bait shop and think it’s fine to fish with bait, or any other method out there for that matter that you choose where it’s legal to do so if that’s what you like to do… Just go have fun!

      Chumming is a different story “for me” and “I” don’t see a place for it outside of the Ocean where other anglers are not forced to fish the exact same water behind you.

      Yes, you most certainly can effectively line fish with sinking lines if you intend to do so, but the few Kings I’ve hooked on them were quite the surprise and crushed the streamer on the strip. I’m actually surprised we don’t catch more of them while stripping streamers for Silvers since there are usually some mixed in, but for some strange reason I’ve only been lucky or, unlucky enough, to have them go when I’m fishing lighter and targeting trout.

      I think an even bigger problem is people twisting or deliberately misinterpreting what other people have to say… I’m not a hypocrite now, nor have I ever been and I take exception to being called one.


      February 20, 2014 at 7:19 pm

  15. Patrick

    I’ve never used them on the tribs of the Great Lakes. I catch tons of fish without them. Can’t imagine they would help.

    In AK, we used them quite a bit. And, it did seem to make a difference. Matching the egg hatch seemed to matter on some creeks that were just packed with salmon. The rainbows, char, and grayling seemed keyed in on very specific size and color patterns. I doubt my foam and yarn eggs would have worked based on the beads they consistently declined. That being said, we fished a lot of water that had just some salmon and we slammed fish swinging streamers in that situation and didn’t use eggs at all.

    So, do I even have them available on the Great Lakes…nah. No need. Will I pack some when I go back to AK? Yes, I will have some to use as needed. Luckily, it’s not needed all of the time. It would get old to do that all day every day.

    As for the question about them being ethical. I dunno, we fish single yarn and foam egg patterns all of the time on the Great Lakes with little argument. I do disagree with folks rigging the eggs 5″ above the hook. That seems like a blatant attempt to floss and snag fish to me. That being said, it’s not my job to judge other’s motivations. It could just be an issue of experience and education. People that want to be ethical will ultimately end up on that path. People that want to cheat will cheat. One thing I know for sure, I don’t spend my time on the stream looking down my nose at others, it’s their life. If I see something that is blatantly illegal…I make a call and turn them in.


    February 20, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    • Ronny



      February 20, 2014 at 8:15 pm

  16. Ronny

    Yup, still have yet to hear a legitimate argument against beads. It’s all egotistical “holier than thou” elitist narcissism. All these fly snobs put beads on their streamers to add a rattle effect and they know it. Where do you draw the line? Add a little thread to your bead hook and call it a fly? WHO THE HELL CARES? I’d rather buy a pack of beads and hooks than waste my time tying dozens of glo-bugs and nuke eggs only to snag em in a log jam. Call me lazy or a bad fly tier, I really could care less. If it makes your rod feel longer catching em on a hook YOU yourself put a ball of fuzz , more power to ya, bro. Let me know how many more chicks you get.

    Also, I really don’t see why anyone cares that people use them in flies only waters, either. I can understand the rules against lures with treble hooks and using bait as they are more likely to cause harm to the fish. But have there been any studies on how much more damaging a single hook on the outside of the mouth is than the inside of the mouth? I’d love to read it.

    Is it fly-fishing? Who cares. It’s steelhead fishing. I’ll “fly-fish” for Trout when the Sulphurs start popping.


    February 20, 2014 at 8:04 pm

  17. Grass Shrimp

    Plastic beads by DNR definitions are considered an artificial lure and are illegal in flies only waters. If anyone out there feels that they do belong there then I will gladly fish my spinners and rapalas and any other artificial lure in there as well. Can’t use one lure and not the other! Other parts of the stream…have at it as long as you have bait or a normal fly below it. P.S. I don’t think the popular thread caddis counts! lol


    February 20, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    • Ronny

      Perhaps the DNR rules aren’t perfect? I don’t like using spinners and rapalas for Trout because the treble hooks DO injure the fish much more than a single hook. If “Can’t use one lure and not the other” is your argument then you clearly don’t care about the resource.


      February 20, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      • Grass Shrimp

        Nothing wrong with fishing rapalas and spinners with one single hook on them. Anyone who stretches the rules and knowingly fishes illegal “lures” in the flywater or anywhere don’t care about resource!!!!!


        February 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm

  18. Grass Shrimp

    One more comment. If flyfisherman aren’t mature enough to stick with whats legal in the flies only stretches across this state then I can certainly see a great argument as to why we no longer need flies only stretches period!


    February 20, 2014 at 8:17 pm

  19. “Beads are NOT flies and should not be used in flies only water, that being said I have 100% no issue with them otherwise and I’d rather have people running beads than running gut”

    “Who gives a shit if you use beads or squirmys. As Long as you aren’t bait fishing, chumming , snagging or using a gill net, who cares?!”

    as far as my guide comments, all you need to do is look at the pictures he posts and witness his methods during the spawn, look at the barn door kings in August held up for photos when the season is closed, rail on a guy fishing a bead but line fish off gravel ?


    February 20, 2014 at 8:38 pm

  20. The Dude

    Cool random stats, bro


    February 20, 2014 at 11:06 pm

  21. Well… I’ll leave you guys to sort it out now. I’ve given my stance on the beads, which, ironically, appears to be the exact same as my biggest fan here ;^) and have nothing more to add to the relevant conversation. More importantly, my house and dog sitter has arrived and starting tomorrow morning sometime I plan to be completely unplugged for the next 10 or so days! Have a great spring everyone and have some fun out there no matter how you choose to fish…



    February 20, 2014 at 11:08 pm

  22. Chet Lemon

    if you are going to complain about a bead using a bare hook, then an intruder style fly is also illegal in Michigan, if the bead is pegged within appropriate distance from the hook , I see no reason it shouldn’t be allowed same as the intruder, its not like you are going to snag salmon on the tiny bare hook used with bead fishing, I know people will try using trebles and what not if the do allow it, go figure someone ruining the fun for the rest of us, but if you are going to use a chuck and duck rig and knock some fella with a floating line indicator rig fishing beads, this seems like a joke, welcome to Michigan, and the Michigan DNR. its all stupid here…


    February 21, 2014 at 12:21 pm

  23. Chet Lemon

    Id like to see treble hooks banished from trout and salmon rivers.. any thoughts here?


    February 24, 2014 at 12:17 pm

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