Beautiful Glass Bead Eyes
By Ailsa McIntosh, BC

Have you ever plucked a damsel or dragon fly nymph out of the water and notice their bright eyes? I was somewhat astonished at the brilliance of some of the local dragon nymph eyes. Finding something that would even come close for fly-tying would prove to be not as challenging as I first thought. This technique has been used for a while now but I felt that it deserved to be revisited with more focus on coloured eyes not just the drab, but sometimes still very useful, black or brown version.

These eyes can be used for any number of patterns from Damsel nymphs to stoneflies, mayflies and dragon nymphs. I have used 2mm silver-lined glass craft beads available at most craft stores at a much lower price than the average fly tying shop. For little mayfly eyes look around for the extra small needlepoint beads; they also come in a wide selection of colours.


  • 10lb test monofilament line

  • silver-lined glass beads, assorted colours

  • scissors

  • hackle pliers or something similar to hold mono

  • flat metal surface like jar lid, I use base of hair stacker

  • candle


1. Grasp monofilament with hackle pliers leaving inch sticking out.

2. Hold end of mono line next to the flame of the candle. Just melt the end, do not let it catch fire.

3. Quickly press the hot, melted end of the monofilament onto your metal surface to flatten the end.

4. Select two beads and slide them onto the monofilament, make sure the flat end of the mono is large enough to hold the beads. If not repeat steps 2-3 until you get the hang of it.

5. Position beads and mono line like so.

6. Hold next to the candle flame once again to melt the other end of the monofilament.

7. Quickly flatten the melted end on your flat metal surface and the eyes are done!

I find that using hackle pliers is an easy way to ensure proper spacing of the beads, and it is also a second flat metal surface that helps flatten the melted monofilament into a nice disc. ~ Ailsa McIntosh (sheties)

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