Casey Smartt's Fly Fishing, Photography, & Outdoor Stuff

Plastic Bead Chain Eyes

Plastic Bead Chain Eyes

By Casey Smartt

One of the things that has always frustrated me about applying eyes to flies is glueing them on. About half the time, the glue smears, or the eyes end up mashing the fly’s fibers down and changing it’s profile. Glued on eyes also have a tendancy to fall off.

But there is an alternative to glued on eyes…. plastic bead chain. Plastic bead chain, also called “Fused Pearls,” or “Fused Beads,” is available in craft stores and also in the sewing section of dept. stores. Plastic bead chain is sold either by the foot or by the roll, in 3mm, 4mm, and 6mm diameters. The bead chain shown below is 4mm.

What you’ll need:

1. Plastic bead chain (sold by the foot or roll as fabric trim at craft or dept. stores)

2. Black permanent marker, or black model paint, or black nail polish

3. Aleene’s Fabric Fusion (sold with fabric glues at craft or dept. store)

4. Wide-mouth plastic jar (sold with model paints, brushes, at craft store)

Begin by cutting off a 3-bead section with sharp scissors. Smash the center bead with pliers and remove it.

Place the new 2-bead section in alligator clips and carefully dip, brush, or color a black pupil on the outside edge of each bead. You can use model paint, nail polish, or a permanent marker for this.

Allow the pupil to adequately dry, and then carefully dip each end in a wide-mouth jar (the kind sold in the model department at craft stores) filled with Aleene’s Fabric Fusion (AFF). Make sure the AFF completely coats each eye and try not to get it on the clips or the center string.

Place the eyes in a turner or other safe place to dry. AFF requires a few hours to dry to the touch, and 3 days before it is ready to seriously dunk.

Once the eyes are dry to the touch, you may use them on your baitfish patterns. There will be a large gap between the eyes when you tie them on to the hook shank. This allows ample room for wide baitfish heads.

6 Responses to “Plastic Bead Chain Eyes”

  1. Don C. Puckett "Puck"

    Do you also reccomend using AFF for shrimp eyes?
    Hos would you go about making them?
    Curently I am using CA and epoxy, or CA and CCG.

    • caseysmartt

      Hello Don.

      Yes, I use the AFF on shrimp eyes. Usually, I will string a black bead followed by an orange or red bead on 1.5 inch piece of 16lb hard mason mono. The beads fit sort of snug and I slide them up next to each other. I snip off one end of the mono flush with the black bead and dip the beads in AFF. I dip them deep enough for the AFF to cover the beads and a little bit of mono above them. It takes 2 dips, (with ample drying between dips) to get a thick finish. They work well. There is a photo of one of the eyes on the article titled “Aleene’s Fabric Fusion” in the Flies and Fly Tying section here on my website.


  2. Bob French

    Casey, would you mind that I make 8 copies of this presentation for members of our club who are not computer users.
    your website is nice and your presentations are easy to follow.

    • caseysmartt

      Hello Bob.

      Yes, you may use this material in a presentation to your club. All I ask is that you provide credit and a link to my site. Thanks for asking, and let me know if you need anything else.


  3. Fred Donovin

    Hi:New to your site.Excellent.I buy baby food jars.Give food to my
    dog.Wash it and voila,great glass bottles.Cheaper than S.H.
    Will be back,Fred

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