One of the most frequently asked questions about my baitfish patterns concern eyes. What eyes did you use? How did you attach the eyes? The list goes on and on... So here's a few thoughts about the subject.
What kind of eyes do I use?
Many types to make it short. From synthetic JC eyes to glow in the dark paper eyes. I used to use natural JC eyes too, but I am not very comfy about that idea anymore. The bulk of my eyes I buy from China. Kinda ashamed to say that, but that's the truth. Plain silver and red eyes from China are just soooo much cheaper than buying the same stuff from a fly shop and they work just the same. The more special eyes are fly shop material. By special I mean the ones that have shifting colors in them. You know, the cool ones. Same goes for the synthetic JC eyes. They are all fly shop material. I also some times use tab eyes that are also fly shop material or home made. The range of eyes that I use go from 4 mm to 10 mm. Sure, I got some bigger ones too, but very rarely use them. Eyes that are too big don't look good to my eye and they usually require extra steps to attach them properly. So, I try to match the size of the eye to the fly I'm tying. The synthetic JC eyes range from 10-30 mm. Mostly I use something between 20-30 mm.
|Lots of options around for the fly tier. These cool eyes were found from Ebay from a Swedish/Norwegian seller.|
|Deer Creek makes the coolest eyes on the market. Great colors to choose from.|
How to attach your eyes to the fly?
There are several ways to do it and it really depends on what you're looking for. I will write about different methods I use categorized by what I am looking for.
As light as possible.
I start by attaching the eye with super glue. The gel versions work very well for this and are easier to apply than the liquid, runny ones. For flies that are made to fish in shallow spots like flats or shallow reed banks for cold water pike, I frequently use only gel super glue and nothing else. This however requires you to use something soft at the end of your fly to make the eyes stick so that they can endure fishing. Something like craft fur, snow runner or arctic fox. A soft synthetic fiber like EP fiber or Sculpting fiber works pretty well also. There are eyes on the market that don't react well to super glue. The adhesive used on the back of the eye is usually the problem. You can use Bish's Tear Mender for eyes like that as it reacts well with what ever is used on the background of the eye. Tear Mender is a great and durable choice for the "as light as possible" category. However it is a bit tricky to apply and you need to let it dry for at least 4 hours before it touches water. The synthetic JC eyes work very well for this category too. I usually attach them reversed and then turn them the right way. This will give them a "double lock" of thread. Finish with a drop of super glue and you have yourself a pretty durable solution. The final option is to use tab eyes. I like to attach them in the same way that I would attach the JC's.
|These paper backed glow in the dark eyes are really easy to attach with gel super glue. They stay on forever.|
|Bish's Tear Mender makes a great connection between the eye and soft materials. You need a chainsaw to brake them off. Remember to let the resin dry out fully.|
|A solid way to attach the JC eyes is to reverse tie them in. Deer Creeks versions are my favorite.|
|Tab eyes offer another light option.|
If I want the head to be pretty light, round and airy, I use something soft at the end of my fly. Just like I would on the "as light as possible" category. I start by attaching the eye with gel super glue. After that there are two options. A coating of urethane resin like Liquid Fusion or fabric fusion or a light coat of thick UV resin. Urethane resin thinned out with some water goes straight through the soft material and leaves a very airy and flexible head to the fly. It also keeps the eyes attached very firmly. The resin does not add a lot of weight to the head and gives it a very neutral buoyancy. The other option is to use thick UV so that it does not penetrate the material fully. This will leave air in the head so the fly will not sink head first quickly. This is not however as durable as using urethane resin and can brake if there's a lot of tension brought to the head. UV resins like Deer Creek Builder, Solarez thick and flex and Loon thick work very well for this type of option. Coating the eye with UV will make it stick very well, unless of course the whole resin coating starts to brake.
|Soft and durable.|
|The tube on the left has a hollow head made with UV.|
Solid heavy heads
You start these also by attaching the eye with gel super glue. Pushing the eye as tight a possible to the shank of the hook. Then make a solid coat of UV or epoxy between and over the eyes. If using UV remember to let it really soak in so the head is solid, with no air in the head. With epoxy this happens naturally. Especially if you heat up the epoxy a bit before use. A head like this will make the fly sink head first. So the fly will jig a bit when you stop it. It will of course add some weight to the fly also. These bullet head flies do however cast very well. That little extra weight on the front will turn the fly over very positively.
|These things are awesome to cast.|
|Big synthetic flies are a lot better to fish and cast when they have a solid epoxy head.|
How important are the eyes on your flies?
To be honest, not that important. Sure, there can be situations when the fish can shoot and focus on eyes, but 89,65% of the time they don't matter. There can also be times when a fly that "matches the hatch" very well overall, but has different eyes works better than a fly that matches the bait in every way. Like adding pink or orange eyes on a anchovy fly. In the big picture they are however a big confidence booster for the angler and give the flies a finished look. A fly usually works just as well after loosing its eyes tha n it did when it had them on, but having the eyes on will give you more confidence on it. That been said, I would suggest you work on the profile, action and castability first and then worry about the eyes on your flies.
|Big Bob Popovics BULKheads fish just as well without eyes as they do with them.|
Things to think about
- Take your time and let the fly rest before getting it wet. I've been tying for quite some time now and still make the mistake regularly of wetting the fly too soon and messing up the attachment.
- If you happen to have some eyes that don't react well to super glue, you can always try attaching them two times. Let the glue dry the first time, take the eyes off and then do it again on the same exact spot. This will also give them a more solid foundation if you decide to cover them with epoxy.
- Have fun. This thing can't be said too much. Have fun and try different options. Don't fear failure.
- Head shape and weight effects how the fly swims. This is a critical thing to know when thinking about different eye options and how to attach them.