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Example of Eyes:

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Anchovy eye

Anchovy eye

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Bunker eye

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Silverside eye

Silverside eye

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Silverside eyes

Silverside eye

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Sand lance eye

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Articles:                                                          Read other articles

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The Use of Eyes in Fly Tying

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Fly Fishing Eyes

A tyer's hodgepodge of eyes

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The use of eyes in fly tying is not new, however, as the sport of fly fishing and its twin fly tying have gained momentum through the years many more choices are available to the fly tyer.  Below is a sampling of the most commonly used eyes in fly tying along with suggestions for their use.  As the use of eyes in fly tying is an evolving field this article will evolve as well with updates from time to time.

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Attachment - Different eyes require different ingenuity when it comes to attaching them.  In some cases specific attachment suggestions will be discussed below, however these are some generalities:

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Tape eyes - Typically epoxied over once attached.

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3D eyes - Press into tacky epoxy (do not coat) or apply Zap-A-Gap CA+ and press into fly.

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Dumbbell eyes - This includes all variants and bead chain eyes.  Normal tying thread is preferred to uni-mono for the following characteristics: cinches tighter without recoil and holds glue better.  Start with a good thread base, perform the normal figure-eight wraps but also wrap under and completely around the eye and above the hook to cinch-in the figure-eight wraps.  Cut thread, apply Zap-A-Gap CA+ and spray with Zip Kicker.  Epoxy can also be added once the fly is complete.

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Unweighted:

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Painted eyes - Painted eyes are arguably the easiest and least expensive of all the eyes to make.  The process involves applying a black pupil to any one of a number of paint colors for the iris, typically yellow, red or white.  The painted eye normally covers the head wraps of the fly.  Complete iris and pupil circles are accomplished with a hobby brush, toothpick or nail head.  The entire eye and remaining unpainted head wraps

Painted fly eyes

Painted eyes

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are covered with clear head cement or epoxy.  Painted eyes typically are used on Deceivers, Zonkers, Thunder Creek Series Shiners, poppers, tarpon flies and some smelt patterns.

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Feather (jungle cock or painted) - The Jungle cock feather is used as a simple impressionistic means for providing an eye.  Jungle cock feather eyes are typically used for Ghost streamers, small trout imitations, flat wings and some salmon hairwing patterns.  Painted feathers use the process as described above under "Painted".  The iris and pupil are applied to a feather.  In most cases the feather is prepped by first applying a thin coat of glue to the area where the eye will be painted.  The glue prevents the feather from splitting under heavy use.  Painted feathers serve as both a place for the eye and as a gill plate.  Mallard or wood duck feathers are commonly used.  Both jungle cock and painted feathers are normally the last item tied in and reside close to the eye of the hook.

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Die-cut patterns (gill plates and fake jungle cock) - Probably the best known use for die-cut patterns is demonstrated by Page Roger's Big Eye Baitfish patterns.  Page uses prismatic gill plates to mount stick-on eyes. Due to the high cost of quality jungle cock necks (at times over $200.00 per neck) and sometimes questionable availability, imitations have been made.The imitation jungle cock is used in the same manner as

Die-cut fly eyes

Die-cut patterns

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the real feather and is described above under "Feather".As with feathers, die-cut patterns are normally the last item tied in and reside close to the eye of the fly.

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Tape eyes - Tape eyes are widely available, come in many colors and a range of sizes. Tape eyes can be applied to feathers, die-cut patterns, popper bodies, Sili-Skin, epoxy, Loco Foam, Spirit River's Real Eyes, Deep Sea eyes, Jiggy eyes and Cross-eyed Cone eyes just to name a few.  Tape eyes are attached by simply removing from the tape and using their own sticky adhesive to apply to the desired location.  A thin coat of epoxy is then

Fly fishing tape eyes

Tape eyes

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applied.  In certain cases it may be desirable to place a very small drop of a glue (Zap-A-Gap CA+) to the adhesive-side of the eye prior to placement.  Tape eyes are widely used in many commercially available patterns due to their inexpensive cost relative to other choices, durability once coated with epoxy, ease of use and they're light which makes the fly easier to cast.  Typically tape eyes are used on Gummy Minnows, Crease Flies, Mushmouths, Surf Candies, poppers and Dougherty's Tube flies.

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Mono eyes - Mono eyes are used in both freshwater and saltwater patterns, however their freshwater use receives less attention.  Prior to mono eyes hitting the production lines and being made commercially available, tyers would go through the quick task of burning mono till balls formed then coloring their creations with markers or paint.  This task still continues and varying monofilament diameters are used.  Commonly mono eyes are used

Fly fishing mono eyes

Mono eyes

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on crab, shrimp, and crayfish patterns and some nymph patterns including Hex, dragonfly and damsel fly nymphs.  Some creative freedom can be incorporated by spicing up mono eyes through the addition of glass beads prior to burning the mono.

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3D eyes (molded eyes) - 3D eyes, also known as molded eyes are an excellent choice for providing realism to baitfish and squid patterns.  These eyes come in many sizes and colors and are commonly used on Deceivers, Dougherty's Herring, Dougherty's SEP Squid, Dougherty's Siliside Minnow and Dougherty's Tube flies.  Additionally, 3D eyes can be incorporated into Deep Sea eyes, Real Eyes, Jiggy eyes and Cross-eyed

Fly fishing 3D eyes

3D eyes (molded eyes)

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Cone eyes.  There are several ways to attach these eyes, a few common ways include: 1. Placing the eye into epoxy as it dries (applying epoxy over the the eye is generally not preferred as it creates excess bulk and reduces the the shimmer of the eye; however exceptions exist), 2. A small drop of Zap-A-Gap to the back of the eye or to both the eye and the location it will be glued to (a spray of Zip Kicker can be used), 3. Epoxied to mono (less desirable) or by 4. glued by a hot glue gun.  Again 3D eyes come in many colors, from holographic to prismatic, even Mirage.

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Decoy eyes - Decoy eyes while not commonly found may be found under the alias hobby eyes.  Decoy eyes are constructed of layering balls of glass or plastic adhered to wire.  Typically the first ball or pupil is black surrounded by a second ball of a transparent color.  Decoy eyes come in a range of sizes and can be applied to crab, shrimp or minnow patterns.  These eyes are tied in with just enough of the wire (i.e. post) to push the eye out in front of the body

Decoy eyes

Decoy eyes

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material used.  Commonly used body material includes wool as in Woolhead patterns and deer hair as in sculpin and frog patterns.

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Animal eyes - Animals eyes were originally used in the making of stuffed animals but have crossed over to fly tying.  Animal eyes are realistic, widely available and come in an array of sizes and colors.  Attachment is varied and can include: 1. Tying in as regular, 2. Trimming each eye's post a little and inserting in to plastic tubing and tying in, or 3.  Trimming one eye's post and hot glue gun together.  Animal eyes are used in patterns such

Fly fishing animal eyes

Animal eyes

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as Enrico Puglisi patterns, deer hair sculpins and frogs.

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Doll eyes (Rattle eyes) - Doll eyes or rattle eyes have been around for awhile.  Doll eyes are similar to animal eyes as they both share the common thread of being cross-overs from the world of crafts.  Many anglers swear that the slight rattle imparted by the two-part eye attracts fish.  This comment however is arguable as typically the only patterns that use doll eyes today are top water patterns such as frogs and poppers; so the

Fly fishing doll eyes

Doll eyes (Rattle eyes)

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argument goes, what makes more noise the spraying water or the rattling eye?  Doll eyes come in a range of sizes and are typically yellow/black or white/black and can be applied by glue or epoxy.

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Weighted:

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Bead-chain eyes - Bead-chain eyes have been around for awhile and are probably best known by Dan Blanton's Whistler pattern.  Anyone who's cast this pattern will know why they're called whistlers.  Bead-chain eyes are easy to use; cut a pair off using wire cutters and tie on.  These eyes are light and add a little weight and therefore incorporated broadly into flats patterns.  Bead-chains typically come in silver, gold or black and in a range

Bead-chain eyes

Bead-chain eyes

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of sizes.  Patterns that use bead-chains eyes include Whistlers, Gotchas, Mini Puffs, Crazy Charlies, Comets and shrimps.

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Lead eyes (painted or non-painted) - Lead eyes are part of the dumbbell eye clan and come painted or unpainted.  Although lead eyes are widely available, come in a range of sizes and colors they are sometimes passed over due their soft nature.  Eyes with a flat center verse a "V" are preferred as they're less likely to break in two.  Lead eyes can further be secured by liberally coating with epoxy once the fly is complete.  Lead eyes, as with all dumbbell eyes, are slightly

Fly fishing lead eyes

Lead eyes (Painted or non-painted)

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less forgiving then other weight alternatives should a poor cast send a fly into your rod tip.Where cone heads or lead wrapped flies may glance off your rod, dumbbells are more likely to snap your rod.  Lead eyes are used in Clouser Minnows, Half-and-Halfs, crab and crayfish patterns.  Refer to "Attachment" section above for tying suggestions.

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Dazzle eyes - Dazzle eyes are also part of the dumbbell clan and are made of brass.  They can be silver, gold or black and range in size.  Although lighter then lead eyes of equal size, they are stronger and will typically outlast lead eyes.  Dazzle eyes are used on Clouser Minnows, Half-and-Halfs, Gotchas, crab and crayfish patterns. Refer to "Attachment" section above for tying suggestions.

Dazzle eyes

Dazzle eyes

(click on image to enlarge)

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Deep Sea eyes - Deep Sea eyes are also part of the dumbbell clan and are made of aluminum.  They typically are silver or black in color and range in size.  Each side of the dumbbell has a recessed hole allowing either tape eyes or 3D eyes to placed within.  Being aluminum they are considerably lighter than lead eyes and are generally used only as a means to secure eyes. Deep Sea eyes are used either in securing very large eyes to

Deep sea eyes

Deep Sea eyes

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large baitfish patterns or in making very light versions of the following patterns: Clouser Minnows and Half-and-Halfs.  Refer to "Attachment" section above for tying suggestions.

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Real eyes - Real eyes are also part of the dumbbell clan.  They typically are silver, gold or black and range in size.  Each side of the dumbbell has a recessed hole allowing either tape eyes or 3D eyes to be placed within.  Real eyes are used on Clouser Minnows, Half-and-Halfs and Gotchas. Refer to "Attachment" section above for tying suggestions.

Real eyes

Real eyes

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Real Hot eyes - Real Hot eyes are also part of the dumbbell clan.  They literally are identical to Real eyes, however they come in very bright colors.  Like Real Eyes each side of the dumbbell has a recessed hole allowing either tape eyes or 3D eyes to be placed within.  Real Hot eyes can be used on Clouser Minnows, Half-and-Halfs and Gotchas, however they're typically used for steelhead and salmon patterns, i.e. leeches and

Real hot eyes

Real Hot eyes

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Comets.  Refer to "Attachment" section above for tying suggestions.

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Real Eyes Plus - Real Eyes Plus are also part of the dumbbell clan.  They come in a range of colors and sizes.  Real Eyes Plus differ from Real Eyes by the following, rather than having a recessed hole on each end for either tape eyes or 3D eyes, they have permanent enameled eye inserts.  These inserts are manufacturer installed and guaranteed never to pop out.  Real Eyes Plus are used on Clouser Minnows and Half-and-Halfs.

Real eyes plus

Real Eyes Plus

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Refer to "Attachment" section above for tying suggetions.

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Metz Presentation eyes - Metz Presentation eyes were one of the original variants to dumbbell eyes.  The basic dumbbell concept exists however the ends are plugged with epoxied/plastic eyes.  The eyes have glitter fleck which add to their realism.  Metz Presentation eyes are generally durable however the epoxied/plastic eyes will dislodge if the fly is repeatedly bounced off a rocky bottom.  Metz Presentation eyes

Metz presentation eyes

Metz Presentation eyes

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come in different sizes and colors however their availability is at times limited. These eyes can be used on Clouser Minnow flies, Half-and-Halfs, and Dougherty's Vineyard Minnow, Dougherty's Sili-Fox and Sili-Deer Minnow.

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I-Balz eyes - I-Balz eyes are similar to dumbbell eyes.  I-Balz are made from brass and have bulbous spheres with painted eyes. I-Balz come in silver, gold and black.  Different sizes are available.

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Cross-eyed Cone - Cross-eyed Cones are a variant of the cone head.  Each side of the cone head has been drilled with a recessed hole allowing either tape eyes or 3D eyes to be placed within.  Generally the cross-eyed cone will be placed first on the hook, materials tied in next, thread whipped finished and trimmed, and the thread wraps glued and shoved within the cone head (Zap-A-Gap CA+ and Zip Kicker aid this process).  Tape

Cross-eyed eyes

Cross-eyed eyes

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eyes or 3D eyes (preferred) are best applied by first adding a very small drop of Zap-A-Gap CA+ to the backs of the eyes and pressing them into the recesses.  A benefit to using cross-eyed cones or cone heads in generally is their ability to glance off your fly rod should you be unfortunate enough to have a misdirected cast.  Unlike dumbbell eyes, cone heads are more forgiving.  Different sizes are available and can be used on Deceivers, tube flies and Surf Candy flies.

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Jiggy Cone - Jiggy Cones are Bob Popovic's spin on cone heads and are an integral component to Bob's Jiggy fly.  Jiggy cones are laterally flattened and are designed to be more lifelike than cone heads.  While Jiggy Cones are generally less available than cone heads they are probably equally available as Cross-eyed Cones. Jiggy Cones come in different sizes and with or without prefixed eyes.

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