The ubiquitous gold-headed damsel/tadpole is a great early season fly when used on any line from a floater to a DI –7. We have found in recent years that a hot-headed version using a 4 mm enamelled bead often makes a better alternative and has the additional benefit of allowing you to colour-code your flies, e.g. chartreuse for damsels, fluoro green for the black tadpole and fluoro orange for sunburst tadpoles, etc. The problem is that these enamelled beads are: a) expensive, b) not always readily available, and c) the enamel has an annoying tendency to chip after a few casts, leaving the unpainted bead shining through.
In the past, I have tried on several occasions to make my own hot-heads, without ever being 100% successful. Recently, however, with the availability of coloured acrylic-based compounds, such as Loon Hard Head, I have revisited this problem and found that with a little bit of effort and care the task is now quite easy. I have outlined the various steps needed to do this in the diagrams below.
You need a supply of gold or plain coloured beads (a 4 mm bead is perfect for a size 10 Kamasan B175 hook) For the fly in the article, I have used one of his plain green 4 mm beads. The first step is to give the bead an undercoat of white matt enamel, Tippex, or, best of all, white model-making spray paint. If you suspend the bead on a bit of nylon, it can be sprayed in a few seconds. The white undercoat optimises the intensity of the coloured acrylic, although the beads can be coated directly if you are happy with a more subdued effect.
Next, slip the enamelled bead onto the hook and up to the eye. Wind on about 10 turns of fine lead wire and push these up into the recess at the back of the bead. This helps secure and centre the bead and adds a little extra weight, which will assist in working-in the marabou tail. A drop of superglue helps keep everything secure.
Coat the bead with an even covering of Hardhead. I find that the brush that comes supplied with the hardhead is too coarse and it is much better to apply the acrylic with the tip of a dubbing needle. Leave it to dry for a few hours and apply a second coat, if required.
If you use an undercoat of white paint, one coat is usually sufficient. I find it easier to prepare a half a dozen of these at a time.
Tie the fly!