The number of different fly tying eyes has grown significantly over the years. Once there were only a few different kinds, but now it’s a part of fly tying that can easily become overwhelming to someone just starting out.

However, the best fly tying eyes are crucial to ensuring that your flies look realistic. If you don’t use the best eyes possible, then you won’t catch as many fish as you could.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about fly tying eyes, check out the information below. I’m going to cover a few different products as well as some different features.

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What Is a Fly Tying Eye?

A fly tying eye will add a lifelike appearance to your fly. On top of that, many different eyes also add weight to your fly, allowing you to cast farther and fish deeper.

So, if you’re looking to throw a streamer, crawfish, frog, or any type of fly that imitates an animal with eyes, using a fly tying eye is a no brainer.

a close-up of fly tying dumbbell eyes

It’s only going to improve your fly. Adding eyes to your streamer won’t take anything away from it. So, if you want to catch more fish, adding eyes is the way to go.

Check out our guide to the perfect fly tying desk setup

When to Use an Eye

As I mentioned above, any time you wish to tie a fly that replicates an animal with large eyes, using fly tying eyes will benefit you.

Smaller dries, nymphs, streamers, and other wet flies wouldn’t benefit from them, but if you want to tie a large frog imitation, then a nice set of eyes will only help.

So, if you’re looking to tie a nice big streamer to go out and chase smallmouth with, or if you want to tie a popper to pursue largemouth, then put some eyes on there. They will only improve it.

Types of Eye

Below, I’ll go over a few different types of eyes. Think about what kind of fly you plan on tying and then use the information below to help guide you about what you should buy.

Attachment

There are three different types of attachment eyes out there. They are tape eyes, 3D eyes, and barbell eyes. Tape and 3D eyes are epoxied over, and barbell eyes are tied on with tying string.

Unweighted Eyes

These can be any type of eye that’s not weighted. These can include 3D molded eyes, which is the best eye material for fly tying if you want to put them onto poppers.

Painted

These are popular with people who want to save a lot of money and want to tie flies quickly and easily. All you need to do is hand paint eyes on the head of the fly.

Weighted

If you’re looking to throw a fly that either swims deep or looks like it’s crawling along the bottom, then these are the eyes for you.

What Makes a Good Fly Tying Eye?

Below, I’ll go over a few different features of the eyes. Each has its own pros and cons, so think about what you need and apply the information below.

Weight

Getting your streamers deep with a sinking line is easiest with weighted fly eyes. The same goes for throwing crayfish imitations.

An angler fly fishing on the stream

If you want something that will run shallow or float, then look for something very light or nearly weightless. Painted-on eyes or feathers are great.

Attached

Barbell eyes use tying thread to hold it in place. These are typically weighted and are great for getting your fly down deep.

So, if you enjoy tying on eyes, the barbell will work best. The same applies to feathers. However, if you’d rather epoxy or glue it on, a 3D set of eyes will be great.

Size

The size of the eyes directly corresponds to the size of the fly. It won’t look normal if you slap a couple of monster 3D eyes on a crawfish.

So, match the eyes to what you intend on throwing, and it will work out much better for you. The same goes for matching barbell eyes and painted eyes to the correct flies.

Color

You’ll be able to find eyes in just about any color you can think of. White and darker colors are the most prevalent because they look more natural.

However, you’ll see bright colors too. These are typically used to catch the eye of the fish and draw it in. These are the best eye material for causing a reaction strike.

Best Fly Tying Eyes

Below, I’ll go over three different products. These fly tying eyes have their own pros and cons, so think about what kind of flies you wish to tie and use the corresponding ones below.

This list has been updated for 2021, but in all honesty, not much has changed in the world of fly tying eyes. When you’re on Amazon, you’ll find loads of other options for great fly tying eyes as well, but these are a few that I’ve had good experiences with.

Prime Fish Co. Dumbell

Prime Fish Co. Dumbbell Real Eyes - 25 Count - Fly Tying (Yellow, Large)
  • Price: $10.15

The Prime Fish Co. Dumbell are nickel-plated brass eyes that have bright enamel painted on them, making them ideal to tie onto a Clouser minnow.

They come in bright colors as well as white, giving you the option to go with something brighter or more natural.

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2D/3D Fishing Eyes

2D/3D Fishing Eyes Oval Pupil Fishing Lure Eye for Making Fishing Lure and Fly Tying,4 Sizes,348 PCS
  • Price: $6.99

The 2D/3D Fishing Eyes are adhesive fly tying eyes. All you have to do is roll one set of eyes off of the sheet, just like you would a sticker, and then place it onto the head of your fly.

They come in three different colors and you get a total of 348 eyes on every two sheets.

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Hareline Bead Head Chain

Hareline Bead Chain Eyes
  • Price: $6.25

The Hareline Bead Head Chain are 10-inch chains that are ideal for use in salt water. This is because they’re strong, durable, and won’t tarnish because of the salt.

However, you can also use them for fresh water, and they’re ideal for use on flies that target bass. These are the best eye for fly tying streamers.

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Conclusion

Fly tying eyes are crucial for ensuring that you create something that’s as lifelike as possible. There are so many of them that you can really customize what you want.

So, now that you know a little bit more about fly tying eyes, you should head down to your local fly shop and pick some up!