Polish Yer Beads — Rejuvenate a fly’s tarnished bead or conehead

January 2, 2018
Dull metalheads mess with my confidence. I fish with copper, gold or silver beadheads and coneheads because they’re shiny. And when picking out my next fly, I avoid ones with a metalhead that’s lost its luster. Weather, water and time tarnishes the finish on both tungsten and brass beads. But you can easily get that shiny new finish back with a simple DIY solution.

Many of my confidence flies have shiny beads. Sure, dull beads with a flat or painted finish also catch fish. (I like to tie one of my favorite flies, a Hare and Copper variant, with a tarnished copper bead.) But when I choose a shiny bead or conehead, I want it sparkling like Aunt Mary’s homemade Christmas tree ornaments.

I do take measures to keep beadheads looking new. I use a waterproof box, and I tape small desiccant packs to the inside. But I also use a C&F Chest Patch for easy access to my most-used nymphs. And I carry a few of my go to streamers on an old foam fly box leaf, cut in half and stashed in my vest. Wet nymphs and streamers carried this way dry easily, but they may also tarnish. So when I have enough tarnished beads and coneheads, I make some paste . . .


You can use Brasso or something similar. I’ve done it. But you’ll never get rid of the scent, once it’s absorbed into the fly. Likewise, harsh chemicals can pull the dye from certain fly materials, changing the color of the fly. That’s no good either.

Instead, keep it natural.

Put a little flour in a small bowl. Add the same amount of salt. Then add enough white vinegar to make a paste. You won’t need much, even if you’re cleaning dozens of flies.

Use a small rag to apply paste to the bead or conehead, covering it completely. It’s perfectly fine for the paste to spread over to the front of the fly as well — it doesn’t damage or discolor the materials. Cover the metalhead of each fly, then simply rinse the paste off with water, while rubbing with the rag. It requires very little pressure. You don’t have to scrub, because the vinegar and salt do all the work.


If you tie durable flies, you’ll have them around until you lose them in a tree or sacrifice them to the river bottom. Polishing a bead is a lot quicker than tying a new fly — especially for streamers — and it’s cheaper too.

I hope this helps you out.

Shined up Metalheads

Enjoy the day
Domenick Swentosky


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Hi Domenick,
I have some bags of beads that have become tarnished just from sitting in a drawer in their bags. Is there a way to clean, say 100, beads at a time?

Domenick Swentosky

Hi. I'm a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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