Chironomids 101 - Getting into the Zone: Ditching Tungsten? & Introducing “the Nuke”

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

For years I have heard many swear by using tungsten beads, swivels and even split shots in order to get their chironomids down into the! Well aside from changing to a sink line, I couldn’t agree more with them. Both work and work well. unfortunately glass and brass just don’t quite cut it when chronie fish at depths deeper than 20-25ft or so. You start hanging chronies at depths exceeding 20ft and it is good to start adding some more weight to your set up or you’ll end up spending more time waiting for your fly to get down to the fish on each cast and thus are not optimizing your time on the water efficiently. They just take too long to sink to those foraging fish feeding within the lake bottom and getting into ”the zone”, especially when fishing smaller chronies like those size 16‘s and 18‘s. It‘s not too bad when the fishing is hot, we have fished plain brass chronies at 25ft with no added weight and had upwards of around or close to 100 fish or so to the boat in a day but on the tougher days every minute and every cast counts that much more and lost time can add up quickly. Unfortunately, if you are like me, I am neither a big fan of using swivels and neither do I like tying with pricey tungsten beads that never have a hole big enough to get over the size hook I want to use them with or can’t fit my gill material! This is because tungsten beads are manufactured differently than brass and like me you may remember getting your first bunch of tungsten beads in the mail eagerly excited only to be sadly disappointed. To each their own but I am not a big fan of tying big-headed chronies, so what other options is there? Many would think I’m out of options but not necessarily. I have a little secret I have been using for some years now that few people have even heard of. What is it you might ask? Lead tape! Yes, Where have you been all my life!?! At least that’s what I was saying when I first stumbled upon the stuff. That’s right, unlike the spooled lead you find in most fly shops in various diameters, it is round, bulky and a horrible product for using on your chironomids. Your thread will go right in between the cracks of the lead wraps and because it doesn’t lay flat it’s useless for those tiny pupae you are trying imitate. However, lead tape lays flat, It‘s thin and has an adhesive backing which makes building up body shapes for your scuds or whatever you have in mind super simple and best of all just like most sheet materials, You can cut it to any desired width easily with a razor blade to sizes that nearly microscopic even small enough for those size 20’s if you so desire to tie them that small. It doesn‘t just add a bit of weight it adds much more than replacing the bead with tungsten does. This is how I tie all my deep-line chronies. Not only do they get down into the zone fast but they also don’t “bounce” as much under the water when indicator fishing on those brutally windy days. And if you really want a chironomid that sinks like a rock, use the lead tape and add a tungsten bead or your swivel as well! Nothing to it! The cats out of the bag, so go get your hands on some and see for yourself how awesome this stuff is!

And just to elaborate how well it works... here is a step by step instructional tutorial of one of our favourite flys to fish in the spring tied using the lead tape. These things are weapons of mass destruction on the poor unsuspecting fish and have been calling then “Nukes“ (short for nuclear warhead and being a one-off of the ever popular black holographic tinsel “Zuch“s / “Zuke’s” or “Zuchinni“ fly popularized by Flyguy only with some slight modifications). I have tied a great majority of my chironomids in the Ironman style for some years now and it only stood to reason to combine it with the deadly magnetic capabilities of black holo tinsel? Combined with brown holo ribs/ green holo ribs/ red holo ribs and wine holo ribs, They have surely earned a permanent seat in the ol’ chronie box! Call them whatever you like, here it is, enjoy!

Size 14 Togens 2X Curved Nymph Hook

3/32 Black Metallic Bead

270 White Uni-stretch gills

UTC Rusty Brown Thread

Tie in the lead strip cut to desired width to just less than half the length of your chironomid...

Wrap back forward towards the bead with the lead tape building up you taper and minimizing later wasted thread wraps (this not only saves you thread but also makes tying bigger chironomids much more time efficient!)

Tie in size Small Copper brown wire, and small Black and Brown holo tinsel just behind the lead keeping the wire down the side of the hook shank.

Try to build and maintain a slim, smooth tapered body using your thread until returning back up behind the bead and secure with a whip finish.

Wrap forward with slight overlaps with the Brown holographic tinsel and secure with a whip finish.

Next wrap forward with the Black holo tinsel creating 7 ribs and 8 body segments. Once you do this and everything is in place and looks good the way you want it trim out the tinsel and use a small amount of UV resin to hold everything in place from sliding around during the next step!

Wrap to the front or rear of each rib section with your wire... break off, whip finish aaaannnd...


Voila! A Stillwater Killer!


If you are wanting to purchase some lead tape from us, I just re-stocked our supply as I was running very low, So check back soon I will be putting it up on our online store within 24hours for any of you that would like to try it! OR if you don’t necessarily feel like tying and would like us to tie some Nukes for you, we can do that as well! We custom tie to suit whatever you like!

Hope some of you enjoyed the article! Until next time, Cheers and Tightlines!

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