Tying with Dumbell Eyes
By: Brian Doelle
Many tiers seem to have difficulty working with dumbell style eyes. By using this simple figure-8 technique, your eyes will go on straight and stay put every time. I'll also share a few tips for working with the different types of dumbell eyes you may encounter.
The first thing is to start with a decent thread base. Never try and attach eyes to a bare hook shank, as they'll want to spin around and be difficult. A decent thread base takes seconds and will make your life much easier. (Photo shows the thread base in black for visibility. The tying thread is orange.)
Place the eyes against your thread base, perpendicular to the hook shank. Now take a diagonal wrap across the top of the eyes and down the other side in front of the eyes. It's OK if the eyes are a bit crooked right now, as they'll straighten out later.
Now bring your thread under the hook shank and back up in front of the eyes. Your eyes can still be crooked at this point, and if they want to slip around on ya' just hold them in place with your free hand.
Bring the thread over and across the eyes and down the far side. Your thread should now make an "X" across the top of the eyes.
Take the thread under the shank behind the eyes and back to your original start location. That's all there is to the figure-8 wrap. Easy!
At this point you'll want to make sure the eyes are straight and level. Once they are, go ahead and make a few more figure-8 wraps just like the first one.
OK, if you're tying in a soft material like mono eyes or plastic craft bead your done. A few tight figure-8's are enough to hold them in place, and continuing on will bend them out of shape. If your using harder eyes, like lead or brass dumbells, continue on and find out how to really lock those eyes into place. Start by returning the thread to the start position, and over the top of the shank behind the eyes.
Bring your thread under the eyes and around the top of the hook shank. Your thread does NOT pass under the hook shank. Think under the eyes but over the shank...
Now come under the near side of the eye and back to your original start position. Again, the thread should NOT pass under the hook shank. Under the eyes but over the shank...
Make a few more tight wraps under the eyes but over the shank. These circular wraps around the base of your figure-8 wraps draws the thread tight and keeps the eyes from spinning.
Make a few more figure-8 wraps and then a few more base wraps. Alternate between the two untill the eyes are firmly in place.
To really finish the job right you'll want to add a drop of penetrating glue to the tie in point. This will insure that the eyes will still be in place after you've caught a couple fish. Head cement really isn't up to the task, so try something stronger and fast drying like zap-a-gap. If you're really feeling sparky you can use epoxy, but I find this is really more work than it's worth.

One last little piece of advice... If your tying in dumbells made of lead (pictured), keep your wraps firm but not tight. Lead is soft, and torqing on the thread will only bend them eventually. Instead, rely on the glue to hold them firmly. If you find that your lead-eyed flies tend to end up missing an eye after a fish or two it's because you fractured the lead by wrapping to tight. Even the glue won't hold a fractured dumbell in place forever. If you're tying in eyes of aluminum, brass, nickel, etc. go ahead and torque your wraps as tight as your tying thread allows.