Care and Feeding of your new Custom Beads
So congratulations, you finally did it. You got some of those super-spiffy AFFG Guide Model beads, a few packs of the new TroutFood beads, or maybe you went whole hog and got some of those Metal Magnet steelhead beads. You are all set for a late summer crack at some big trout, or a fall excursion into steelhead country. To help you down the path to bead enlightenment and "fish nirvana" there are a few things you should know about the care and feeding of your new custom beads to make the experience a good one for both of you.
The most important thing you should know is that - even with all the love and attention lavished upon the Guide Model, TroutFood, and Metal Magnet beads during the painting process and the extra care that our team goes through to ensure that the finish-coat is applied just right - all painted beads will chip if treated improperly. We DO put a special layer of hard finish on them, but that still won't protect them from chipping if they are abused. Here are a few things you can do to prolong the life of your custom beads...
Get a bead box, and use it. If your beads are rollin' around in the bottom of your pack or bag with your pliers and nippers and other fishing paraphernalia, they are much more likely to be scratched and damaged than if they are in a nice, safe bead box. As a bonus, bead boxes also provide a safe nest for your hooks, shot, and pegs, so those don't end up in every nook and cranny of your fishing bag.
For Trout and char, fish lighter weights. Getting down is typically the name of the game when beading for trout, but pounding and clanking on the bottom all day isn't absolutely necessary (or desirable) in many situations. We like to fish a leader that is about 1.2X longer (to the weight) than the deepest portion of the run we are in - an adjustable indicator is a pretty good tool to get us to that number. For weight, we use the smallest shot we can get away with so the lead touches down every so often in the run. As an added bonus with this rig, your indicator doesn't hop and bounce all over the place...that is, until a trout inhales your bead.
For Steelhead, fish your beads on a short-leader rig. Steelhead will move quite a ways to take an offering if they are in the mood, so why bang your beads on the bottom all day? Unlike fishing for trout with beads, steelhead aren't feeding on spawn, so the bead doesn't have to be in the "magic foot" on the bottom to catch fish. Rock-thumpin' is the number-one cause of most bead damage, and with the short-leader rig, you can fish your bead above those nasty, paint-chippin' rocks and STILL catch fish.
Roll cast often. The number-two cause of most bead damage is whackin' your bead on something hard (trees, boat gunwales, high banks, your buddy's head) during the backcast. You can alleviate this with a roll cast in most every situation. Another one of the advantages of short-leader and light-weight rigs is that they come out of the water relatively easy, making roll casting a breeze.
Despite all of the above advice, you will probably chip a custom bead sooner or later...Relax. It isn't the end of the world.
What to do if your bead gets a finish-chip. Take a look at your bead every once in a while to make sure it is both positioned correctly on your leader, and free of chips...this is especially important after a hang-up or if you do accidentally whack it on something while casting. If it is chipped, change it out for a new bead, but don't just fling the chipped bead in the trash can. You can repair most minor finish cracks and chips if you find them early enough - that is, before a lot of water-slippage occurs behind the finish. Put the damaged bead in a dry place where it won't get jostled around and lose more finish, then touch it up with some clear nail polish when you get them home and dry. This will keep the bead-finish from cracking more and allow you to get a few extra days out of it. As an added bonus, the application of clear nail polish often melts the original finish of your custom bead, making for a very "organic" looking egg - not a bad thing.
So get yourself a bead box, practice up on that roll cast, and don't put on too much lead. Also, it helps if you have a "glasses and fake moustache" disguise when you go shopping for clear polish in the "Nail Care" aisle of your local market...
Now get out there and catch some fish.