Fly of the Month: Whitlock’s Bead Head Red Fox Squirrel Nymph

This was first published in the January 2005 issue of Streamlines. The Red Fox Squirrel is one of Dave Whitlock’s most versatile and adaptable nymphs, with or without a bead head.

Whitlock’s Bead Head Red Fox Squirrel Nymph


  • Hook: 2x or 3x long nymph, size 4 to 16. Mustad 9671 or 9672; Eagle Claw 63 or 58; Tiemco 5262 or 5263; Daiichi 1710 or 1720
  • Thread: Brown or black 8/0 Uni-thread and 3/0 Monocord or 6/0 Flymaster
  • Underbody: Fine lead or lead-free wire
  • Abdomen: Red fox squirrel hair mixed with an equal amount of comparably-colored Antron dubbing or similar
  • Tail: Red fox squirrel guard hair Head: Gold metal bead
  • Rib: Oval gold tinsel
  • Thorax: Red fox squirrel hair mixed with an equal amount of dark gray Antron dubbing or similar
  • Legs: Dark mottled partridge, grouse or hen hackle

Tying Instructions

(1) Select a bead that matches the size hook you are using-note that the end with the small hole must go onto the hook first. If the bead will not slip past the barb, you may have to mash it down; if the bead will not go around the bend, try another style hook or different size bead.

(2) Secure your hook in the vise, push the bead out of the way and start your 3/0 thread behind the eye. Cover the front third of the shank with a double layer of thread, whip finish and cement the wraps. (This step is optional, but makes a more durable fly.)

(3) Push the bead to the eye of the hook, start your 8/0 or 6/0 thread behind the bead and cover the shank. Attach the end of a piece of fine lead wire behind the bead and wrap toward the rear, covering no more than the front third to half of the hook. Break off the excess wire, cover it with thread and cement the wraps.

(4) Cut a pinch of hair from the back of a red fox squirrel skin and clean away the under fur. Measure the hair to be a bit longer than the gape of the hook and tie it in. Bind the excess hair along the shank and return to the bend.

(5) Cut more fur from the squirrel and mix it with an equal amount of amber or tan Antron dubbing, cut up sparkle yarn or Aunt Lydia’s Rug Yarn. Dub a small ball of the Antron/squirrel mix at the rear of the hook.

(6) Tie in a piece of oval gold tinsel in front of the ball of dubbing and bind the excess along the shank. Dub the abdomen so it tapers uniformly toward the front of the hook. The abdomen should incorporate approximately the rear two-thirds of the fly.

(7) Wrap the gold tinsel over the abdomen to suggest segmentation. Tie off the tinsel and trim the excess; use a dubbing tool to tease out some of the fibers along the abdomen.

(8) Mix some more natural squirrel fur with an equal amount of dark gray or brown Antron dubbing, sparkle yarn or Aunt Lydia’s Rug Yarn. Dub a full thorax, stopping just short of the bead.

(9) Tie in the tip of the bird or hen hackle you have chosen to use and stroke the barbs to the rear. Make two wraps and tie it off; then trim the excess. Spin a little more of the dark squirrel mixture on your thread and fill in the space between the hackle and the bead. Whip finish and cement the wraps.

(Credit: Fly Tying with Al and Gretchen Beatty from