Tag Archives: lead alternative

Lead free weights for fly fishing

Conservation is a key component to fly fishing, and few things are more important to conservation than clean water and healthy fish and wildlife.

For fly fishing, there are a variety of materials and products on the market that work great, and will also improve your catch rate. Tungsten weights, bead heads, tungsten putty, tin split shot, brass beads and eyes, and more all work great as lead substitutes for fly fishing.

Fly tying

Lucent Tungsten Beads

Lucent Tungsten Beads

Many lead alternative materials are in use today for fly tying. Tungsten beads, brass beads and eyes, lead alternative wire, copper wire, and more all have their use. When weighting a fly, tungsten has an advantage over lead because it is heavier and denser. This means that a smaller bead can be used on nymphs and other wet flies to help sink them to the strike zone. Tungsten beads also come in a variety of fish attracting colors.

Lead alternative wire is great for streamers and nymphs that require extra weight and is completely non toxic. Simply replace your old lead wire with a selection of different size non toxic lead alternative wire to keep on hand when tying your flies. Not only is this better for the eco systems that you fish, but it’s safer for you and your family. Lead free wire means no lead dust or residue left over contaminating your hands and anything you touch after a busy session at the tying table.

On the water fly fishing uses for lead free weights

Many lead alternative weights can be attached to the leader, much like traditional split shot, to help sink the fly to the bottom. Tin split shot, Steel split shot and soft tungsten putties all work great when extra weight is needed to sink your nymph or egg pattern to the bottom.

TungFu Tungsten Putty

Tungsten Putty

Tungsten putty is particularly useful as the amount of weight can be fine tuned to your needs. Simply add a little, or remove a little to get the right amount. Most often, soft putties like these will soften when warmed slightly between the fingers. This allows the fly angler to attach and remove the putty from the leader easily. Once the putty is formed on the leader, the coolness of the water will harden it so that it will not fall off while fishing. After fishing, the putty can be completely removed from the line with no mess.

Tin split shot comes in the same form as old lead split shot, and can be reused many times. The handy thing about tin, or other lead alternative split shot, is that is won’t foul up the waterways and your hands. Have you ever eaten a snack while fishing after handling lead split shot? With lead alternatives like tin, steel, or other alternatives, you don’t have to worry about ingesting lead residue.

Other advantages to lead alternative weights

There are many advantages to fly fishing with lead alternative weights. Besides the practical reasons, like tungsten being heaver and denser than lead, there are the environmental and safety issues to think about. Our waterways are fragile, and if we don’t take steps to safeguard them for future generations, we may lose out.

Wildlife and birds, like Loons, can oftentimes ingest lead weights that have been lost or left in the stream or along the banks of the lake. By using a lead alternative you eliminate the risk.

Lead free weights are vital in keeping our waterways clean, and our fish healthy.

Lead free fly fishing weights

Tungsten Weights

Brass Weights

Fishing conservation as a way of life

Fishing Conservation Means Healthy Rivers and Lakes

Fishing conservation is a practice that takes time and effort to achieve, however it is something that we all must come to understand if we want to continue to enjoy our lakes and rivers like we have in the past.

Catch and Release

Possibly one of the most important aspects of fishing conservation is the proper practice of catch and release. The catch and release we’re talking about is far different from the practice of tossing a fish back into the water.

Proper techniques for releasing a fish means handling it as little as possible if at all, not removing it from the water, using a catch and release net, and more.

One of the best things you can do to decrease fish release mortality is to use a rod that is rated correctly for the fish you are targeting, and to land the fish as quickly as possible. By not playing a fish to exhaustion you increase the survival chances of that fish. Overly stressed and exhausted fish build up excess lactic acid which can kill them.

Tips if you are going to handle a fish:

  • Be gentle. If you have to pick up the fish do not squeeze it excessively hard. Squeezing can damage a fishes internal organs so that even if it swims away strong it may die later.
  • Wet your hands. Dry hands remove the protective coating of slime that covers a fish and will make it more susceptible to disease.
  • Use a catch and release net. Use a soft knotless or plastic catch and release net that will remove scales or damage a fishes gills and eyes.
  • Keep it in the water. Think of it this way; after sprinting the length of a football field up and back, how would it feel to submerge your head underwater? That’s what it’s like for a fish to be pulled out of the water after a hard fought battle.
  • If you want to take a picture keep the fish in the water until the photographer is ready. Then only remove the fish from the water for as long as is necessary to snap the photo.
  • Never put your hand inside the gill plate. This can damage the gills and lead to mortality of the fish.
rainbow trout fly fishing catch and release

rainbow trout fly fishing catch and release

Be gentle with the fish you intend to release and slip it back into the water. Never toss a fish into the water as it may be disoriented or exhausted. If necessary, gently move a fish back and forth in the water by grasping it’s tail with one hand and cradling the underbelly with the other. If in moving water, point the fish upstream as it cannot breathe when water flows backwards over it’s gills.  When water flows correctly over a fishes gills it gives the fish oxygen.

Lead Free Fishing Tackle

The use of lead in fishing tackle is beginning to fade as anglers are educated on the harm it can do to eco-systems, fish, and birds. Abandoned or lost Lead split shot and sinkers can be ingested by birds and fish and cause them harm.

Lead can also effect the food chain for fish and waterfowl. By killing insects and nymphs, it restricts the available food.

Some states have begun banning lead in certain waterways. Be sure to carry non toxic weights and sinkers with you when fishing to comply with the local laws and to avoid harming the lake or rivers eco system.

Not only is lead harmful to fish, birds, and insects but it is also harmful to you. Lead has been shown to cause reproductive harm and birth defects so caution is urged whenever handling it.

A variety of lead alternative fishing weights and sinkers are available on the market. Tungsten, bismuth, steel, brass, tin, and biodegradable compounds all make excellent non toxic lead alternatives.


Conservation minded anglers always make it a point to leave the river or lake cleaner than when they arrived.  Yes, that means occasionally picking up someone else’s garbage. If a fellow angler is careless enough to leave lure packaging, a beer can, or other garbage it only harms the eco-system and makes it less of enjoyment for everyone else. Take a moment and pick it up. The fish will thank you.

Selective Harvest

rainbow trout fly fishing

rainbow trout fly fishing

Entire articles, maybe even books, have been written on the subject of selective harvest. In a nutshell selective harvest means not only keeping the big ones.  Each body of water can only sustain a certain amount of fish. When only the large fish are retained, it leaves excess room for smaller ones to take their place. This in essence can stunt fisheries to the point of only having large amounts of small fish.

This doesn’t even take into account the concept of natural selection. If the biggest, fittest, and arguable smartest (how did they live long enough to get so big?) are harvested, it leaves the door open for de-evolution and a stunted fishery of smaller fish.

Links to Fishing Conservation Organizations

Trout unlimited

The Different Types of Lead Alternative ECO Fishing Weights and Sinkers Available

A variety of tungsten fishing weights in various forms are available on the market today. Tungsten makes an excellent lead alternative because it is denser and heavier than lead and is widely available. It is available from most fishing retailers and online stores as various forms. Worm weights, bullet weights, flippin’ weights, drop shot weights and more are available for bass fishing. Besides the obvious advantage of a denser, heavier weight another great feature of tungsten is that colored dye can be added to increase the attractiveness of the presentation. Tungsten sinkers are available in different colors to match or contract your lure.

Tungsten fly fishing beads and soft tungsten putty are available for fly fishing use. Tungsten beads work great for flies because the heaviness of the material means that a smaller bead can be used than brass or lead but still give the fly the desired sink rate. Tungsten putty is a soft form of tungsten weight that comes in a small sealed container and can be rolled onto the line. After fishing simply pinch the putty off the line. If more weight is needed while fishing simply pinch a little bit more out of the container and roll it onto the line.

Tru Tungsten worm weights

Another good lead alternative sinker material is brass. Brass sinkers are available in various shapes and sizes of sinkers and fishing weights to match each situation. Brass worm weights and bullet weights for bass fishing are a great choice because not only are they non-toxic but they are loud, when rigged correctly, and can help attract bass. Rig your Texas or Carolina style rig with a small plastic or glass bead behind the brass worm or bullet weight to add extra noise. The clicking of the bead and the brass weight can often bring curious fish over to your bait.

Another great use for brass is the use of brass beads with jigs. Steelhead, salmon, trout, bass, crappie, and just about every other type of fish love jigs and now brass beads can be substituted for lead. Instead of pouring the lead around the 90 degree bend on the jig hook, brass beads can be connected to the hook with a steel or brass pin that is securely fastened to the hook. Jigs with brass beads can be purchased from many fishing shops, large retailers, and online and brass beads can be purchased in a variety of sizes from tackle supply manufacturers and retailers.

Top Brass Fishing Weight Kit

Tin – reusable split shot
The fishing weight that started it all – the split shot. Traditionally, split shot are small lead balls that are open, or have a groove, down the one side. Anglers simply put the line into the groove and pinch the split shot onto the line by pinching with pliers, or sometimes with teeth. With lead being a toxic substance the use of teeth to pinch to the split shot onto the line is most definitely not advised. These days multiple manufacturers and retailers offer reusable tin split-shot which are lead free and non toxic. It is still advised that you use pliers when attaching or removing them from your line to save your teeth from biting down on a hard object.

Tin reusable split shot are better for the environment if they are lost underwater, and save the angler from handling lead while applying them. The use of split shot in fly fishing is common when the need to present a fly to fish in deep water presents itself. The eco conscious angler can now rest assured that no lead will be left behind to foul up the waterway if their gear is caught on an underwater snag.

Reusable tin split shot

Steel fishing sinkers and weights are another good alternative to the traditional lead sinkers. Steel sinkers are generally available in similar shapes and sizes as brass, tungsten, and other non-lead weights. Bullet weights, worm weights, egg sinkers, barrel weights, and more are available. Steel is a good alternative because it is heavy and generally less expensive than Tungsten. It is not as dense so the weights will be slightly larger in size than tungsten. If you’re looking for a less expensive non toxic alternative to lead than tungsten, then steel is a good option.

steel bullet sinkers

ECO Biodegradable
100% lead free, degradable fishing weights and sinkers are one of the best alternatives to lead weights when performance isn’t quite as much of an issue. These weights are generally larger in size than their lead, tungsten, steel, or brass counterparts so when size of the presentation is an issue other weights may be the ticket. Where biodegradable fishing weights shine is in the fact that they are made up of a 100% natural and non toxic lead free compound that will slowly degrade underwater and disappear over time. These are truly a no impact fishing weight. Available in a variety of sizes and shapes like egg weights and bank weights, South Bend manufactures and markets a good selection of ECO biodegradable fishing weights and sinkers.

Fly fishing
Lead free and non toxic lead alternatives for fly fishing use are abundant and useful to both fly tiers and fly fisher alike. For the fly angler, flies tied with tungsten heads are a good option because of the extra heaviness and ability for different colored beads. This same sentiment can be said for fly tiers who like to tie their own creations. Tungsten and brass beads are widely available at fly shops and online retailers and make a great substitute for the discerning fly tier who wants the best performing materials. Non lead wire and brass wire are also great materials for the fly tier. Both are good substitutes for fly recipes that call for a weighted body using lead wire. Simply substitute the non lead wire or brass wire when tying the fly and it instantly becomes more eco friendly.
When out on the stream, fly anglers sometimes find the need to attach additional weight to the leader in order to properly present the fly, or nymph, at the desired depth. Tin split shot, tungsten putty, and other non-toxic soft putty’s all work great for this. Lead free split shot often come in a variety pack with numerous sizes. Simply choose the weight desired and clamp in onto the leader. Tungsten and soft putties are just as easy to use. Simply pinch out the desired amount and roll it onto the leader. Pinch it in place using your fingers and get to it. The cold water hardens the soft material and keeps it from falling off the leader. When the angler is ready to remove it simply warm the material up with their hands to soften and remove it.

Lucent Tungsten Beads

We hope that this overview of some of the basic types of lead free and lead alternative fishing sinkers and weights has been informative and useful. For more information visit the individual pages and articles found on Lead Free Fishing Tackle.com.