Variations on a Stream

A new spin on a classic fly. 

The rain is pounding, the wind is howling, and the Yellowstone River has yet to produce a fish. I flop a cast up underneath a streamside bush. My purple Chubby Chernobyl bobs gently on the foam line looking distressed. A submarine-like brown trout emerges from the depths, the white of his mouth indicating the inevitable eat. The behemoth breaks the surface of the water. With his mouth wide and teeth showing, his hooked jaw delivers a crushing blow to the back left leg of the chubby, not even close to the hook. I watch as the fish holds the chubby under for few seconds before deciding to spit it gently back toward the surface. As I wallow away wondering why this always happens to me, my analytical mind takes over.

That big brown refused to eat because it had probably seen 100,000 chubbies over the course of its four-to-five-year life. Needless to say, white-winged foam bugs haunt the nightmares of Montana trout! Fly tiers, myself included, are a strange breed. Many of us want to copy exactly what we see in the bins at our favorite fly shops. But we are living in 2019, and as such, it’s time to celebrate diversity in our fly tying. Often, small changes are all it takes to convert a refusal to a take. When you break down a chubby, you find four major components: body, wing, legs, and foam. With an abundance of material-color options available, there are an unlimited number of chubby options. 

For the conservative tier, it may just mean changing from a white to tan wing on the eight commercial chubby colors. For the more experimental tier, it may mean a bi-visible wing, segmented dubbing colors for the body, loco foam, and four different sili legs. Either way, one can be sure that the fish haven’t seen your distinct chubby as often as store-bought flies. Make 2019 a summer of success. Take store-bought favorites and personalize them and I’m willing to wager you’ll experience bigger and more fish hitting the net. Below is a recipe for my current favorite chubby variation.

1. TMC 5263 size 12
2. Cream Midge Flash
3. UV callibaetis ice dubbing with UV red hot spot
4. Gray 2mm closed-cell foam
5. Smoke Widows Web
6. Veevus 6/0 black

1. Start thread base at the eye of hook and wrap back to barb of hook. Tie in crystal flash tail on top of hook. Tail should be about twice the gap of the hook in length.
2. Apply dubbing to entire fly working back and forth making a nice cigar-shaped tapered body.
3. Trim piece of 2mm foam to shape. Foam body piece should be as wide as hook gap and about two inches long. Tie down foam piece on top of hook with about a dozen wraps. As you bind down the body, make a small gap in foam to provide tie-in point for legs and wing. Back of foam body should extend to end of tail.
4. Tie in widows web and extend wing to end of tail and body. Fold over front half of wing material and tie down directly over top of lower wing. Notice tie-down is directly above the point of the hook. Trim to same length as lower wing.
5. Attach sili legs to each side of hook at wing tie-in point. Legs should be tied in so that they are parallel with the foam body.
6. Apply thin layer of red dubbing to thread and fill in gap between legs of fly. Advance dubbed thread a few turns in front of tie-in point to create a red hot spot, then dub UV callibaetis ice dubbing to just behind eye of hook. Fold foam over and tie down front portion of body.
7. Tie in wing material and extend lower wing to end of tail and body. Again, fold over front half of wing material and tie down directly over top of lower wing. Notice tie-down directly above point of hook. Trim to same length as lower wing.
8. Bind down top half of wing directly over top of lower wing. Trim upper wing to length, same as lower wing.
9. Add two more sili legs to front tie-in point. Pull back foam head and whip finish directly behind eye of hook.
10. Trim head of fly to shape and trim legs to desired length. I usually like the legs about the length of the hook. 

Jake Walbridge is the manager of Montana Troutfitters in Bozeman.