There are some things in fly tying that have just become common knowledge—givens. As fly tiers, we are all guilty of defaulting to these proven methods and techniques to achieve whatever effect we are after. A splendid example of this conventional wisdom is using dumbbell or beadchain eyes to invert a fly. The technique has been around since at least the sixties and has long been the approved method of inverting a fly to ride hook point up . . . until now. Enter Dave Chouinard, former fly shop owner, guide, experienced saltwater angler, and Umpqua Feather Merchants sales representative. Chouinard has pioneered a completely new and unique method of inverting a fly pattern—not just saltwater flies, but any fly.
Chouinard got the bright idea to use an inverting tungsten jig bead rather than the conventional beadchain eyes, and may have forever changed the way we weight flies. Inverting jig beads are an offset oval shape, with a hole on the skinny end to accommodate the hook shank. Brought to popularity by the proliferation of competition-style trout flies, these beads are heavier than conventional tungsten beads, sit farther away from the hook shank, and thus magically flip your flies over with very little splash on entry. Umpqua calls them Jig Bombs.
Chouinard’s method features threading one or more of these distinctively shaped beads onto a length of monofilament to position the weight anywhere along the shank—though most often somewhere around amidships—rather than the front-heavy attitude resulting from beadchain or dumbbell eyes.
Weighting this way makes for a fly that casts like a dart, makes very little disturbance upon entry, and levels the fly as it slowly sinks.
Chouinard’s Survive Entry series of flies all have this principle in mind, to slip silently beneath the surface with minimal splash instead of belly flopping onto the water. Bonefish, permit, and redfish will be seeing (and eating) these flies in the years to come, and we can all thank Chouinard for this groundbreaking discovery.
When I interviewed Chouinard for this article, the first thing he said to me was, “As fly tiers, we have a responsibility to move forward, to innovate.” I love that sentence. Fly fishing is still in its infancy, as much as we like to think otherwise, and frankly, we may be in its greatest years right now. Rods and reels have major updates each year, and these days, the number of new, innovative fly patterns doubles about every year as well. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Chouinard’s method of weighting flies is going to be around a long time, and cause even more innovation in flies of all types.
Chewy’s Halo Shrimp is just one example of the Survive Entry series. It’s a simple little bonefish pattern that is buggy and realistic. You start the fly by mounting an inverting tungsten bead on a piece of flattened mono and attaching it to the hook, so the bead lines up about the middle of the shank. From there, add a sparse Arctic fox tail topped with speckled legs, flash, and long antennae, then form the mouthparts from a piece of shredded Mylar tubing. To add just that extra bit of flair, build a set of super-realistic eyes using glass beads, monofilament, and UV resin. Form the body with pearl braid palmered with a soft saddle hackle feather to imitate legs, and finish it off with another bunch of lively Arctic fox. You’ll end up with a slender-profile fly that has enough realism to close the deal, and it’s weighted in a way that will get the fly into the zone without blowing up the flat.
While I will present this specific pattern here in the step-by-step tutorial, don’t feel locked in to using this technique only on flats flies. Chouinard’s concept has filled my head with notions of new carp and trout patterns that can benefit from this revolutionary design. It’s a vast improvement over the heavily weighted, splashy, bulky patterns we’ve been using for years.
HOOK: #4 Umpqua XS 410.
BEAD: 2.8-3.3mm Umpqua Jig Bomb on .012" monofilament.
THREAD: Pink 6/0 UNI-Thread or 140-denier UTC Ultra Thread.
TAIL: Tan Arctic fox tail
ANTENNAE: Brown/clear Chicone’s Micro Barred Crusher Legs
FLASH: Senyo’s Barred Predator Wrap UV topped with root beer Krystal Flash
MOUTH: Pearl orange Mylar tubing
EYES: Extra-small ruby glass beads, melted onto .012" monofilament stalk, ends colored with black marker and coated with UV resin.
HACKLE: Tan saddle hackle
BODY: Orange flat diamond braid
WING: Tan Arctic fox tail topped with two strands of root beer Krystal Flash
Step1: Begin by dressing the shank from the eye to about a quarter of the way down the bend of the hook. Flatten the end of a 0.5-inch-long piece of .021" monofilament and tie it in at the bend, then wrap over it to the middle of the shank. Thread an inverting tungsten bead onto the monofilament and flatten the monofilament on the front side, then tie it down to the shank. Clip the excess, and anchor everything in place tightly with a smooth layer of thread.
Step2: Move the thread to the end of the thread base and tie in a sparse clump of Arctic fox tail that is about a shank length long. Clip the butt ends at a long angle behind the bead and wrap smoothly over them.
Tie in a single strand of Chicone’s Micro Barred Crusher Legs at the middle of its length just behind the bead. Fold the strand over and wrap back over both halves to the base of the tail.
Step4: Clip two or three strands of Senyo’s Barred Predator Wrap from the clump and tie them in at the center of their length as well. Fold the front end back and wrap over all back to the base of the tail.
Step5: Tie in a single strand of root beer Krystal Flash at the center of its length and, you guessed it, fold it back and wrap over both strands to the base of the tail.
Step6: Finally, clip about a 0.5-inch-long piece of small orange Mylar tubing and tie it in at the base of the tail. Shred the tubing with the tips of your scissors so it is ragged.
Step7: To make the eyes, clip an inch of monofilament and thread an extra-small ruby-colored glass bead onto it. Hold the bead about a quarter inch from the end of the monofilament and melt the monofilament with a lighter, letting it burn down to the bead. Gently push the bead into the hot monofilament to seat it. Do this twice. Now color the melted mono section of the eyes with a black marker. Finally, coat over the entire bead assembly with a light layer of UV resin, then cure the resin with a UV lamp. It’s best to make several sets of eyes in advance so they’re ready to go as you tie.
Step8: Flatten the bases of the eye stalks with a pair of smooth-jaw pliers, then tie them in on either side of the shank so the eyes are about even with the outside of the hook bend.
Step9: Tie in a tan saddle hackle feather by its base at the bend of the hook, then tie in the flat braid just behind the bead and wrap back over it to the bend. Advance the thread to the hook eye. It’s not a bad idea to add a light coat of head cement to the thread wraps from head to tail.
Step10: Wrap the flat braid forward from the bend right up to the bead, then continue past it by crossing it under the hook. Continue wrapping to the eye, then tie off the braid and clip the excess.
Step11: Wrap the saddle hackle feather from the bend to the eye and tie it off. Pinch the fibers against the hook shank to crease them toward the bend, then trim them off flush along the bottom of the hook shank.
Step12: Invert the hook in the vise. Clip a sparse clump of Arctic fox from the hide, remove some of the underfur, and measure it against the hook so it is a shank and a half long. Tie this clump down firmly just behind the eye and clip the excess. Tie another single strand of root beer Krystal Flash over the top of the fox, fold the front end back, and build a thread head. Whip-finish and clip the thread. Trim all the flash and legs to length as shown on the finished fly.
No good pic of the finished fly!