March 01, 2022
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.
Chewy's Halo Shrimp Fly Recipe, Step-by-Step
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.
Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado. He is the author of four books, most recently Tying Streamers: Essential Flies and Techniques for the Top Patterns (Stackpole Books, 2020).