How to Tie the Chubby Chernobyl
If I could use only one foam-based floaty, hopper-looking fly, it would absolutely be a Chubby Chernobyl. And honestly, there isn’t even a close second. Chubbys simply work, day in and day out, particularly on western rivers.
Here, I’m going to tie a pink Chubby on a Lightning Strike SN3 in size 10, but I also like to carry them in 12’s as well. Begin by getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.
For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of UTC 140 Denier in fluorescent pink. Get the thread started on the hook shank, leaving an eye-length space behind the hook eye. After taking a few rearward wraps, snip the excess tag off close.
To add a little shimmer at the rear of the fly, snip a half dozen or so strands of pink Krystal Flash free from the hank. Place the snipped-off ends on top of the hook, above your tying thread and take rearward wraps to secure it there. Pull up and toward you on the material as you wrap, to keep it centered on top of the shank. Wrap all the way back to the start of the hook bend. So as not to waste materials, I like to attach plunger-style hackle pliers to the Krystal Flash a little ways back from the hook bend. This allows me to cut a tail about a hook gap in length and still retain the remainder of the flash in the hackle pliers. This way it doesn’t get lost or spread to the four corners of my tying bench.
This next step I feel is critical to making a durable Chubby Chernobyl. Take just a pinch of pink UV Ice Dub and use it to create a very slender inch-long noodle on your tying thread. Take wraps with the noodle to build up a bulbous, little area at the base of the tail and end with bare tying thread in the middle of it. Get hold of some super glue or here, Fly Tyer’s Z-Ment, and place an ample drop into that dubbing. We’ll get back to this in a minute.
The foam part of the fly is created using a medium-sized River Road Creations Chernobyl Ant body cutter to cut a beautifully shaped body from pink 2 mm craft foam. Place the foam body on top of the hook shank, so it extends to the back of the Krystal Flash. Take thread wraps to anchor the foam to the adhesive-soaked dubbing. You want the thread wraps to spread out over about 1/8”, rather than just a single point. The dubbing, the adhesive and the spread-out wraps are the key for making durable Chubbys.
White polypropylene floating yarn is used to form the wings of the fly. Snip a card-width segment free and locate its approximate midpoint. Place the midpoint on top of the foam above your tying thread and take a few rearward wraps to secure it. Fold the forward portion of the yarn over your bodkin to form a small loop, then take thread wraps over top of that loop to pin the yarn back. It should look something like this.
Barred, pink Sili legs are the next material to be tied in. Pull a single strand free from the rest, fold it in half then snip the midpoint. Save one of the strands for the front of the fly and fold the other in half and find its midpoint. Place the midpoint on top of the fly and take a few thread wraps to loosely secure it. Work the material down either side of the fly so it rests on the edge of the foam.
Pull down on your bobbin to expose about 4” of tying thread then get hold of another pinch of the same pink UV dubbing as before and use it to create a slender dubbing noodle, approximately 2” in length on your tying thread. Take wraps with the noodle to cover up the bare thread wraps holding everything down. Now, retrieve a large clump of the same dubbing from the packet and use it to produce a fairly substantial 4” long noodle on your tying thread. Ice dub can be a bit frustrating, just take your time and use a lot of finger pressure to secure the dubbing to the thread.
Start taking wraps with the created noodle to build up an ample underbody on the fly. If you run out of noodle, which you’re likely to do, simply add some more dubbing to your tying thread and keep on wrapping. You want to cover all of the hook shank except for just a little bit behind the hook eye. Try to end with bare tying thread an eye-length back from the back edge of the eye. Once again, reach for the super glue and saturate the dubbing above your tying thread. Pull down and forward on the foam then take the same type of thread wraps at the front of the fly as you did at the back. Make sure the hook eye remains clear.
Tie in the polypropylene yarn and the Sili legs just as you did before. Here too, cover the completed thread wraps with wraps of a dubbing noodle. Once the thread is covered, pull the foam back and take a couple of wraps around the hook eye. You can then reach for your whip finish tool and use it to complete a 4 or 5 turn whip finish, seat the knot really well and snip or cut your tying thread free.
To dress the fly up, snip the front foam off to leave a short Gurgler-like head then relieve the corners with vertical cuts of your tying scissors. Snip the front Sili leg loop at its midpoint and get the front four legs properly oriented. You can then repeat the procedure for the rear legs. Trim the wing tips off at an angle. I like to keep mine fairly long but the choice is yours. It is, however, important to tease out the poly yarn – first with the tip of a bodkin, then with a very fine-toothed comb. You want the wings to look about like this. Once again, fiddle with the orientation of the legs and, if necessary, snip any overly long ones off, remembering the old saying . . I’ve cut them twice and they’re still too short.
Head cement or here, Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, applied to both the front and back dubbing bands will soak down into the thread wraps beneath and secure them as well as the wings and the Sili legs. Skip this step at your peril.
And that’s the Chubby Chernobyl. My favorite colors are pink and purple but many others will work as well.