Top 5 Fly Patterns for Flea Season | Hatch magazine

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Well, for fly fishermen it is, anyway. It’s flea season! And that means trout across the country will be looking up and waiting for those big, clumsy land bugs to accidentally hit the water in hopes of catching a big meal. And by big, I mean something in the size 6-10 area, and attached to all kinds of live materials, from foam to curly deer hair to high-vis Antron.

Word of mouth. Foods. No green salad before dinner or appetizer.

Honestly, it would be rude to let the trout down, don’t you think? We owe it to them to give them something big to follow this time of year. Time to ditch the size 16 PMD and tie on a size 8 Chubby Chernobyl (if it makes you feel better, you can always take a nymph off the hook bend).

Here are the best flies to get big fish out of submerged banks on warm summer days.

Chubby Chernobyl

Chubby Chernobyl (Photo: Umpqua Feather Merchants).

Chubby Chernobyl

Foam and rubber feet and Antron, oh my! It’s hard to believe that this was once a “fringe” fly – scorned by fly purists as a fad. But, hey, foam floats. Hoppers swim. And, as it turns out, trout eat both. Chernobyl was first linked to mimic an ant by guides on the Green River in Utah sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s (I know, right? It’s been that tall?).

Over the years more foam, more rubber feet, and more Antron have been piled on this trusty float, so much so that I’ll bet, more often than not, it’s used as an indicator more than to catch on it. really trout. Except for the next six weeks or so, that is. It’s a trout stocker during the ground season and I won’t leave home without a half dozen in my box.


Fat Albert

Fat Albert (photo: Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters).

Fat Albert

It’s no different than Chubby. You guessed it, there’s more foam. Usually tied with at least two layers of foam, some iterations have a bright tag on top that makes it easy for anglers to see. However, I think Fat Albert is more versatile than his foam friend. I spent a magical evening on the Rio Malleo in Argentina skating these big bugs over potential runs right at dusk – and was rewarded with some very nice trout. This terrestrial mimic was first recorded by Brent Taylor of Missouri, and like its irradiated cousin, is often used as an indicator. But then again, it’s flea season. And, in all honesty, I think Fat Albert looks more like a flea than a Chernobyl.


Hopper Morris

The Morrish Hopper (photo: Umpqua Feather Merchants).

Morris Hopper

This actually looks like a flea, which is a nice change from the impressionistic offerings above. It’s shaped like a flea, swims like a flea, and can be laced with all kinds of muted colors to resemble native earthlings. On rivers in the American West, this is an absolute safe fly during flea season. It’s my favorite on the South Fork of the Snake – cast with vigor against the banks, it’s not uncommon to see more than one big trout rise up the water column to gobble it up. This fly was first tied by Ken Morrish, who grew up fishing Northern California rivers, where summers can be extremely hot, but also where spring brook trout let their guard down a bit when the big bugs are out.


RIO's Juicy Hopper

RIO’s Juicy Hopper (photo: RIO Products).

RIO’s Juicy Hopper

Like the Morrish Hopper, RIO’s Juicy Hopper is a little more like a hopper than a Chubby or a Fat Albert, but only from a silhouette perspective. These beautiful bow ties are usually tied in pink, and some versions include four – count ’em, four! — layers of foam. Like the Morrish Hopper, this is a western trout hopper. RIO markets tied flies in a variety of hues, but the consistent marker is the bright orange chalk flag on top of the bug. This fly, if you take care to dust it off every now and then, will literally last you all day and never sink in on you. It’s another great choice for rivers in the West, but, tied in smaller sizes, it’s also a great backcountry attractor – I’ve enjoyed many days on small brook trout streams, casting this pattern in late summer, and sometimes cutthroat wild trout dig it too.


Dave's Hopper

Dave’s Hopper (photo: Umpqua Feather Merchants).

Dave’s Hopper

It just feels wrong to leave out at least one traditional flea model, so Dave Whitlock’s offering makes the cut. In its traditional form, it is tied with curly deer hair and an Antron corded body – the color belongs to the angler on the line. Later versions substitute Antron for, you guessed it, craft foam. Does not matter. It has always worked. And … always will. Whitlock first linked this problem in Oklahoma in the 1950s, so it is definitely a “legacy” pattern. I like that it depends on the method of tying the deer hair – with foam seeming to appear on almost every dry fly pattern lately, I fear that hair spinning is becoming a lost art, at least among those who tie trout flies. I can’t blame them. Spinning hair is difficult for many people, and takes practice and patience, but the results are visually stunning … and very vivid.


There are literally dozens of flea patterns to choose from, and most are tied in size 10 or larger. Don’t shy away from these big bugs, especially now when it’s hot and the creekside grass is in the belly of a deer.

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