‘Tis the heart of fly-tying season, and as such, I want to start highlighting a few patterns that work really well in a variety of situations and are relatively easy and inexpensive to tie. So save money by learning to tie them yourself.
First on my list is Pat’s Rubber Legs. It is also called a “Pickle,” a “Jimmy Legs” and a number of other things, but because Pat Dorsey of the Blue Quill Angler in Evergreen, Colo., is credited with refining this pattern (he is also a close friend of mine), I stick with Pat’s Rubber Legs. You should plan on spinning some of these up as you’re waiting for the snow to melt.
There aren’t many ingredients for this fly: lead wire to give it weight, 8/0 thread, Super Floss elastic legs, and medium chenille. That’s it. You can mix and match different colors on the legs and chenille to replicate different bugs. For example, I like to tie plenty of brown and tan patterns to fish when dark stoneflies are working well. Using green (or a mottled green like this) gives the fly added versatility. I’ll use small, #12 green patterns like this to trick carp — especially grass carp that key on vegetation. If you lay off the weighted core a bit, the fly will suspend or sink very slowly in slow water (like carp ponds). Heavily weighted, it can also be fished very effectively in late summer as a drowned terrestrial.
The bottom line with any fly like this is that the rubber legs give it action. That slow, tantalizing undulation motion, when mixed with river currents, brings the fly to life, and makes it a very effective attractor pattern. Like the original Girdle Bug, this fly is about profile and color, but the newer materials used to make the rubber legs is what gives it the pop. I’ll fish this pattern as my top fly on a double-nymph rig when I’m merely prospecting and don’t really favor a specific nymph pattern over another. I also fish it as a dropper on a dry-dropper rig, especially when stoneflies are hatching and the water is just a tad off-color. As is always the case, trout are more inclined to eat a fly that’s well-presented, with a drag-free drift, than some spot-on replication that looks good in hand, but not so hot under the water. Never underestimate the power of a good, simple, ugly fly.
The trick with this pattern is figuring out how to tie in the rubber legs. A little trial and error will help you figure that out. But once you do, they’re pretty easy to tie. One of the good things about the Donkeys falling flat in the Super Bowl was that I decided to take my chips and dip to the tying bench, and I was able to whip out a couple dozen Pat’s Rubber Legs instead of watching the horror show.
Here are some resources to get you going with this pattern. For a video, you can check out the Global Fly Fisher site. Master tier Charlie Craven (another pal) does a great job of explaining this pattern in print. And if you just want to buy some to try them out, you’ll probably find them in the bin at your local fly shop.