In the Northeast, the first sign of late-winter life on most of our trout streams is the sight of little black stoneflies, often crawling on the snow along the banks. The presence of these bugs doesn’t mean the fishing has suddenly begun—it’s still a bit early for trout to be consistently feeding in the northeast. A careful angler, however, may score a trout or three by drifting a nymph through the deep holes. A Pat’s Rubber Legs would be as good a choice as any.
The Pat’s is said to have been devised by Pat Bennett, a guide in Island Park, Idaho. It’s a very simple fly, made of chenille yarn, rubber legs, and a bead or lead wire (or both) to help it sink. Of course, fly-fishers have been catching trout and bass on flies made of chenille and rubber legs for generations; the Pat’s is a modern version of a style of fly that dates back to the Girdle Bug, which debuted in the 1940s.
It is considered a stonefly imitation, though it’s almost always bigger and beefier than the dainty black flies on the March snow. It does resemble the large stoneflies found in many trout rivers from coast to coast, and would be a wise choice when those flies are hatching. Still, the Pat’s isn’t really a hatch-matcher. It’s a big bug with wiggly legs that will instinctively appeal to trout anywhere. Use it when you don’t see any surface activity, or when fish are rising but you think there might be bigger ones near the bottom.
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The classic Girdle Bug had a black body and white legs. It’s a great fly. But the Pat’s is usually made in buggier colors. This one, tied by Chris Hendra of Dollar Bay, Michigan, uses what has become the standard color for the Pat’s: coffee/black variegated chenille with barred rubber legs. Chris wraps .020 lead wire on the hook, and uses a tungsten bead to further help it descend to the depths.
Soon enough, mayflies and caddis flies will be hatching and we’ll be looking for rising trout. But it’s always a good idea to have a few Pat’s Rubber Legs in your box.
The Pat’s Rubber Legs Recipe
- Hook: Daiichi 1730 or your favorite streamer or large nymph hook, size 6-12
- Bead: Black tungsten, size to match hook
- Weight: .020 lead wire or lead substitute (.010 for smaller hooks)
- Thread: Brown, 140 denier (6/0)
- Body: Black and coffee variegated chenille
- Legs, Tail, and Antennae: Your favorite barred rubber legs