Steelhead Rubber Legs
By Deke Meyer

Previous Flies
Fly Tying Terms


    Hook: Steelhead streamer, sizes 2/0 to 10.

    Thread: Orange 3/0 Monocord.

    Tail: Marabou; orange Krystal Flash.

    Rib: Optional, gold, copper or silver wire, or fine tinsel.

    Body: Orange Crystal Chenille, regular chenille, yarn.

    Hackle: Optional, palmered body hackle.

    Legs: Round rubber (or Sili–Legs)

    Eyes: Various weighted eyes: lead, nickel plate, non–toxic with pupil (Real Eyes with adhesive inserts used)

This is a suggestive pattern built along the lines of the Woolly Bugger. Tied in orange, it resembles a shrimp or crayfish; tied in black or golden tones it resembles a stonefly nymph. Whether in fresh or salt water, steelhead will eat these leggy flies.

As with all successful steelhead flies, this design incorporates movement in the rubber legs, hackle, and marabou, plus color and a bit of light–reflective flash. The weighted barbell eyes flip the fly over, making it less likely to snag up.

Tying Tips:

You can tie the weighted eye on the very front part of the top of the hook, just behind the hook, or about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way back from the hook eye. (The Clouser Minnow, that most deadly weighted–eyes–on–top fly, features barbell eyes about 1/3 the way back.)

After you tie on the barbell eyes, place a drop of super glue on the tie–down area. (Aaron Alpha recommended because it has a long "working time" before it cures, it penetrates better, and the bottle is less likely to dry out.)


This sample is tied in shrimp/crayfish orange. As juveniles and adults, steelhead eat crayfish in fresh water and shrimp in estuaries and in the ocean.

Another effective variation is black for a salmonfly nymph, the Pteronarcys stonefly, or in the amber/brown colors of the golden stonefly nymph.

Mike Maxwell of Golden West Fly Fishers in Vancouver, British Columbia has a detailed theory about why steelhead eat stonefly nymphs (and adults). He says, "Steelhead are spawned and spend their juvenile years in the upper reaches of the river where they feed on the many forms of underwater and surface insect life. To escape predation, their habitat is usually under or around rocks or large gravel, close to a food supply and with well-oxygenated water.

"By a happy coincidence, large stonefly nymphs have exactly the same habitat and form a major portion of the juvenile steelhead's diet. This symbiotic relationship of large gravel, juvenile steelhead, and stoneflt nymphs is extremely important when locating the resting or holding stations of the upward migrating steelhead and is now known as the juvenile habitat imprint."

The rubber or silicone Sili–Legs animate the fly, lending a lifelike quality that triggers the steelhead to strike. Of course, that same lifelike quality may also anger the fish into striking an intruder into its territory.

In either case, stay alert while fishing because those dangling rubber legs may cause a steelhead to "leg it on over" and eat your Rubber Legs fly.

    Step 1. Tie Real Eyes securely to top of hook. Make sure eyes are centered. Apply one drop super glue (Aaron Alpha recommended.)

    Step 2. Tie in marabou tail and optional Krystal Flash. Tail should extend from 1/2 to full–shank length to rear. Tie off, trim.

    Step 3. Tie in optional rib. Tie in Crystal Chenille. Tie in hackle by tip, leave room for one wrap of chenille in front of tail.

    Step 4. Tie in rubber legs.

    Step 5. Wrap chenille forward, keep wraps tight, tie off, trim.

    Step 6. Wrap hackle forward, work hackle into yarn, wrap tight to hook. Tie off, trim. Wrap rib forward in opposite direction as hackle (clockwise versus counter–clockwise). (Use a bodkin or needle to guide rib through hackle.) Tie off, trim, whip finish, cement head. Trim rubber legs to about hook–shank length.

    ~ Deke Meyer

    Credit: The Steelhead Rubber Legs is an excerpt from Tying Steelhead Flies published by Frank Amato Publications.

    For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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