Legs on Nymphs - Value?

Bent Undergrowth

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Do you feel legs on nymphs are necessary?

I tie a lot of PTs, and usually add legs. I think I do it mostly for the sake of tradition (though as I understand the original Sawyer version was legless).

Truth is it uses up extra fibers and it is probably the most time consuming step in the tie.

And I don't think the fish care. I've read some of the archives here and I know some tyers will use dubbing or other means to more efficiently add legs, but does it really matter?

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silver creek

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Do you feel legs on nymphs are necessary?

I tie a lot of PTs, and usually add legs. I think I do it mostly for the sake of tradition (though as I understand the original Sawyer version was legless).

Truth is it uses up extra fibers and it is probably the most time consuming step in the tie.

And I don't think the fish care. I've read some of the archives here and I know some tyers will use dubbing or other means to more efficiently add legs, but does it really matter?
Here's how I will answer your question and questions like it.

There are two underlying presuppositions (an assumption) that underlie your question. That presupposition is that all trout will react the same to a given fly fished in a given manner. The second is that a trout's reaction to legs or no legs on different nymph patterns will be the same. But both presuppositions not true.

Populations of trout vary and they vary even in the same river system for three reasons. The first reason is that populations of trout will vary and no two populations are identical. The second reason is that the physical makeup of the two locations will vary. The third reason is that the biology of the insect populations in the two locations will vary.

The above 3 reasons are why sometimes one fly may not work very well in one location but when you move, it becomes more effective. Or vice versa.

So one cannot guarantee that a fly with legs will ALWAYS be more effective than one without legs.

What you are asking is what fly ON AVERAGE is more effective. Let me answer it two ways. You can cut off "legs" to make a legless version. Or if you tie with dubbing, you can rough up the dubbing to "make" legs.

One could ask the same question about regular PTs and flashback PTs. Which is more effective? I tie them both ways. Which is another way of answering your question.
 
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mtboiler

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I primarily nymph...and 90% of my nymphs have rubber legs. The main reason is that everything I have read says trout gum the fly/insect first to see what it is. They do not have great eye sight, so they grab the fly and either release it or hold it depending on what they feel. My opinion, and I have never spoken to a fish, is that the rubber legs give it a movement that non rubber legs do not. I would think hackle fibers do the same thing. The second reason I add rubber legs is to give the fly some sort of movement. May be it helps catch the eye of the trout. Finally, the last reason is it is much easier than adding biots or hackle!
For me, adding rubber legs takes less than a minute to do.
 

Bent Undergrowth

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Here's how I will answer your question and questions like it.

There is are two underlying presuppositions (an assumption) that underlie your question. That presupposition is that all trout will react the same to a given fly fished in a given manner. The second is that a trout's reaction to legs or no legs on different nymph patterns will be the same. But both presuppositions not true.

Populations of trout vary and they vary even in the same river system for three reasons. The first reason is that populations of trout will vary and no two populations are identical. The second reason is that the physical makeup of the two locations will vary. The third reason is that the biology of the insect populations in the two locations will vary.

The above 3 reasons are why sometimes one fly may not work very well in one location but when you move, it becomes more effective. Or vice versa.

So one cannot guarantee that a fly with legs will ALWAYS be more effective than one without legs.

What you are asking is what fly ON AVERAGE is more effective. Let me answer it two ways. You can cut off "legs" to make a legless version. Or if you tie with dubbing, you can rough up the dubbing to "make" legs.

One could ask the same question about regular PTs and flashback PTs. Which is more effective? I tie them both ways. Which is another way of answering your question.
Many thanks for the thoughtful and analytical post.

While I’m still interested in folks’ anecdotal preferences, perhaps seeking to over-generalize does not do justice to the complexity of the environment. Approaching this with consideration to the ecosystem makes sense.

I’d like to then take the question a step further. Are there specific conditions under which you’ve found nymphs with a leg imitation to be more effective?

Pressured waters perhaps? Is it species specific, e.g. browns vs brookies? Physical or chemical conditions, weather, etc.?
 

flytie09

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I'm with Silver on his analysis. Almost all of my nymphs I use have legs of some sort. Hackle tips, tail fibers, rubber legs or picked out dubbing. Does it really help.....I think so, at least on certain streams with persnickity trout it does.

If it was me...rather than eliminating legs to speed up the tying process....learn the tricks and tips to make it faster...because I honestly never cursed tying in legs on my nymphs because they took so much extra time. The little extra effort is worth it to me. Or do an experiment for yourself and make a batch with and without...... how do the fish respond where you're fishing? For mountain trout and stockers......they're big dummies and will eat about anything. For local tailwater browns or spring creek trout that receive alot of pressure......you better bring your A game.

Yes....the original PT.....had no legs.
 

Bent Undergrowth

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I'm with Silver on his analysis. Almost all of my nymphs I use have legs of some sort. Hackle tips, tail fibers, rubber legs or picked out dubbing. Does it really help.....I think so, at least on certain streams with persnickity trout it does.

If it was me...rather than eliminating legs to speed up the tying process....learn the tricks and tips to make it faster...because I honestly never cursed tying in legs on my nymphs because they took so much extra time. The little extra effort is worth it to me. Or do an experiment for yourself and make a batch with and without...... how do the fish respond where you're fishing? For mountain trout and stockers......they're big dummies and will eat about anything. For local tailwater browns or spring creek trout that receive alot of pressure......you better bring your A game.

Yes....the original PT.....had no legs.
Dang, I was really hoping to have my biases confirmed today!

Cheers.

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clsmith131

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I have one thought. The Pat's Rubber Legs is a very simple fly, basically just chenille and rubber legs. I have caught a ton of fish on this fly. The simpleness of the pattern suggests that the fish are indeed keying in on the legs. I do have to say though, that the majority of the trout I catch in N GA and W NC are stockers, even if they are hold overs from previous years.

Other nymphs I use like the Cream Caddis, BWO nymphs, Rainbow Warriors, etc. don't have legs and are also very productive.

I think they just have to see something that would indicate food. For the pickier fish, there also can't be anything that would indicate it's not food.
 

Rip Tide

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Legs are a "trigger". And just one of many different triggers that you can incorporate into your fly
Size, swimming action, flash, color, 'shininess","buggyness".. Lots of things can do it.
The fish are looking for a characteristic that will jump right out and say to them, "this is eatable !"
Unfortunately, unnecessary dressings can also work against you with the fish noticing something that shows that your fly is not food. (stiff biot stonefly tails come to mind)
That's why there's always been both attractors and imitations.
Personally I usually tend to err on the sparse side, but I can still recognize a good (and poor) trigger when I see one
 

flytie09

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I'll say this. Legs on a nymph fly help with its sillouette (shape) and adds the suggestion of overall movement with them pulsing and wiggling around. However, the legs of an actual nymph does little in its actual propulsion. That's why I feel legs are important... adding movement and shape.

This is a good video illustrating the various types of nymphs and how they move through the water. Do you really notice the legs? No? It's abdomen wiggles around much more noticeably than its legs.

YouTube

There is no broad stroke answer. Every fish reacts different, stocked trout act differently and they react differently from one river to the next and if you're skilled enough....it might not really matter.

Add to the fact that I've not seen a scientific study that actually proves the hypothesis either way......we can only rely of the feedback from others...but there is bias in each and every one of us. There are many of us here that are excellent anglers.....I would dare say of that group, that 1/2 will say no to legs and 1/2 will say yes or it depends. That's why I suggest doing your own research. That's half of the fun of the sport......trying new things, experimenting, trying new spots, a new pattern, a new material, or an observation in nature that you never saw before you can use in your approach. It's not the simple act of whacking pigs....as one might say.

Do the most realistic fly patterns catch the most trout? I would dare say no...... If I was a guide would I add legs and make sure every last detail was perfect on a fly that might last 5 minutes? No. If you have the time and patience......add some legs and tie a batch without. You just saved time and provided you now the option to trial the theory for yourself.

Until trout start talking to us.....we truly will never know.
 

myt1

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It has crossed my mind that rubber legs, particularly on smaller flies, might be a physical barrier that a fishes nose might bump into, pushing the fly out of the way, preventing the fly from making it's way to the fishes mouth.

I watched the above video and if you can see the legs at all they definitely aren't a salient feature.
 

silver creek

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Legs are a "trigger". And just one of many different triggers that you can incorporate into your fly
Size, swimming action, flash, color, 'shininess","buggyness".. Lots of things can do it.
The fish are looking for a characteristic that will jump right out and say to them, "this is eatable !"
Unfortunately, unnecessary dressings can also work against you with the fish noticing something that shows that your fly is not food. (stiff biot stonefly tails come to mind)
That's why there's always been both attractors and imitations.
Personally I usually tend to err on the sparse side, but I can still recognize a good (and poor) trigger when I see one
Rip Tide's concept of a "trigger" is one that I ascribe to.

As Rip notes, a "trigger" in an attractor fly may be flash or motion

The well known triggers in an imitative fly pattern would be the four properties of size, shape, color and behavior. But there are other triggers which mimic a subset of unique properties of the stage of the insect that we are imitating.

For example, in the imago (adult spinner phase) of a mayfly natural, the translucent glassine wings and the "cross" position of the natural spent spinner are both triggers.



When the fish looks up a the natural, the translucent wings can shimmer and that shimmering appearance can also be a trigger. So a fly ties with translucent material the simulates that shimmering may be more effective than a fly tied with opaque material. So of the two patterns below, the top one may be more effective on trout that are sensitive to a shimmering wing as a primary or secondary trigger.







Another example of a trigger is the trailing shuck in an emerger. As a mayfly nymph transitions to the subimago dun, it goes through a phase called emergence and this transitional phase is one in which the the immature subimago has toi crawl out (emerge) from the nymph and in doing so, the old nymphal shell called a shuck trails behind the emerging subimago.



The Klinkhammer and Sparkle Dun are two flies that that imitate this transitional stage.







Here is a post in which I discuss Super Triggers:

parachute color - Page 2


Here is another post in which Rip and I discussed the same concept of ambient light creating a "trigger." Again, Rip and I agree.

https://www.theflyfishingforum.com/...43-clouds-arent-really-red-5.html#post1444407
 

trev

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Do you feel legs on nymphs are necessary?
No. Not necessary at all, Sawyer caught fish everywhere he went with his three or four basic legless patterns. Britain, Europe, USA, Scandinavia. Lakes and rivers.

That said, I mostly agree with what has been said above, at least to some extent, all good comments.
I tie and fish both and I cut legs off or tease dubbing out to resemble legs on the water as well. Movement is a trigger, and some times slender is better than leggy.
In my mind though, I don't think the value of "legs'' is so much as a trigger that the trout keys in on as much as in the mouthing and spitting of the fly, the"legs" offer some softness or compressibilty when the fish mouths the fly. As seen in videos the real life legs don't add a lot to the movement and rubber legs don't even resemble the finely tapered almost invisible legs of a nymph; but rubber legs, soft hackles, Defeo beards, even Palmered hackle give that degree of mushiness as well as imparting some movement.
As mentioned, every water, or even every day and every lighting condition might favor one design over any other, part of the reason there so many patterns out there.
 

rangerrich99

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Do you feel legs on nymphs are necessary?

I tie a lot of PTs, and usually add legs. I think I do it mostly for the sake of tradition (though as I understand the original Sawyer version was legless).

Truth is it uses up extra fibers and it is probably the most time consuming step in the tie.

And I don't think the fish care. I've read some of the archives here and I know some tyers will use dubbing or other means to more efficiently add legs, but does it really matter?

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I started my fishing career as a bass fisherman over 40 years ago. I was basically only a bass fisherman for about 26 years. Conventional, not fly. When I switched to fly-fishing I went all-in on trout for the most part. And what I learned through trial-and-error is that generally speaking game fish are game fish. What i mean is that predator fish behave in much the way ways regardless of species. So many of the things I learned about bass translated to trout fishing. Thank God, or my learning curve would've been much longer.

One of the things I learned from bass fishing is that the clearer the water, the more finicky bass became in their feeding habits. In the standard almost-coffee colored water in OK I could fish nearly anything of any color and as long as my offering was about the right shape and moved in about the right way I could get a hit. Case in point, a buddy once bought me a promotional Budweiser can crankbait. That's right, it was shaped exactly like a miniature can of Budweiser, complete with the little trademark thing, that goes "THIS IS THE FAMOUS BUDWEISER BEER. WE KNOW OF NO BRAND PRODUCED BY ANY OTHER BREWER WHICH COSTS SO MUCH TO BREW AND AGE . . ." blah blah blah. As a joke, one day I tied it on and started fishing it. Imagine my surprise when it got bit and I hauled a nice 3-lber out of the lake.

What I realized from that experience is that water clarity is a very important factor when it comes to generates interest from a fish. Add in the speed of my lure, how it moved, etc. all could make a difference.

But color and the details painted on the thing were often non-factors.

Then many years later I was fishing a quarry in MO. The water was gin-clear. I mean you could see at least 20 feet down. I remember there was a little pine tree, probably an ex-Christmas tree that someone had tossed in there in about 20+ feet, and i could see that most of the needles were still green. That kind of clear. Well, I fished all my usual stuff and couldn't get a bite. I could see the fish down there, and a few would come and investigate my lures, but they'd all turn away once they got to within a couple feet.

Finally, I tied on this Japanese-made ultra-realistic twitch-bait, that had been painted so realistically that it had gills with a few drops of blood leaking from them, individual scales, and holographic eyes so that depending on your POV they looked like they were following you. I watched a 5-lb. bass run it down and crush it on my second cast.

Over the next few years whenever I encountered really clear water I'd tie on mostly super realistic baits and usually had good results.

Now fast forward to when I became a fly fisherman fishing for trout. most trout water is pretty clear, but trout that live in lakes generally live in water that's a bit murkier than your average trout stream. Again, I found that I could fish more generalized patterns in such water, that color was less important, etc. But in super clear, slow-moving water many of those patterns no longer worked as well, or not at all. And again, it was in those situations that I experimented with super-realistic patterns. So if I was fishing PTs or HEs I wanted them to have legs, gills, the whole bit.

Now it didn't work every time, though that might've had more to do with the fact that I'm not a great river/stream fly-fisherman, but it worked often.

So my point is, sometimes legs are worth the trouble of tying them on, and sometimes they aren't necessary. For myself, I fish legged nymphs when the water is gin-clear and slower-moving. In stained water, and/or faster moving water I usually can get bit fishing the legless ones. YMMV.

What I do now is tie the leg-less, and buy about 2-3 dozen legged ones, which is usually all I need to last the year. For a specific fly for a specific water, I'll tie those, but otherwise I just buy them to save time and effort. Part of the reason for this is that I simply kind of suck at tying on legs to small nymphs.
 
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