Joe Ackourey Fly Fishing Adventures | Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Lessons & Guided Adventures | Techniques & Material Selection for Making Nymph Legs
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Techniques & Material Selection for Making Nymph Legs

I started Fly Fishing at the early age of six. My late father Dick Ackourey, a true master at the art always took the time to take me fly fishing to his favorite trout waters. My dad was an awesome nymph fisherman, and to me, seemed to consistently catch fish on his nymphs, particularly his creeper nymphs with legs. He’d say to me “you keep fishing with your dries boy, and I’ll show you how it’s done with my nymphs”. I was very confident in my ability to catch fish on dry flies, and I caught my share of fish during the hatch and a couple of strays here and there, but I wasn’t consistently catching fish like him. Dad said you need to realize that a trout’s diet consists of over 75{dcdf4ceb990d35b46b0ce98611fcd9ec002dd6cf8766101af4d3068c8959aefd} aquatic macros and if a trout had to wait for the adults to appear on the surface, they probably starve. “You need to dead drift those nymphs and get them on the bottom.” It didn’t take me long to figure out that nymph fishing was the way to go if I wanted to be as successful as he was throughout most of the day.

I listened to his words of wisdom and began to collect all sorts of live macro’s from the stream bottom and placed them in my aquarium down our cellar and began my study. I was very inquisitive, and wanted to learn as much as possible about these macros. I wanted to be as good as a Fly Fisherman as my Dad. I studied these different aquatic macros and their body parts and focused my attention on those parts that moved a lot, particularly the legs.

Selecting materials to imitate the legs of these aquatics was fun for me. Natural materials such as back feathers from English Partridge\Grouse, Speckled Hen and Ringed Neck Pheasant feathers (church windows) seemed to work best. These materials not only resembled the natural markings and color found on the legs of most of the naturals but also offered a great deal of movement without sacrificing durability. When attaching these different types of materials to the hook I prefer using the following techniques. When working with Partridge or Speckled hen back I attach the legs last. The picture on the right of the stenomema fur nymph illustrates this. I like to dub the entire thorax with fur, then attach the Partridge or Hen Back feather in one bunch 1/16 of an inch behind the eye of the hook. The natural ends of this bunch should point out past the eye of the hook at least a gap and a half. Then as I pull the wing case over the completed thorax, I equally divide this bunch in half and sweep it back along the sides of the thorax. Next, I tie down the wing case to hold the legs in place to complete the nymph.

When imitating the legs for stonefly nymphs Ring Neck Pheasant feathers (church windows) are hard to beat. Attaching this feather can present a bit of a challenge, but the finished fly speaks for itself. The illustration on the left shows a Stonefly nymph with church windows legs separated into six equal amounts, three on each side of the thorax. To achieve this look, I complete the entire abdomen first then tie in the wing case for the beginning of the thorax. Next, I flip the hook upside down in the vise and attached the church window to the belly of the beginning of the thorax. Then I carefully separated the fibers of this feather into six equal bunches while still attached to the stem, and then secure it up to the under side the eye of the hook. Then I flip the hook right side up and begin to dub the fur blend in-between the legs going back up towards the eye of the hook. Finally I fold the wing case over the top of the thorax and tie the finishing knot to complete the stonefly. I continue to search for that better leg material or that newer technique that will give me the edge to a fool fish on my nymphs.


Stonefly nymph with church windows legs separated


Stenonema nymph with partridge legs swept back

If you have any questions for me, please feel free to reach out to me via email at 

Tight Lines,


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