Carter Nelson’s Rubber Legged Dragon (RLD)

Written by Ian Anderson


I first started fishing the Rubber Legged Dragon (RLD for short) about thirteen years ago.  I can not remember where I first read about it but the article focused on it being a good Bluegill fly.  It immediately caught my eye as not only a good panfish fly but a bass fly as well.  This fly was originally tied for bass and bluegill by Carter Nelson but has proven an effective fly on panfish, bass, trout, catfish and even carp.  The fly is supposed to imitate a mayfly nymph but because of how it is tied it can resemble all sorts of critters underwater.  Originally tied in sizes 10, 12 and 14 I find these to be a little small, especially the 12 & 14.  The panfish and bass that I throw these too are very aggressive and if the fly is too small I find by the time I set the hook the fish has the fly half way down it’s throat; not good.  So, I like to tie them in sizes 6 and 8.  I have no problems catching small(ish) panfish but more often catch larger ones that I am after. 

I tie them in all black and all olive colors.  I like to keep the rubber legs yellow as this is a good color in the greenish waters I fish most.  The black ones are especially good in the spring and after a heavy rain.  If the water is clear I will use the olive ones.  I have also at times changed up the tails to use Marabou instead of rabbit fur (if I did not have and rabbit) and have found these work just as well.  Although the original was not tied with any weight, other then the bead-chain (which doesn’t really count), you can use some gold weighted dumbbell eyes and/or lead wraps behind the eyes to help weight the fly and get deeper in the water column.  You will also want to fish this with a loop knot on the fly and not a direct knot, provides more action.  This is a great fly for experimenting.  It seems the bushier and more messed up it is the better it fishes!

Below is step by step instructions for those who like this format better than videos.  I have detailed all the steps and there is a high resolution image for each step (simply click on the image to the right).  If you prefer a video format there is a embedded video at the bottom of the page.  I recommend you watch the video as it will have more detailed information about tying this fly than what is typed out here.


Mustad R73 (old 9671), size #6 & #8
Wapsi UTC Ultra Thread 140 Denier, Black
Rabbit Fur, Black
Medium Black Chenille
Medium Round Rubber Legs, Yellow
Rooster Saddle, Hen Neck, or Schlappen, Black
Medium to Large Bead-Chain Eyes, Gold




1) Place the hook in the vise and de-barb the hook if you would like. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 1
2) Start the thread for the body on the hook just behind the eye of the hook.  Advance down the hook with touching turns for about 2 – 3 eye lengths.  Then wrap back towards the eye, stopping one eye length behind the eye of the hook. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 2
3) Tie in the bead-chain eyes. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 3
4) Note that the cross piece of the bead-chain eyes is one eye length behind the eye of the hook.  This will give you the room you need for creating the head of the fly. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 4
5) Wrap the thread to just past the point of the hook.  These do not need to be touching turns.  Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 5
6) Cut a clump of rabbit fur from a hide or a Zonker and tie it in where you stopped your thread.  Make certain to take a few wraps down the hook shank so it is tied in at the end of the shank.  Do not wrap down the bend of the hook. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 6
7) Strip some of the fluff off the end of the chenille and tie in the core fibers on top of the tail material.   Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 7
8) Advance your thread forward on the hook shank with touching turns to collect and lash down all of the remaining rabbit fur and advance the thread to one bead-chain eye width behind the bead-chain eyes. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 8
9) Take two round rubber legs, one and a half hook lengths long, and tied then where the thread is.  You want to offset them so that there is about one to two eye lengths of legs in front of the eye of the hook.  This will give you shorter legs in front and longer ones in the back. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 9
10) You will want to slide the rubber legs you just tied in to the sides of the hook. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 10
11) Add more wraps of thread over the legs and down the hook shank to cover the shank and legs for about 1/16″ (or about 2mm).   Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 11
12)This is another angle of the legs lashed down to the sides of the hook shank.  By wrapping them down for a millimeter or so you are providing a base for the chenille that will be wrapped across them. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 12
13) Advance your thread to just behind the bead-chain eyes so it is ready to tie in the chenille when you wrap it forward. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 13
14) Start wrapping the chenille forward, keeping the wraps tight against each other.  When you get to the rubber legs, you want the chenille behind the rubber legs so it does not “jam” up against the rubber legs.  If it does the rubber legs will stick out from the hook shank at a perpendicular angle instead of swept back like we want.   Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 14
15) Wrap the chenille across the middle of the legs making sure not to wrap down either the front set of legs or the back. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 15
16) Continuing the chenille up the hook shank, you will now wrap in front of the front pair of rubber legs.  When you do this make certain to wrap the chenille tight against the rubber legs so as to force then to stick out perpendicular to the hook.  Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 16
17) You can now put one more wrap of chenille in just behind the bead-chain eyes, secure the chenille with three wraps of thread and then remove the remaining chenille. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 17
18) Take your black hackle and tie it in by the tip of the feather. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 18
19) Wrap the hackle around the hook shank three times, secure the remaining feather and cut off the waste. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 19
20) You will have hackle fibers pointing forward that need to be secured in a rearward orientation. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 20
21) Sweep the hackle fibers back behind the bead-chain eyes and secure with a couple wraps of thread. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 21
22) Once you have secured the collar all of your hackle fibers should be oriented rearward. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 22
23) Make a long and sparse dubbing noodle of rabbit fur on your thread.  Five to six inches usually takes care of it.  Make certain it is SPARSE, you will have greater control over the placement, shape and size of the resulting head if it is long and sparse. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 23
24) Wrap the dubbing noodle around the bead-chain eyes and the head to cover all underlying thread wraps and make a small “nose” to the fly.  Make a three or four turn whips finish behind the eye of the hook and cut off your thread. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 24
25) Place a little head cement on the whip finished thread to secure it and you fly is complete. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 25
26) Another angle of the completed fly. Rubber Legged Dragon - Step 26










While Supplies last, there are a few Olive and Black Rubber Legged Dragons for sale on Dressed Irons, check ’em out!

Feel free to leave a comment or question below.

Always Remember…It’s Fly Tying… If you’re not having fun… You’re doin’ it wrong!



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