A few decades ago an Englishman named Frank Sawyer created the Pheasant Tail (PT) Nymph, one of the most effective fly patterns ever created. Of all the 600 different species of mayflies that reside in our rivers and lakes, most at one time or another are small, brown and live on or near the bottom. What could be better to imitating this vast family of insects then a fly pattern that looks as good as it works. The PT is representative of a wide variety of living creatures that trout feed on.
In rivers, the pheasant tail nymph resembles a wide variety of commonly seen mayflies but most often PMD’s and BWO. The most productive way to fish this fly is to fish it near the bottom on a dead drift. Simply cast the fly as you would a dry, (upstream and across) and allow the fly to sink to the bottom and drift downstream drag free.
In lakes, the PT is probably the best imitation of the Callibaetis nymph. This fly, when fished during the long hours between sun up and sun down can be very effective in getting finicky trout to bite. To fish this fly in lakes use an intermediate line and retrieve the fly slowly near the surface. If trout are not taking this presentation allowing the fly to sink and retrieving it using a slow hand twist retrieve should do the trick. Trout are known to frequent the shallows near weed beds or rocky outcrops so keying on these areas will help to get more and bigger fish to bite.
1. Start this fly by sliding the gold bead over the hook point small whole first. Set the hook into your tying vice and secure it in place tightly.
2. Select five pheasant tail fiber tips and wrap them down with thread so that they extend off the back of the hook about the same distance as the hook gape. Clip a short section of copper wire and wrap it down to the hook shank so that again it extends off the back of the hook shank. Repeat this process one more time with a small clump of pheasant tail fibers that will be used to build the body.
3. Slight spin the pheasant tail fibers between your fingers and wrap them up the hook shank. Stop the pheasant tail body at about the 2/3 mark on the hook shank. Counter wrap the copper wire up the body of the fly binding down the pheasant tail so that it can not unwrap even under excess abuse.
4. Tie in another bunch of pheasant tail fibers at this 2/3 mark extending over the body of the fly. Tie in three peacock herls and twist them to form a thick bushy herl rope. Wrap this rope forward up to the back of the bead head and tie off and clip the excess.
5. Select 8 more pheasant tail fibers and tie in 4 per side behind the bead. Pull the pheasant tail fibers forward over the top of the peacock herl rope thorax and tie it off behind the bead. A drop or two of head cement will help to hold things in place a little better at this step. Whip finish the thread and cement the head thoroughly.