Pheasant Tail Nymph

Uni Products Fly Tiers Corner

An English Import

When it comes to a more ubiquitous, sub-surface pattern found in the fly boxes of southern fly casters, one would be hard pressed to come up with a fly more common than the Pheasant Tail Nymph. There is nothing flashy or glamorous about this creation, but it is one that seems to work for fooling our trout year-round. That’s because it is a bit of a chameleon and able to mimic a wide variety of the nymphal stage of bugs found in our waters.

Like many fly patterns that have been around for any length of time, pinning down the origins of the Pheasant Tail is not easy. It seems for certain that the patten originated in England and was designed for fishing in moving water of streams and rivers. A few sources point to Frank Sawyer as the innovator who created the fly. He fished on the Wilshire Avon and included the fly in his 1958 book titled Nymphs and the Trout, in which he described his tying technique and prescription for the Pheasant Tail.

However, most sources credit the fly’s origins to another Englishman. Payne Collier was said to be tying the Pheasant Tail more than half a century earlier in 1901.

Needless to say, as with many other patterns, the Pheasant Tail has been tinkered with by many tiers in the ensuing years. Thus a number of variations exist for this fly.

Here in the southland the most common variation is to add more weight to those early English examples. When fishing the pattern under strike indicators or with Euro-nymphing rigs, the desire to get the fly down in the water column makes that heavier tie desirable.

That is usually accomplished by adding a bead head, wrapping the hook shank with lead wire or combining the two methods.

Whatever the questions of its origin, there is little doubt that the Pheasant Tail has been one of the most popular and successful sub-surface flies on our southern streams.

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