Fly Tying Patterns: Pheasant Tail Nymph

Phesant Tail Nymph - Fly Tying Pattern
  • Hook: #14 - 22, also 2XL #10
  • Thread: Black or Brown 8/0
  • Tail: Cock Pheasant Centre Tail
  • Rib: Copper Wire
  • Abdomen: Cock Pheasant Centre Tail
  • Thorax: Cock Pheasant Centre Tail
  • Weight: Lead or Copper Wire (Optional)
  • Thorax Cover: Cock Pheasant Centre Tail

  • Tying Difficulty: Beginner
  • Tied by D. Howard
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The Pheasant Tail Nymph is certainly a pattern that should always be in your fly box. It can be tied either weighted or unweighted, and in a range of sizes. Frank Sawyer devised the pattern over 50 years ago to imitate several types of Olive nymph (Baetis) that were between 4 and 12mm in size, although when the colour of the pattern is changed, can be used to represent different Baetis (Mayflies) and if tied on a long shank hook, Stoneflies.

Sawyer's original pattern was tied without thread instead using copper wire. Lead wire was wrapped along the whole of the shank and the copper wire being wound with the pheasant tail fibres at the same time to form both the body and the thorax. The copper wire is half-hitched at the eye. This makes the pattern very heavy allowing it to get down through the water column quickly - perfect for a small pattern used on a river where you want to fish it close to the bottom.

This additional weight isn't always required when fishing a still water and as such there have been numerous variants of this pattern created all based on the original's shape; including utilising holographic tinsel for the body, bead heads, different coloured pheasant fibre and with or without legs that originate from the underside of the head of the pattern. One variation that is reputed to be very effective is when tied with melanistic feather fibres.

Of the many variations of the PTN, with or without legs emerging from the head. Frank is credited with saying that he tied his without these legs because when a nymph swims, it tucks its legs close to its body. Therefore there is no need to tie in legs! But however you tie your PTN, one thing is certain - it catches fish at all times of the year, under all conditions and is always worth having on the leader!