Fishing with Rod Discussion Forum

Fishing in British Columbia => Fly Fishing Cafe => Topic started by: RalphH on June 24, 2020, 08:05:10 AM

Title: What's in my fly box 5 - The Pheasant Tail Nymph
Post by: RalphH on June 24, 2020, 08:05:10 AM
Pheasant Tail or PT Nymph

Pheasant tail nymphs are excellent representations of many species of mayfly nymphs. Here in BC they can be used to represent March Browns, Green Drakes, Callibaetis and baetis  nymphs. They will also suffice to imitate smaller stone fly nymphs.

There a number of different PT nymph recipes. It has become more of a generic pattern than anything specific. I will cover the 2 best known and named patterns. Sawyers and Troth's PT Nymphs. First the original.

Sawyers Pheasant Tail Nymph:


Hook: Wet fly or Nymph #10 to #18
Thread/Rib: fine copper wire
Body and wing case: Cock pheasant Centre Tail fibres (PT Fibres)
Hackle (optional): pheasant tail fibre points

This recipe is the original tie by Frank Sawyer, who was the Avon River Keeper for the Lake House estate now owned by the rock star “Sting”.  This pattern, which imitates a number of mayfly species, is simplicity itself, requiring just 2 materials and dispenses with the use of thread. Sawyer tied it using a good amount of copper wire so it would sink when cast upstream and created quite the controversy among some stuffy English Anglers. Believe it or not Sawyer intended it to be cast upstream to a visible fish in the clear waters of the Avon and the angler was expected to see the take to set the hook. No strike indicators or bobbers allowed! Today most anglers would either use an indicator or keep contact with the fly by raising the rod or keeping casts short and accurate “euro-nymphing” style

The pattern became a worldwide favourite and has spawned a number of useful variations.

Rather than provide tying notes here is a link to a Davie McPhail video.

 Believe me, holding the spool of wire in a bobbin makes tying this pattern smooth, quick and easy. Did Sawyer anticipate the use of metal beads in fly tying? As conditions suit the amount or thickness of wire may be reduced.

For larger hook sizes you will need to use long PT fibres.

MacPhail finishes the thorax reversed by folding it back to the centre of the fly. I fold it forward. In my sample I added a beard of fibres to imitate the legs.

Sawyer believed the trout could not see the legs as drifting mayflies tuck them under their body. Some variations use the butt ends of the wing case fibres to imitate the legs which often stick out perpendicular to the body. Other tiers clip the butt ends of the fibres after winding, tie in a new section of PT fibres by the butts for the wing case, complete the thorax, fold the wing case over and use the PT fibre tips to represent legs.

Troth’s Pheasant Tail nymph

Al Troth, a fly angler, guide and professional tier who lived in Montana created the most popular version of the PT nymph. This pattern is probably the more popular of the 2 in North America.


Hook: Wet fly or Nymph #10 to #18
Bead: optional
Thread: brown or tan
Thread/Rib: fine copper wire
Abdomen & wing case: Cock pheasant Centre Tail fibres
Thorax: peacock herl
Hackle: pheasant tail fibre points or hen hackle

Popular on our interior stillwaters and is a great imitation of callibaetis nymphs. If weight is desired add a gold bead.

A popular variation of this pattern is to use a piece of mylar tinsel for the wing case. As such the pattern is known as the Flashback pheasant tail. Also becoming popular is the coat the PT wing case with UV resin and cure it with a UV light.

I usually coat the PT cases with tying cement to make it resistant to trout tooth abrasion!
Title: Re: What's in my fly box 5 - The Pheasant Tail Nymph
Post by: bigsnag on June 24, 2020, 11:17:03 PM
Nice ties RalphH.  Thanks for sharing.

The two natural material I still use for chironomids are pheasant tail and peacock. Fish just seem to love this fuzzy stuff.
Title: Re: What's in my fly box 5 - The Pheasant Tail Nymph
Post by: jim on June 25, 2020, 07:53:58 AM
Thanks for the help. Trying to learn and you are helping.
Title: Re: What's in my fly box 5 - The Pheasant Tail Nymph
Post by: RalphH on June 26, 2020, 11:40:47 AM
You're welcome jim. I am happy you find my posts useful. Much appreciated.