The Pheasant Tail is probably one of the most popular nymph imitations used in Fly Fishing. It was created and tied by English River Keeper, Frank Sawyer. The fly was originally developed to imitate a number of species of the Baetis family, which most anglers know as ‘Olives’. Since its origin, the fly has evolved into a go to pattern that can be used interchangeably for imitating various mayfly and stonefly species, depending on the colours used to tie it.
Like most nymph patterns, this fly can be fished just below the surface or plunged deep into runs and pools. It’s effective when twitched to imitate an emerging or swimming insect, or dead drifted as a nymph caught struggling in the current. The induced take method can be deadly when using this fly. Fly size should be reflective of nymphs you would expect to find in the area you are fishing.
Although Frank’s original Pheasant Tail pattern was tied using very fine copper wire in place of thread, many variations of this fly are tied using fine thread, while using copper wire as a rib on the abdomen. Either way you tie it, Pheasant Tail fibres make up the tail, abdomen, wing case and legs. Various materials have been used for the thorax. My preference for the thorax is a couple of strands natural peacock herl. Tie this fly with or without a bead head.
The video found below will get you started on tying this highly versatile pattern. Don’t be afraid to experiment with size, colour, beads, wire, etc.