Tying the Pheasant Tail Nymph? Fly Tying Wet Flies for Trout

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The pheasant tail nymph is a great all around mayfly nymph pattern. Generally lighter and sparser for its size than other mayfly nymph patterns, like prince and hare’s ear nymphs, and zug bugs, which can represent mayflies and caddis flies, pheasant tails are perfect for selective trout feeding only on small mayfly larvae of the genus Callibaetis. Following are materials and instructions for tying this effective nymph fly.

How to Tie Pheasant Tail Nymphs: Materials

  • freshwater wet fly hook, size 12-18
  • brown, olive, or black thread size 6/0 or 8/0
  • pheasant tail feather, olive or brown
  • peacock herl fibers
  • pearl krystal flash
  • copper wire for weight

Tying the Pheasant Tail: Instructions

  1. Place the hook in the vice. Wrap thread onto the shank, cut the tag, and work the thread to the back of the hook to where the bend begins. At the back of the hook shank, tie in some pheasant tail fibers to make a tail. These should extend back about half as far as the hook is long.
  2. Then, tie a few strands of krystal flash off of the back on top of the shank, as well as a piece of copper wire. These will be pulled/ wrapped forward later.
  3. Tie in some pheasant tail fibers, and wrap forward until you are about half of the way to the front of the shank. These fibers are short, and may take more clumps to reach the hook’s midpoint. If the tail fibers prove to be too short, tie some new ones in, cover the thread with tail fiber wraps, and continue forward until the tail feathers are wrapped over the back half of the hook.
  4. Next, pull the krystal flash forward across the back of the pheasant feather abdomen, and secure, but do not trim, about half way to the front of the fly. Then, wrap the copper wire over the tail feather wraps and krystal flash-backed abdomen. Secure the copper wire halfway to the front of the hook, and cut. Now you should have a fly with pheasant tail fibers for a tail, a wrapped tail feather abdomen with krystal flash over the back, and copper wire wraps over all of that. At the front end of that should lie the rest of the krystal flash, which was secured but not cut, and a bare shank.
  5. Tie in some peacock herls just in front of the abdomen, and wrap them to the eye. This can be done before the krystal flash is pulled forward and the abdomen is wrapped with copper wire if you wish to weight the fly further by wrapping the thorax in wire under before wrapping it with herl (as in the photo). Use several herls or wrap a lot to create a thicker thorax. Then, pull the krystal flash to the eye, and tie it off again (so that the whole fly now has a krystal flash back), but cut it this time. And lastly, tie in a few tail fibers from the pheasant feather off to each side at the front of the fly. Knot the thread, cement, and cut it. The nymph fly tying process is complete. (Optional: copper wire can be wrapped on the shank before and under the peacock herl is wrapped to add extra weight to the fly).

Tying pheasant tail nymphs is a fine activity for intermediate fly tyers. These mayfly patterns are excellent for trout of all species, particularly when they are not feeding on the surface. These nymphs may also be tied with bead heads in front of the rest of the body.