Pheasant Tail Nymph
February 2, 2008
- 20 - 8 Wet-fly or Nymph
- 8/0 black or brown
- Pheasant tail (male)
- Copper wire
- Hare's Ear
The pheasant tail nymph (PTN) is used to represents a wide range of aquatic insect larvae and can even be used to imitate fish fry. It’s useful on still water and running water for targetting numerous species though originally it was dressed for trout in theRiver Avon. The PTN is especially good at representing darker species and is considered an especially good match for the nymph of the Blue-winged Olive. On a 2X hook shank it works well as a stonefly. To imitate lighter nymphs you might do better with a Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear.
How to fish:
In still water present the PTN using a slow hand-twist or use a wind drift. In running water use standard nymph tactics (drag free drift, rising nymph, wetfly swing).
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1. Start the thread one hook eye length behind the eye.
2. Take the thread back to the end of the shank in close touching turns. Tie in a small bunch of pheasant fibres by their tips with two tight wraps of thread.
3. Then catch in the copper wire at the same position.
4. Then lift the feather fibres gently and wrap the thread forward in tight touching turns up to the start position. As you bind down the waste end of the copper, be sure to keep it aligned with the hook shank.
5. Then build a tapered underbody of thread before letting the bobbin hang where you want the body to finish.
6. Wrap the pheasant forward taking care to cover the tying in point. Tie off with two or three tight turns of thread.
7. After removing the waste feather butts, wrap the copper wire counter to the feather fibres to produce the rib. Make several wraps of copper at the thorax to add bulk and weight. Tie off the wire and remove the waste.
8. Return the thread to the start position.
9. Tie in on top of the hook at the front of the thorax, a small bunch of pheasant fibres with their tips even and pointing forward over the eye. The length they protrude later dictates the length of the legs.
10. Take the thread to the back of the thorax and dub the thread with hare’s ear fur.
11. Wrap the dubbed thread to form a fur thorax.
12. While the thread hangs at the head of the fly, bring a finger up and onto the eye of the hook spreading the feather tips up and out into a fan.
13. Divide the tips into two equal bunches to form the legs and bring the butts of the pheasant tail fibres forward between them.
14. Secure the pheasant tail butts at the eye to form the wingcase. Use just a single wrap.
15. Pull back the feather fibre tips and make two of three further wraps of thread to fully secure the butts.
16. Remove the waste pheasant tail and make a whip finish. A drop of head cement will finish the job.
The pheasant tail nymph was originally designed and tied by Frank Sawyer, MBE, who fished the Wiltshire Avon. Sawyer's book 'Nymphs and the Trout', 1958, describes his original recipe and tying method. The PTN was one of a number of simple and effective patterns he developed.
The pattern illustrated in this article is not according to the original. It is one of many modern interpretations. The original was tied using only dark enamelled copper wire and cock pheasant centre tail fibres. The feather was tied to the hook with wire to produce the tail and then the remaining feather and wire was twisted together and wrapped to form the body. The thorax was formed from the copper wire and the wing case was made from the butts of the pheasant fibres. There were neither hackle nor legs on Sawyer's original.
Popular interpretations of the PTN include Arthur Cove's pattern, tied to imitate a chironomid; the Flashback that incorporates perl mylar over the back and wingcase, thought to imitate the nymph at the point just before emergence; and the hotspot PTN, having a bright fur or wool thorax. Variations dressed with dyed pheasant are also worth considering.