Pheasant Tail Nymph

Created by Frank Sawyer


Imitates nymphs of pale morning duns, blue-winged olives, March browns, and a host of others. In lakes, it's a darn good representation of a Callibaetis nymph.

Originally tied by Frank Sawyer, the Pheasant Tail Nymph is one of the oldest of modern nymphs. A few good wrinkles have been added over the years, such as the peacock thorax, optional beadhead, etc., but when you peel them away, it's still Sawyer's elegantly simple, generically suggestive, devastatingly effective nymph.


The Flashback Pheasant Tail shown here has Flashabou down the back of the abdomen and thorax. This imitates the shiny back that develops on many nymphs as they are about to hatch. On lakes, I've found that a Flashback Pheasant Tail outfishes it's non-Flashabou-ed antecedent by three-to-one during a Callibaetis hatch.

Weighting or a bead head are optional.

How to Fish

In rivers, the fly can be presented near the surface, but it is usually most productive when fished near the bottom on a dead drift with the trout indicator or tight line presentations. To achieve the right depth, you may need to put weight on the leader or use the Pheasant Tail on a dropper with a heavy fly such as a Kaufmanns Stonefly on the point. While the fly works well as a searching nymph, it can also be productive during a hatch (more trout than you might suspect are taking nymphs off the bottom rather than duns off the top).

On lakes, this is a very effective fly in the middle of the day during Callibaetis season. Use an intermeditate line and retrieve the fly very slowly near the surface. Pay particular attention to shallow areas near weed beds. The Flashback Pheasant Tail is especially useful before, during, and immediately after a Callibaetis hatch.

HOOK: 3761, sizes 12-18

THREAD: To match pheasant tail

TAIL: Pheasant tail fibers to match abdomen

RIB: Copper wire

ABDOMEN: Pheasant tail fibers, olive or brown. Wrap forward. For a Flashback Pheasant Tail (shown here), run a strip of Flashabou down the back and over the thorax.

WINGCASE: Pheasant tail to match abdomen

THORAX: Peacock herl

HEAD: Copper wire