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Beadhead Pheasant Tail Nymph
written by Jason Akl

Step-by-step tying instructions with photos.
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Bead-Head Pheasant Tail NymphOf all the various mayfly species (about 2,500 worldwide) that inhabit our rivers and lakes, most can be characterized as small, brown and living on or near the bottom during some point of their life cycle. The pheasant tail nymph, a classic fly pattern that's representative of a wide variety of aquatic insects on which trout feed, is a must-have fly for every serious angler's fly box. Not only is it a staple in fly boxes worldwide, it's also a relatively easy tie.

In flowing bodies of water, the pheasant tail nymph resembles a wide variety of commonly seen mayflies, but its best suited to match the Pale Morning Dun (PMD) and Blue Winged Olive (BWO). The most productive way to fish this fly is to fish it near the bottom with a dead drift technique. Simply cast the fly as you would a dry (upstream and across), allow the fly to sink to the bottom and drift downstream drag free. If you're fishing a new area or just having a tough time catching fish, keep a keen eye out to see what's drifting down stream, or flip a few rocks to see what size and color the real critters are. Tailoring your flies to match the actual insects found in the river should get you serious looks -- and bites -- from fish all day long.

In slower moving bodies of water, the Pheasant Tail Nymph is probably the best imitation of the Callibaetis nymph you can find. This fly can be very effective for large trout if fished slowly in the early morning or at dusk. The best way to fish this fly in lakes is to use a floating line and a slow retrieve with the fly just below the water's surface. If trout are reluctant to strike this presentation, allow your fly to sink a little deeper and retrieve it very slowly using the hand-twist retrieve. Trout in slow moving bodies of water are known to continuously check the shallows near weed beds or rocky outcrops for forage, so keying on these areas should help you get more and better bites.

Materials List

Hook: TMC Nymph Hook, Size 6
Thread: Tan Uni Thread, Size 8/0
Head: Gold Bead
Tail: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Body: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Rib: Fine Copper Wire
Weight: Lead Wire
Wings: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Thorax: Peacock Herl

Step-by-Step Tying Instructions for the Bead-Head Pheasant Tail Nymph

Step 1
Slide the gold bead over the hook point (small whole first), and then secure the hook tightly in your vice.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Step 2
Wrap the lead wire around the hook shank several times until the top 1/2 of the hook shank is covered. This adds weight to the fly.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Step 3
Attach your thread to the hook shank, and then wrap over the lead with the thread so that it holds the lead wrap tightly in place.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Step 4
Select five to seven pheasant tail fiber tips and wrap them down with thread so that they extend off the back of the hook about 1-1/2 times the length of the hook gape.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Step 5
Clip a short section of copper wire and wrap it down to the hook shank so that it extends off the back of the hook.

Pheasant TailNymph

Step 6
Repeat this process one more time with a small clump of pheasant tail fibers, which will be used to build the body.

Step 7
Slight spin the pheasant tail fibers between your fingers and wrap them up the hook shank. Stop the pheasant tail body at about the 2/3 mark on the hook shank.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Step 8
Counter-wrap the copper wire up the body of the fly binding down the pheasant tail so that it can not unwrap, even under excessive abuse.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Step 9
Tie in another bunch of pheasant tail fibers at this 2/3 mark, extending them over the body you just created.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Step 10
In front of these pheasant fibers, tie in five peacock herls.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Step 11
Twist the peacock herls into a thick, bushy herl rope. Wrap this rope forward up to the back of the bead head; tie off and clip the excess.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Step 12
Select 8 more pheasant tail fibers and tie in 4 per side behind the bead as wings. Clip the tag ends short.


Step 13
Pull the pheasant tail fibers forward over the top of the peacock herl rope thorax and tie it off behind the bead. Add a drop or two of head cement to help to hold things in place.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Step 14
Whip finish the thread, and then cement the head thoroughly.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

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