Posts Tagged ‘Pheasant Tail Nymph


Unrequited Love: GRHE

Photography-Macro-Fly Tying-Hares Ear-SwittersBIn the day, the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear (GRHE) was a must have, go to nymph pattern for the fly fisher along with the Pheasant Tail Nymph (PTN). The two patterns covered the Clinger, Crawler, Swimmer, Burrower nymphs for mayflies. The gold bead head brightened up the pattern along the way, but one would be hard pressed to find this pattern today in most fly shops (or am I wrong?)

Synthetics (dubbings), wires and beads have allowed for smaller, denser patterns that are easier/faster to tie and seemingly as productive as the older fur/hair concoctions. I admit, I have not tied many of this pattern in the last ten or so years. I have about a couple dozen left, all on Mustad hooks of old.  Rabbit is still a part of many blended dubbings and worthy of use. So, is the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear. I bet many new tiers have not used gold tinsel in their tying.


Tying & Fishing: Using Smaller Than You’d Like To

It is nice to tie/fish size 10’s than size 16-20’s. I have to admit, I spent a good many years tying/fishing, with some success, patterns in the size 10-12 range, particularly nymphs. The thought of tying on a size 18 anything and fishing it with confidence did not/could not compute.

Jen's small nymphs

A perfect example of small, functional, easy to tie nymphs by Jens Slettvoll

But, finally, I had a couple encounters with trout, bigger than anything I had ever hooked, on size 18 flies and I started to consider it as an option. I specifically started tying more wets/nymphs/flymphs in 16/18’s and having success. I have yet to venture into the size 20’s with any confidence.

Pay some attention to small hook’s gape size (go bigger), your thread size (8/0 minimum or smaller to 14/0), magnification devices and less material/bulk on the hook. Of course, basic to all this small fly stuff is studying the insect life of the waters you fish. Study the hatches and learn the probably size of a BWO nymph, a Callibaetis nymph, a PMD nymph, a Golden Stone nymph etc.

small nymph thumb

Sorry, I cannot attribute this to me and I cannot recall who originally took the photo. Could be my son or off the net. Either way…that small nymph and a commensurate tie should be/must be part of the arsenal. Maybe not a size 24 hook, but at least tied small on a size 18 hook?

Nymphs SwittersB

The smaller Pheasant Tail Nymph (PTN) and the smaller bead head Chironomid (upper left) have been easy to tie and productive small nymph/pupa patterns to fish with. I would suggest simplistic, small patterns as an option and then pay attention to presentation/location and fish with confidence on rivers and lakes.


Swimmer Nymphs & Pheasant Tail Backstrap

The Swimmer Nymph: The slender bodied nymph that undulates to the surface film (as opposed to crawlers, clingers, borrowers). Blue Winged Olives generally fall into this category and are often considered, over all, one of the more important mayfly species to learn about. Below, Pheasant Tail fibers are an excellent material to help represent that slender, swimming body. It was also used here for the wing case and gives that fuzzy effect. The Pheasant Tail fibers were run back over the top of the abdomen and extended into the tail. I wrapped the wire ribbing forward over the top of the pheasant tail pieces to secure them (Skip Nymph technique for back strap over abdomen). Some, in a more exacting style, would opt for fewer pheasant tail fibers, say 3, in an attempt for matching the natural image (3 tails).


Fly Tying: Original Pheasant Tail Nymph

Looking at the original Frank Sawyer Pheasant Tail Nymph you see a different look than many of the PTN’s today: no thread, more copper wire and no peacock herl.

Frank Sawyer's Original Pheasant Tail Nymph tied here by Tom Sutcliffe

Looking at the Pheasant Tail (Russian Artist Vladimir Fedot)

Tom Sutcliffe’s How To’s on Tying the Original Sawyer Pheasant Tail Nymph with some informative background.

 Also, check out the comment section for a fine video by Hans Weilenmann c/o Norm Frechette.


BWO’s: Small Nymph Time for Winter

Patience Brewster

As a beginning fly tier, you may be jumping all over the map with your tying. Perhaps as the trout season slows down a bit hatch wise, now is a good time to catch up on tying a fly fishing staple and it will also serve you well through the Winter season (if you venture out in the cold to chase trout…a steelheader will, of course, relish this masochistic time of year).

SwittersB Fly Box (Direct Sunlight Shot per advice of Planet Trout)

Tie up a bunch of Pheasant Tail Nymphs and fish the little beauties for the coming Blue Winged Olive’s this Fall and then again in late Winter/early Spring. I am sure you tied a few of these in your beginning fly tying course last Winter. Now revisit the pattern and tie a bunch more in sizes 14, 16 and yes 18’s.

Pheasant Tail Nymph (SwittersB)

In addition to Blue Winged Olives (BWO), you should consider/research some “Little Dark Stones” and Chironomids/Midges. 



Fly Fishing: Nymphs You Must Have Recap

For the beginner, a recap of the often successful nymphs that are so good you must carry them along with a multitude of also’s, pretenders, maybe’s and mights. (not including all the dries, wets, emergers, pupa, larvae patterns)

PTN by SwittersB

Copper John

Prince Nymph

Possie Bugger


Fly Tying & Fishing: Frank Sawyer “Take Down The Balloons”

Sawyer Pheasant Tail Nymph (the daily fly paper blog)

One man’s opinion, albeit a pretty noteworthy man, FRANK SAWYER, that the basic bug shape is all that is necessary and that more important is the presentation…the imparting of swimming or locomotion or drifting, that the bug would make. Sawyer believes all those materials are a matted mess and of little value in suggesting life and triggering a response. Hmm, not sure when his piece was written. But, dare I say I disagree. Yes, presentation is quite important, perhaps most important at times. But, today’s patterns and materials may sometimes be a matted mess when pulled out of the water (marabou, ostrich etc.) but they come alive once back in the water. Every little bit helps to suggest life, movement or struggling.Those that totally collapse are not the right materials.

“…the point I wished to make when I started this article – which simply is to question the need to make artificials with wings and legs and which to us look like flies, when what the fish expect to see are tyings which conform very closely to the form of nymphs.  Why not construct nymphal patterns in the first place and then fish them in an imitation of nymph behaviour?”

“Years ago I came to the conclusion that no fibres are necessary to suggest legs on artificial nymphs for, as I explained in my book “Nymphs and the Trout,” when nymphs swim, their legs are held in streamline form, and therefore should not be noticed by fish, or if so, only as part of the body.  Time has proved this to be true for today the “Sawyer” patterns are used throughout the world and many thousands of fish have been deceived by them.

Nymphs tied in true nymphal form are much easier to construct than any patterns of wet-flies, and though perhaps the finished articles are not so spectacular to look at from the human point of view, it is the fish that must act as the judges.”
Mr. Sawyer is akin to the person that comes to the birthday party, looks about and says, “nonsense, take down the balloons. Put away those silly hats and whistles. A cake and one candle will do.” Pure, streamlined responses like the flies. Can you say boring if that is all there is? Efficient…yes. Interesting…No. Perhaps my intuitive ADD response, I have never cared much for the simplest Sawyer Pheasant Tail Nymph, but then I never cared much for the opposite end, the bedraggled Hare’s Ear Nymph. Oh my. Perhaps somewhere in the middle? Life impressions plus presentation? Relax..just a bit of tongue in cheek. I hate those big mylar balloons too.

American PTN (Mike Hughes NZ)


Pheasant Tail Nymph (PTN, a classic pattern)

Pheasant Tail Nymph~SwittersB

Pheasant Tail Nymph~SwittersB



As you can see, I tied these two pictured PTN’s differently. I am rarely consistent in tying a dozen flies all the same. The top fly is thicker, has more PT fibers for the tail and body, and I positioned a back strap of flash-mylar tinsel up the top of the abdomen and wrapped the copper rib up over the flash. I used PT for the wingcase. The bottom pattern is more sparse and has no mylar flash. I have previously talked about being a bit disenchanted with the PTN. It just never came thru for me. Of late, it is producing on stillwaters and streams. Wiser fishers swear by it…who am I to ignore this simple pattern.   


Baetis (Small But Prolific)

Green Have~SwittersB

Green Haven~SwittersB

A prolific little fly fishing staple that likes those weedy, riffly runs that are pleasant to fish and behold. The nymphs are generally smaller (from 16 down to those pesky 20’s). Slender swimmers that can get carried into the currents in a late morning drift provide the opportune time to dredge with a nymph set up (whether you like a two nymph combo or a single nymph) work the riffles. 



Baetidae (Moja Mala Entomološka Zbirka~Sebastian M.)

Baetidae (Moja Mala Entomološka Zbirka~Sebastian H.)




Baetis Nymphs~Thym (Fly Tying Forum)

Baetis Nymphs~Thym (Fly Tying Forum)

Research you local streams for hatch info and local pattern favorites. The above patterns are obviously beautiful to any tyer. Also, a simpler Pheasant Tail Nymph would work. Smaller, slender (swimmer, not chunky) and medium to dark in color.      

Pheasant Tail Nymphs by SwittersB

 Fly Tying Instructions for PTN at Oregon Fly Fishing Blog . Planet Trout made a great suggesting, reminding me of the dark wingcase of the nymph…he uses black Krystal Flash for the wingcase and the legs..(see comments).


Nymph’s for Stillwater or Stream (learning to use the 100mm macro)

Lightning Bug~T.Muncy

Lightning Bug~T. Muncy

Bomber Midge~T. Muncy

Bomber Midge~T. Muncy


Pheasant Tail Nymph~G. Muncy

Pheasant Tail Nymph~G. Muncy


BHHare's Ear~G. Muncy

BHHare's Ear~G. Muncy

So, the deal is I am trying to learn to take better pics. I have a wobbly tripod, experimental side lighting, and a crick in my neck (those are my excuses, which I will abandon when I finally perfect my lighting, stability and F stops). Still learning. Almost there.  Need to find a good ‘how to’ on using the Canon 100mm macro to get a more crisp shot. The lens came with nothing helpful. The image looks as sharp as can be thru eyepiece, but not quite there.  

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August 2020

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