Pheasant Tail Bodies

• Using straight scissors, trim off the (weak) extreme tips of the fibers.

The technique for selecting and tying in pheasant-tail feather fibers, shown in this section, can also be used for tying similar bodies from any other feather fibers that have no pronounced flue - such as those of swan, bustard, heron, and turkey. (Condor herls can be used in the same way, or they can be stripped of flue and used like peacock quills.) When using any of these materials for fly bodies, always choose the longest and best quality (undamaged) fibers, found in the center of the feather.

The following photographs show how to tie a Sawyer's Pheasant Tail Nymph. Note, however, that my dressing of this fly is slightly different from that advocated by its originator, Frank Sawyer.

  • Select some long fibers from the center of a pheasant tail feather.
  • Pull the fibers down at right angles to the stalk and align the tips.
  • Cut three or four fibers (more fibers were required for the salmon hook shown in these photographs).
  • Using very fine-gauge dark copper wire, prepare the hook shank with close even turns to the tail position. (S) (If you find copper wire too difficult to handle for this stage of the dressing, use a brown thread foundation instead, and tie in the copper wire at step 4, after tying in the pheasant fibers. Then take the thread to the eye, tie a wrap knot, and trim the surplus.)
  • Cut three copper-colored fibers taken from the base of a mature cock-pheasant tail feather. Tie on, with the butts nearest the hook eye. (S)
  • For (optional) ribbing, tie in a short length of brown tying thread at the tail position. (S)
Sawyer Pheasant Tail Nymph Images
  • Holding the fibers near the trimmed tips with the (darker) underside uppermost, tie them in using the chenille method.
  • Wind the copper wire in close turns to the eye, trapping the surplus ends of the pheasant fibers underneath the hook. (S)
  • Form the thorax by winding the wire in close turns back along the shank to nearly halfway, then nearly back to the eye, and so on, each time winding on two or three turns fewer at each end. When complete, take the wire to the eye. (S) The thorax should be smoothly shaped, not lumpy.
  • Lacquer or glue the wire underbody and wind on the pheasant fibers with the (darker) underside nearest the underbody.
  • The pheasant fibers, after being wound on, lie back over the body as shown in step 8. The first bunch of fibers, therefore, will probably be too short to complete a large nymph. If this is so, take the wire over the thorax to the last turn of pheasant fibers and tie off the butts. (S)
  • Cut off the surplus fibers.
  • Tie in a new bunch of phjeasant fibers, prepared as before, and return the wire to the eye. (S) Re-lacquer or glue the remainder of the underbody.
  • Wind on the fibers to the eye and tie them off on top of the hook with wire. Do not cut off the surplus.
  • Rib the body with the brown ribbing thread and tie it off. (S)
  • The finished nymph.
  • Wind the copper wire over the pheasant fibers in wide turns to behind the thorax. (S)
  • To form the imitation wing case, pull the fibers back over the thorax and tie down with two turns of wire. Do not cut off the surplus fibers yet.
  • Take the copper wire back to the head in wide turns. (S)
  • Bring the fibers back again to the eye. Tie the fibers down and tie a wrap knot with the wire, taking care not to kink it.
  • Cut off the surplus closely and cleanly; avoid blocking the eye.
  • The finished nymph.
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