Trouts Journal

How To: Tying A Micro Pheasant Tail Nymph

Ivan Orsic / Oct 26, 2021

Around this time of year a few of us at the shop will be asked, "How do you tie a simple pheasant tail nymph?". Typically around this time of the year, we see flows take a bit of a dip here on our favorite tailwater streams and as a result, many of us downsize our flies or switch up our tactics to subsurface flies. This gives reason to why around this time of year we get this question a lot. If you are one of those people who take some ownership in how flies are made and would rather fish something that comes from your own vise then this post is for you.

Today we will be going over how to tie a basic pheasant tail pattern. Sure there is a wide range of underwater nymphs you can tie however, this pattern has stood the test of time and consistently catches fish on even the more technical of rivers. This is an unweighted version of this pattern however if you would like a weighted version you can simply apply a weight of your choice - a tungsten bead - before applying your initial thread wraps.

Today's recipe is brought to you by Tim Flagler from tightline productions. This video was originally posted to Orvis's website which is how I caught wind of this video. If you are more of a fan of videos feel free to skip to the bottom of this page and follow along with the video version. If you enjoy more photographic step-by-step instructions continue on reading. Before we begin let's go over today's tying materials needed for tying up a Micro Pheasant Tail Nymph.

Tying Materials Needed:

Hook Size: 3X-long nymph hook (e.g.Umpqua TMC 3761), sizes 18-24.

: Olive, 6/0.

Rib: Copper Ultra Wire, size X-SM.

Tail/abdomen: Dyed-brown pheasant-tail fibers.

Thorax/wingcase: Dyed-brown pheasant-tail fibers.

Adhesive: Head cement.

Tying Note: Try with a different color pheasant tail if you are looking for different color variations.

A special note on barbed hooks: Since the nature of this fly is very small it is wise to remove the barb off of your hook before you begin to tie your fly. Due to the small nature of your hook fishing with a barb can cause problems when removing from the jaws of a fish.

Fly Tying - Hooks
Umpqua TMC 3761 Fly Fishing Hook - Qty. 25
Umpqua TMC 3761 Fly Fishing Hook - Qty. 25
Fly Tying - Thread/Wire/Floss
Uni 6/0 Fly Tying Thread
Uni 6/0 Fly Tying Thread
Fly Tying - Thread/Wire/Floss
Hareline UTC Wire
Hareline UTC Wire
Fly Tying - Hackle and Fur
Hareline Pheasant Tail Feathers
Hareline Pheasant Tail Feathers
Fly Tying - Adhesive/Glue
Hareline Hard As Hull
Hareline Hard As Hull
Step One

Start your thread wraps on the hook shank and begin making wraps rearwards. It is important to leave a hook-eye length of space between the start of your thread wraps and the eye of the hook.

Step Two

For durability, flash, and body taper you will use copper-colored wire for body wraps. For this section, a 3-inch length of copper-colored wire is more than enough. Remember that these flies are extremely small. To secure your wire you will want to make rearward wraps with your thread until your wire is secure.

Step Three

Pick out three Pheasant Tails fibers of your choice and remove them from the spine of the feather. A helpful tip is to remember to remove your curly ends of the feather with a pair of scissors. Once your pheasant tail ends are cleaned keep the tips perpendicular and place them on the hook shank to create your tail. You will want to make your tail about a hook gap in length.

Step Four

Once your pheasant tail is secured with your thread wraps, you will want to make a few touch wraps w/ the remainder of the pheasant tail. You will want to wrap until you reach your initial wraps of tying thread.

Steps moving clockwise on the image.
Step Five

Once you are at the start of your thread wraps you will make three (3) important secure thread wraps over the top of the pheasant tail fibers. After you will pull the pheasant tail fibers back towards the bend of the hook and make one wrap of thread under the pheasant tail fibers just behind the eye of the hook. By doing this you are able to remove the excess pheasant tail fibers without the fibers unraveling.

Steps moving clockwise on the image.
How your fly should look after removing excess fibers
Step Six

Start making even wraps of your copper wire towards the eye of your hook. When you reach the beginning of your wraps of tying thread, you will want to secure the copper-colored wire with three (3) wraps of your tying thread. Once your wire is secure you can helicopter the wire to remove your excess wire.

Make sure your wire wraps are clean and even, since this is a small fly counter wraps are not needed
Step Seven

Using the same strand of pheasant tail you used prior, remove 7-8 strands of fibers to make your thorax of the fly. Remember to clean your fibers as you did earlier. Once that is complete you will want to flip the fibers so that the tips of the pheasant tail fibers are pointing outwards. With your tying scissors snip off about half an inch of pheasant tail tips to make your ends clean and square. Now, with your clean ends made and ready, place your clump of fibers on top of the hook shank while still leaving a gap directly behind the eye of the hook.

Step Eight

With your clump secured with your fingers, spin your bobbin counterclockwise before wrapping. this will allow your thread to "jump" slightly rearward and catch the clump of fibers that are between your fingers. You will want to make a handful of thread wraps rearwards towards the mid-point on the hook shank.

Step Nine

With these fibers secured with your tying thread, you will want to separate out two (2) or three (3) pheasant tail strands and make a handful of forwarding wraps making your way to the eye of the hook. This will become your thorax of the fly. Now that you have made your wraps you will want to secure your fibers the same way you secured them in Step Number Five. You will want to make three (3) wraps over the top of the fibers, followed by one singular wrap around the front of the fibers, and finish with one final wrap over the fibers. By doing this step you will be able to remove the excess strands of fibers cleanly without the use of scissors or a razor blade.

Step Ten

Pull the rear fibers forward to form the wing casing of your fly. Now, for a third time and final time, you will perform your 3 wrap closure. You will want to make three (3) wraps over the top of the fibers, followed by one singular wrap around the front of the fibers, and finish with one final wrap over the fibers. If you have not noticed by now, it is best practice to remove each pheasant tail fiber one by one for a clear and crisp finish.

Step Eleven

Give your bobbin a clockwise spin and wrap w/ a 4-5 turn whip finish to tie everything together.

Step Twelve - Optional

Place a small amount of head cement on the wing casing down to the thread wraps. This adds to the overall look and durability of the fly so you will be able to fish this fly all day long.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, this fly is super simple to tie and is a perfect pattern for the winter months. There are many variants of the pheasant tail nymph pattern out there however, this classic fly pattern is a great way for new and old fly tyers alike to start tying nymph patterns. It is important when tying this fly that you make tight thread wraps that will hold the pheasant tails in place. By making sure that your thread wraps are tight, you are ensuring a higher quality fly and a fly that will give you more confidence throughout the day. Oh, and if you have made it this far and are opting not to tie up your own... there is no shame in that. In fact here are some options to choose from.

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