The Bead Head Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail is an oldie but a goodie. Author, fly tier and blogger Matt Grobert says it's one of his "go to" winter patterns and is going to show us his method for tying one.
Matt begins with a size 16 Dai-Riki #730 2X long nymph hook. After mashing the barb and putting on a 3/32nds of an inch gold bead, Matt firmly secures the hook in his vise. For thread, he's going to use Olive 6/0 Danville.
Start your thread a bead length behind the bead and take wraps rearward to halfway between the point and the barb.
Size small copper Ultra Wire is used for the rib of the fly. Break or cut off a 4 to 5 inch long segment and lash it securely to the near side of the hook. Keeping it on the near side is fairly important as you'll see in just a little bit.
Select a half dozen or so natural colored pheasant tail fibers and, while keeping the tips aligned, strip them from the stem. Measure them to form a tail about a hook shank in length. Tie in the fibers on top of the hook shank and then make open spiral wraps of tying thread back up to the initial tie-in point.
Get hold of the pheasant tail butts and begin making adjacent wraps rearward to form a nice, smooth abdomen. When you reach the base of the tail, get hold of the copper wire with your right hand, and take a wrap to secure them. This first wrap is why you wanted to keep the wire on the near side of the hook. Continue taking open spiral wraps over the pheasant tail body to the tie-in point. Secure the copper wire with several tight wraps of tying thread and then helicopter the wire to break it off close. Get a hold of the pheasant tail butts and using that first turn of copper wire as a guide, snip the fibers off close.
For the thorax of the fly, Matt likes to use a peacock hurl from just below the eye. Now here's a little peacock hurl secret. They have a stem side which you see here, and a flatter non-stem side. The difference can be hard to see but strap on the magnifiers and give it a go. Tie in the hurl so the stem side is facing toward you. Thread torque will orient it so it faces roughly forward on the hook. Firmly secure the hurl to the shank in this manner and take wraps of tying thread forward to just behind the bead. Get hold of the hurl and begin taking wraps. The stem should be facing forward. With every wrap, you're going over the top of the stem of the previous wrap. As you can see, this creates a very bushy, almost hackle-like thorax. Continue taking wraps of peacock hurl all the way up to the back edge of the bead before tying it off with a couple turns of thread. You can then reach in with fine point scissors and cut the remainder of the hurl off close. To ensure the hurl doesn't break and come unraveled, make zig-zag wraps of tying thread rearward to the abdomen and then back forward again.
Although there are many options for the soft hackle collar, it's hard to go wrong with Hungarian Partridge. Find an appropriately sized feather, one where the majority of fibers are about 2 hook gaps in length. Strip the lower fuzzies away from the stem and then gently pull the remaining fibers down to expose just the feather's tip. Snip this off, leaving just a small triangle as a tie-in anchor.
Lay the stem against the hook shank with the outside of the feather facing toward you. Take a wrap of tying thread right at the top point of the triangle and pull your thread tight. Take another wrap to further secure the tip. Get a hold of the stem with hackle pliers and pull up. Use the thumb and index finger of your left hand to preen the fibers rearward and begin wrapping the stem to form a nice, sparse collar. Two or three turns really ought to do it. With the soft hackle wrapped, take a few turns of tying thread to secure the stem and then snip it off close.
Do a 5 or 6 turn whip finish and snip or cut your tying thread free. And that's the Bead Head Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail. Dead drift it, swing it or do a little of both in a single drift, it all works.