This pheasant tail Euro style nymph is quite easy to tie, can be dressed in a variety of colors and has proven itself in fly fishing competitions the world over.
For a hook, I’m going to use a Trout Legend Model J in a size 14 along with a black 3mm slotted Tungsten bead.
I’ve chosen UTC 70 Denier in fluorescent orange for the thread, that’ll be used to tie the fly and form a hot spot collar. Start your thread on the hook shank just behind the bead and take wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. Make sure the bead rests all the way down at the hook eye.
For the tail, medium Pardo Coq de Leon is hard to beat in terms of its markings and fine, stiff fibers. A half dozen or so is all you need. After you strip them from the stem, keep their tips aligned and measure to form a tail about a hook shank in length. Transfer that measurement rearward to the start of the bend and place the fibers directly on top of the hook shank. Take thread wraps to secure it. Angling the fibers up while wrapping will help to ensure they stay on top of the shank. Continue wrapping all the way back to the bend. You can then lift the butt ends up and back and snip them off close.
Small, copper colored Ultra wire is used for a rib to both segment and reinforce the pattern. With the wire extending all the way to the bead, secure it to the top of the hook shank with wraps of tying thread. End with your thread a short distance behind the bead.
For the body of the fly, I’m going to use pheasant tail fibers dyed dark brown but the color is entirely up to you. Snip or strip 8 or so fibers free from the stem and then turn them around so just the very fine ends protrude from your fingertips. Snip these off square and then place them right behind the bead on top of the hook shank. If your thread wants to jump forward and miss the fibers when you go to wrap, try giving your bobbin a counterclockwise spin which will flatten the thread and cause it to jump more rearward so it catches the pheasant tail. Take adjacent wraps rearward to bind the pheasant tail fibers to the top of the hook shank. Go all the way to the bend. Then make open spiral wraps back up to the bead.
Get hold of the pheasant tail fibers and begin making touching wraps around the hook shank to form the body of the fly. Because the fibers are thicker near their butts, you should end up with a gently tapered body. When you reach the bead, tie the pheasant tail off with nice, firm thread wraps. Once they’re secured, reach in with your tying scissors and snip the butts off close.
You can counter wrap with the wire if you like but I generally don’t as I find a normal wrap to be quicker and don’t really notice a difference in terms of durability. When you reach the bead, secure the wire with tight wraps of tying thread and then helicopter to break it off close. Bracing the fly with the bobbin nozzle will help stabilize things while you turn the wire. My thread got a little frayed on the ultra sharp hook point so I’m going to take a few more wraps than usual to get to good thread.
For the thorax of the fly and to represent legs, I like to use a custom dubbing blend made with 2 parts fur snipped from the back of a grey squirrel and 1 part rabbit fur dubbing dyed in a color that complements the pheasant tail. A bit of pre-mixing before the final blending is a good idea. Once you have the dubbing roughly mixed, toss it into a little coffee grinder and give it a spin. In fairly short order, you’ll have a dubbing blend that really goes well with the rest of the fly. Although you can dub directly on the thread, I prefer to give the bobbin a counter clockwise spin to flatten the thread and prepare it for dubbing using the “split thread” method. When flattened, UTC 70 splits quite easily with a bodkin or sewing needle. Insert the index finger of your left hand between the two strands to keep them separated. Get hold of just a small pinch of dubbing and place it, like so, between the two strands. You don’t need much at all. Close the strands to sandwich the fibers and then give your bobbin a few really good clockwise spins. This will cord up the thread and firmly trap the dubbing in the process.
Once this is done, begin making wraps to cover the thread between the body and the bead. Occasionally pull the fibers back as you wrap to get them pointed slightly rearward. Pull out any loose fibers and then begin building a short, hot spot thread collar which will be enhanced with a 5 or 6 turn whip finish.
I think the spiky, squirrel hair really adds to a lot to the fly. Add a small drop of head cement to make sure the thread wraps don’t come unraveled and the fly is ready to fish. These are like the turbocharged version of the tried and true Pheasant Tail.