Video: How to Tie the Micro Pheasant Tail Nymph

When Tom Rosenbauer saw a Pheasant Tail Nymph up on my monitor this morning, he simply said, “Best fly ever.” This is an opinion held by many trout anglers who have hooked fish large and small on this diminutive pattern. The original PT was created by riverkeeper Frank Sawyer, who designed it to imitate the Baetis nymphs on the famed chalkstreams of southern England. Upon publication of Sawyer’s book Nymphs and the Trout in 1958, the nymph became a worldwide favorite.

One thing about Baetis, though, is that they are often quite tiny. Which means that you need to imitate them with tiny flies. The Micro Pheasant Tail Nymph works great throughout the winter, on tailwaters year-round, and again in the fall, when the little blue-winged olives are hatching.

Here’s another great video tying lesson from Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions, who makes tying such a tiny pattern seem simple, even for those of us with sausage fingers. It’s all about how to control the fibers and how you remove the excess materials at the front. Most importantly, he shows how to keep the eye of the minuscule hook clear, which will make your life a lot easier when you go to tie on the fly later.

          Micro Pheasant Tail Nymph
          Hook: 3X-long nymph hook (e.g.Daiichi #270), sizes 18-24.
          Thread: 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.
          Note: Try with different color pheasant tail.

10 thoughts on “Video: How to Tie the Micro Pheasant Tail Nymph”

  1. I’ve bypassed this fly for more “sexier” more modern flies but you can’t beat it for pure simplicity, elegance and reputation. A small dark bead head (gold or black) might also be used. Matt, your tips are well received. I can’t believe I get them for free! What’s in it for you Matt? I hope it’s to share your love of fly tying with the world and not to hook us when you go to DVD availability only!

  2. I have by far and away landed more big fish on a size 18 or 20 pheasant tail than any other fly. A big reason for that was that I taught the Orvis West Coast Fly-Fishing Schools for 10-years and we taught the schools on Spring Creeks in Oregon and California. The primary foods there were small mayflies, midges, and small caddis. So lots of experience fishing for and landing big fish with small PT’s.

    Pheasant Tails (PT’s) work for trout just about everywhere because they are a great imitation of Baetis Mayflies. Baetis typically have a 2 to 3-month life cycle, and are crawlers-weak swimmers. Because of that they are almost always found in the drift and available to trout year around.

    Because of their small size, trout won’t move much to take them, but if you put it within about 6″ of a trout, he’ll take it regardless of what else is in the river just because he is so used to seeing them. I even had grayling in the Kola Peninsula of Russia take a size 18 PT when I was trying to see if I could catch some trout.

    If I was restricted to fishing with only one fly, it would be a Pheasant Tail.


  3. One major thing I choose differently than the video does is the hook that I use. I like the Orvis Big-Eye, straight-eye dry fly hook in sizes 18 and 20. The size 22 hook used in the video, being a 3x long hook, actually produces a shank length of a size 16 standard hook with the tiny gap of a size 22 standard gap hook. In my opinion, this is exactly backwards.

    Using a size 18 Orvis #4641 Big-Eye Dry-fly Hook gives me the shank length of the standard size 18 hook with the gape of a size 16 hook and the straight-eye doesn’t obscure any of the gap(e). If I use a size 20 hook, I get the standard shank length of a size 20 with a size 18 gap(e). Even though these dry fly hooks are 1x light wire, they are more than strong enough to land 18″ to 24″ trout on 6X tippet without bending the hook open, and their small cross section helps them pierce a fish’s mouth more easily than a heavy wire hook. So it’s an easier, more secure hook set with a fly that matches the size of the natural. For those of you with better eyes, the TMC 101 or Daiichi 1110 are the standard eye, straight-eye version of the same hook.

    I tie what I call a 2-minute PT that I learned from Dean Schubert back in 1988. We were tying up PT’s one evening after the class at the Take It Easy Ranch in Fort Klamath, Oregon and by the time I completed 3 of the American PT’s, he completed a dozen of his style of PT. When I asked him how he did it, he showed me how to tie a much more sparse (and more realistic) PT using only 6 strands of Pheasant Tail and brown 8/0 thread. He used that one clump of pheasant tail as the tail, body, thorax, wingcase, and legs of the fly. That includes the legs coming off the front Andre Puyans’ style. I normally use the natural Pheasant Tail which is a reddish-brown color, but also use dyed olive and sometimes bleached ginger depending upon the naturals in the stream. It’s a dynamite fly!


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  5. Thanks for a wonderful tying video..I have attempted the sawyer style PT using only wire as opposed to thread and found it quite difficult. This version has all the simplicity of the wire style but is more user friendly.

  6. Often the bigger spookier fish here in New Zealand will only take a very small size 18-22 PT or Hare & copper though often still need to be trailing a heavier tungsten nymph to take it into the feed zone. The key if casting to a fish with enough lead that your small PT is in the feed zone by the time it reaches the fish… the most common error is casting too short, but it truely is a killer nymph!

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