The Making of a Pheasant Tail

November 19, 2009

Frenzy Flies

The Making of a Pheasant Tail
by Travis “Dr” Gillespie
Xstream Outdoors


One of the all time most successful flies in fly fishing is the Pheasant Tail nymph. It works on fooling trout all over world with its mayfly appearance. I personally took a liking to it early in my fly fishing days, in fact I remember the first summer I started fly fishing on a regular basis. I was sixteen and had an old 70 Chevy truck that was my vessel to places and things I always wanted to experience. With the freedom to drive I started fishing the Lower Provo River whenever I got a chance. Since I could only tie a few flies the pheasant tail became my go to fly.  At the time I didn’t realize what it imitated, all I knew was that it caught fish and it made fly fishing fun. That summer alone, I probably tied over 200 pheasant tail flies to full fill my fishing craz and all those dang break offs.  Since those days I have expanded my fly boxes, but when the situation calls for it I don’t forget my roots. I always have a few trusty PTs to pick up some picky trout.

Nice ColorsTo me the making of a pheasant tail nymph goes a lot deeper than simply tying feathers on to a hook to imitate a small mayfly. To me its a unique experience that makes these little bugs special. The process starts ever early November as the cold weather graces us with its presence.  It is the time to bag the birds that carry the tail feathers that make up the flies name.  The ring neck pheasant is a majestic bird known for its beautiful colors and long tail feathers. It is the king of all upland game birds.

Cash warm 2A week already into the pheasant hunt and I was starting to wonder if I was going to have the chance to bag a bird and reap the benefits.  So with an open Saturday and a fresh coat of snow, I was off to try my luck.  At first things started off good as I heard a rooster chuckle, but somehow the wiley birds eluded Cash (my dog) and I.  For the next few hours Cash and I pushed through the thickest brush possible, but all we had to show for it was soaking pants, cold hands and a wet dog.  As I was about to give in, I noticed in the distance a couple pheasants walking back into the pasture where we started. I sprinted to the spot and started looking around for the birds, but again nothing.  By now I was done, I couldn’t believe they had given us the slip

Full Pheas

again.  So I started walking back to the truck, when I thought what the heck I’ll try this patch of tumble weeds on the way out. I walked through the weeds confident-less, as I approached the end of the patch aroyal ring neck erupted from my feet. I only had seconds, I brought my gun up, shot! Missed!!! I pumped in another shell this time aiming at the target that was flying away like a jet, it was getting out of shooting range, but I pulled the trigger…the bird dropped like a rock!!! Cash ran after the fallen bird and with a big dog smile, let me know our day and season was a success.

As I looked at those tail feathers today I couldn’t help but feel a longing for summer fishing and pheasant tail nymphs. Its funny as I am hunting pheasants I sometimes envision the fish that I will catch on the pheasant feathers that I harvest and make into flies.


It is truly the purest form fly fishing that I can get when I can harvest the features from the pheasants I bag and than get peacock from a friend who raises them to make up a completely pure fly that symbolizes the reason why we all fly fish.  So to me a pheasant tail isn’t just a fly, it is a story of a bird that I bagged and a fly that I personally handcrafted to inmate a mayfly nymph that will outsmart a trout that is as wild as the pheasant that roamed the pastures. So next time you tie on a pheasant tail nymph sit back and think for a second about what its story could be, because I will.

Color & BW

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2 Responses to “The Making of a Pheasant Tail”

  1. pemancing Says:

    nice bait. i think fly fishing technique is more difficult than usual bait. you might be the expert on fly fishing mania



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