Pheasant Feathers for Fly Fishing

January 23, 2012 by  

By Nick Simonson

This year, it seemed that every pheasant was a trophy.  Whether it was those early birds on opening weekend with half-colored feathers, or that lone rooster coming late in the season, each one provided a welcome warm meal and a new crop of pheasant feathers for fly fishing.  With one season behind us, another one begins – the fly tying season.  And I’ve been hard at it already, tying up new patterns with feathers from my favorite bird, beyond the nymphs and soft hackles that are so common.  Here are just a few for you to try.
The Copper Sawyer

Humpies and Stimulators are some of my favorite dries, and big flashy streamers are fun to tie and neat to see in the water. Nymphs aren’t usually so flashy, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be. The Copper Sawyer is a good mix of the usual nymph features – brown and buggy – with a little added flash and weight thanks to some copper ultra wire; and best of all it is a simple two-material fly made with feathers from our favorite bird – AND it catches fish.
Hook: Nymph, Size 12-18
Thread: Brown 6/0
Tail, Body, Wingcase: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Abdomen: Copper Ultra Wire

Tie in 6-10 pheasant tail fibers so the tips hang one-third of the hook shank length beyond the bend, serving as the tail. Tie in a 3-inch strip of copper ultra wire (use Medium for size 12-14 hooks, and Small for hooks size 16 and smaller). Wrap the remaining fibers forward about 2/3 of the hook shank and tie off, advancing your thread to the hook eye. Then wrap the ultra wire forward, segmenting the thorax. When you reach the tie off point, use the ultra wire to form the abdomen by tightly wrapping it forward and then back over the first wraps to the tie off point, trimming the wire neatly. Fold the tied-off feather fibers over the wire abdomen forming a wingcase, tie them off and trim. Form a head with the thread, whip finish and cement.

Simple Streamer

This two-material fly is a short streamer that can be used for bluegills or crappies.  It wraps up quick and uses all-pheasant fibers to trigger fish.

Hook: Streamer, Size 8-12
Thread: Brown 6/0
Body: Gray Underfeather
Collar: Pheasant Rump Overfeather

You’ll need a streamer hook, a rump feather from a rooster and the gray underfeather beneath it. Simply tie in the underfeather and wrap it forward for the body.Then tie in a rump feather – a nice big blue-green one from the top of the rump – by the tip and turn it around a couple times behind the hook eye for a collar, trim it and tie off. Whip finish, cement, and you’re done!

Advanced Streamer
This bigger, badder version of the previous fly works great on smallmouth bass and aggressive trout.  It has more substance and style to send bigger predator fish into a frenzy – and except for two pieces of tinsel – it is all pheasant-powered!

Hook: 3X Long Streamer, Size 8-12
Thread: Brown (or Red) 6/0
Tail: Pheasant Marabou
Body: Gray Underfeather
Lateral Line: Tinsel of Your Choice
Collar: Two Pheasant Rump Overfeathers

With a streamer hook secured in your vise, select a full marabou-tipped middle layer rump feather from a rooster and strip the fibers from it. Tie the fibers in as the tail of the fly. Next, find a fairly long after feather with bushy gray marabou all along it and tie it in by the tip, just in front of the marabou tail. From there, wrap the gray feather forward, forming a nice thick body, giving the fly a minnow-like appearance. Trim and tie off about 1/4 of the hook shank behind the eye.

Now tie in a piece of tinsel on both sides, forming a colorful streak for some fish-attracting flair – you can use silver, gold, pearl, red, whatever – make the fly your own! This tinsel should reach the end of the marabou tail. Finally, select two bright colored rump feathers (the blue-green ones around the tail) and tie them by the tips over the tinsel. Advance your thread and wrap the feathers around the hook to form a collar on the fly. Trim off the excess, cover with thread, form a small head, whip finish, cut the thread and cement for posterity. You can add lead wraps or a bead head at the beginning for more weight.  Fill your fly box with an army of these flies built with pheasant feathers for fly fishing and you’ll be ready for some fast spring fishing…in our outdoors.


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