Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pheasant-tail soft-hackle variations

      The venerable pheasant tail is certainly one the best known, used, and modified patterns around. The number of variations attests to it’s effectiveness in a number of situations. I’m partial to “soft-hackles” and even here the variations are endless. Here is a brief description of the variations that I use with the hope that others would be inspired to post there favorite variations as well.
Four pheasant tail soft-hackles
     I’ve been using four variations. They all have a short tail of 3-5 tail fibers and the body is formed from the fibers wound and then reinforced with a counter-wrapped small copper wire ribbing. The thorax for each is formed with 2 peacock herls wound around the tying thread 3-4 times to reinforce it and then wound about the hook.
     Starting from the left and working right is the bead-head pheasant tail. I use a standard scud hook (#16/#18) with a copper bead. For the soft hackle, I like a brown hen hackle with a dark (slate to black) webby center. Two turns of hackle max.
     Next is the bead head/partridge hackle on a standard nymph hook. I use sizes 16 and 18 here as well but the nymph hook results in a longer body which is a nice change. Working with partridge in front of the bead can be tricky but with persistent practice you will get the proper proportions. Another tip is the wind the peacock tight against the bead so that after winding the hackle you don’t get a gap between the hackle and the bead. Here, I wind the hackle once with a feather that is not stripped on one side. This gives enough fibers but still results in a sparse collar and reduces the gap by keeping the number of turns of the partridge stem behind the bead down.
      If you have a lot of black stones, the next variation has been working well for me this spring. It uses dyed black pheasant tail fibers and a gun metal bead. I tie these on #14-#16 scud hooks.
      Finally is a bead-less version that can be fished in the surface film. I use a standard dry fly hook (#14-#18) and partridge hackle (1 turn max). I don’t put a tail on these.
      So there you have it.  Let’s see your favorite, I’ll bet there some interesting ones out there.


  1. thanks for posting! I have never tied anything but the original but now I need to try some variations.

  2. Dustin - that's the fun in tying, always experimenting

  3. Nice flies! Killers for sure.

  4. Kiwi - would love to see any of your turns on the old PT

  5. Mark,
    They're all great. But that one without the bead, would be my go to.

  6. Great flies. Love the pheasant tale. Nice Pics
    I'll take all four:)