Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bead head Pheasant and Partridge

Several people have asked how the bead head pheasant tail and partridge soft-hackle is tied so I thought I would put together my first "step by step".  This fly is not a direct imitation but rather an impressionistic fly that can represent a number of insects including olives and small stoneflies.  I first saw this fly in NH at a shop on the Upper Connecticut River a few years ago.  This fly can be fished on the dead drift or swung but is especially deadly when swung with a "twitch".  I really like using this fly as a dropper off a large dry such as the Ausable Bomber.  I tied this fly in both #16 and #18, in both brown and black.

Start with a TMC 3761 hook with a 3/32" (2.4mm) copper colored bead (brass or tungsten).  The bead is set in place with 6-8 wraps of 0.010" lead free wire.  Next I use Uni 8/0 thread (black) and build up an even taper from the back of the hook to the wire

Next tie in 3-4 pheasant tail fibers with a couple wraps of thread with one wrap under the fibers to splay them out and prop them up slightly,  tie in small copper ultrawire on the underside of the hook and wrap the thread back to where the pheasant tail fibers are tied in and then forward to the wire wraps.
Wrap the pheasant tail fibers clockwise around the hook forward to form the body of the fly leaving a small gap for the thorax, tie off, and then counter-wrap the copper wire (4 turns) to reinforce the body.

Tie in two peacock herls behind the bead and wrap back to the end of the pheasant tail body.  I then take the two herls and the thread and pinch it in hackle pliers and spin them in a clockwise direction to form a tight rope.  This reinforces the peacock herls and forms a nice tight rope for forming the thorax.

Wrap the peacock herl rope 3-4 turns up tight against the bead.  Next choose a small partridge feather with such that the fibers are about the length of the fly.  You will need to choose a feather from the upper neck of the bird. Tie the feather in by the tip.  There are several ways to tie in partridge for soft hackle flies but with feathers this size the only practical way to wind them in when the feather is tied in by the tip.  Bind down the tip tightly with two secure wraps and snipe the tip off with your scissors.

Take your hackle pliers and grasp the stem of the feather and wrap the partridge once around the hook in front of the thread.  Then wrap the thread over the wound partridge and give firm tug downward.  This will tighten the partridge and pull the feather completely around the shank of the hook.  Use one more snug wrap over the partridge to secure it then wrap the thread over and in front the partridge, stroke the partridge fibers back and add a couple wraps to secure the partridge and then whip finish.  The fly should look sparse but there should be fibers all around the shank.

Another variation of this fly that I like especially in winter and early spring with small black stoneflies are around uses pheasant tail fibers that have been died black with a gun metal bead.  For hackle either black hen hackle can be used or dark India hen (as shown) for a more mottled hackle.  I also tie the fly without the bead on a #18 dry fly hook for when fish are taking emergers in the surface film.

Hope this little step by step helps you tie a few of these deadly flies !  Tight lines


  1. Very nice SBS, Mark! Great fly...has worked well for me on the CT Salmon River.

  2. A wonderful tutorial, on a fly that's very productive.
    Thanks Mark.

  3. This pattern should be in everyone's box.

  4. Thanks Ben, Alan, and Todd. Added a comment that the fly can also be tied without the bead on a #18 dry fly hook for when fish are taking emergers in the surface film

  5. Excellent tutorial! I know exactly where to go when I want to tie that fly, thanks Mark.

  6. Kiwi - you can always turn the hackle facing the eye :)

  7. I have a few variations of this fly that I carry. Always seems to work.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Passinthru - There certainly are a lot of pheasant tail variations which says a lot about the utility of the fly

  9. peacock herl and pheasant tail. 2 of the most used and valuable materials in fly tying...

    great tutorial.

  10. Can't go wrong with Pheasant tails. Nice tutorial.

  11. Thanks Sam and Streamer 365 - it is a great fly to have in the box