Thursday, August 2, 2018

The wisdom of Pete

I am re-posting a short piece that my late friend Pete sent me a while back.  Pete was master at fishing a fly we jokingly referred to as "Pete's Fancy".  I don't know how many of them I tied for him but he could catch fish in any stream at any time of the year with a simple bead head pheasant tail nymph with a couple turns of partridge hackle behind the bead.  I hope you find it as informative as it was therapeutic for me to read again the words of a good friend.

"I was asked to write a guest post by Mark, who dubbed me the Zen Master of the Pheasant Tail. While I don’t know if I am quite the Zen Master, I can tell you that the Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail has become one of my “go to” flies, and I have caught many, many trout using this fly.


I first started fishing soft hackles flies after reading Sylvester Nemes book on soft hackles in the mid 1970's. Initially I preferred to fish the Partridge and Peacock soft hackle on some of the smaller local streams. 

About four to five years ago while fishing the Upper Connecticut River, in New Hampshire, I came across the Soft Hackled Pheasant Tail in a fly shop and purchased a few of them. When I returned home, I started to fish them with some success on the larger rivers in the state of CT, the Housatonic River and Farmington River.  I think that the Pheasant Tail represents a myriad of different insects to the trout and this is what makes it so deadly.

I prefer to fish the Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail in size 14-18, with and without the bead head, depending on the time of year, depth of the water, and what is hatching. Early in the season I fish size 14 with a bead head to get down to where the fish are. As the season progresses I just adjust to the conditions on the water I am fishing. I use a 9 to 12 foot leader in 4x or 5x, once again depending on conditions of the river I am fishing.

Generally I use the Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail as a searching pattern if nothing is hatching. I cast the fly quartering across and upstream, letting the fly just swing in the current, and as the fly gets to the end of the drift with no takes, I slowly retrieve the fly, using short 4-6 inch strips, or twitch the fly. Working the fly like this has proven to be deadly for me and when the trout takes  this fly they hammer it. There is no doubt when they take the fly. Another favorite trick of mine is to target trout that are sipping something under the surface. I try to work into a position above the fish and cast the fly a few feet above their feeding lane. Let the fly dead drift and often this results in a hook up. Another tactic is to blind cast up and across, letting the fly dead drift like a dry, make a mend or two, watching your leader. When the leader stops, set the hook and most of the time you are into a fish.

There are times when the trout will take the soft hackle, as it starts to rise up through the water column, at the end of the swing. Usually these takes are really solid and leave no doubt that you have a fish on. Just another reason I only use 4x and 5x leaders. I fish the Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail in all types of water, slow, fast, moderate and pocket water.

I have taken trout in every river that I have fished the Soft Hackle Peasant Tail, including small wild trout streams during December and January. It has been my “go to” fly particularly in the Farmington River. Mark and I have fished with several other fishermen from a forum that we all belong to and each one of these fine fly fishermen can attest to effectiveness of the venerable Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail."

Here's a video if you are interested in tying a few!


10 comments:

  1. Mark
    This post really hit home for me because I fish the traditional Pheasant Tail most of the time on the Sipsey and Caney tailraces with a lot of success. Pete's version is one that I'm really interested in, because it can be fish so many ways. Can you tell me how he uses it when the trout is surface feeding. I assume all the flies are tied with the tungston beadhead? Did he ever use an indicator when fishing deeper water? Thanks for sharing

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    1. Bill - Pete would often swing it across where fish were rising. He asked me to tie the fly without the bead for just such situations.

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  2. Mark,
    Nice piece....Pete's Fancy, and truly the master at fishing that fly.

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    1. Alan - I guess I was feeling sentimental and went looking for what he had written up for me.

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  3. Mark, very nice post. I also love the pheasant tail soft hackle. I know you have had success with that fly in pa. The reason I like it is because you can do so much with the fly not only in presentation which I think is the most important but also tying different variations as the season goes on. Simplicity is a great advantage. A wonderful tribute to Pete. Thank-you.

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    1. Thanks Brad - great fly, a wonderful friend, and fond memories!

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  4. I sure enjoyed this Mark. I'm going to tie some of these for my next trip out!

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    1. Howard - a deadly fly with a few tips from the Master at fishing it!

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  5. That is a great write up by your friend Pete on fishing the pheasant tail soft hackle. I appreciate you sharing this, Mark.

    Regards, Sam

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