View Full Version : HELP! Pheasent tail nymph legs.

02-24-2008, 07:42 PM
Ok, I'm still very new to tying flies and my goal is to tie pheasent tails in all sizes. I'm trying to tie a traditional pheasant tail nympy with weighted body and at the moment I'm using #14 hooks. I'm doing just fine until its time to finish the fly. The point right after I've tied off the peacock herled thorax and have folded and tied off the pheasant tail fibers over the top of the herl forming the wing pad "some folks use shell back here" I'm suppossed to flair out the tips of the fibers up and to the sides then tie them off in a manner that pushes the tips back and slightly down/under the thorax forming legs. Having large amt. of trouble with this last step which forms those danged legs. What usually occurrs is the legs on the far/reverse side of the fly usually get run to far under the fly and the legs on the near/viewed side just tie off to the side but not sightly down. Trying to accomplish this with my left fingers is akward at best and it seems there must be a better way!

Thanks in advance!

milligan trout degree
02-24-2008, 08:48 PM
instead of tying off the wing case and then folding back the fibers, tie off the wing case over the peacock and then clip the extra off. if you have enough left over from the wing case, and you probably will, lay two of the extras on one side (tapered end toward tail of fly), secure with a couple turns of thread, pull to desired leg length, and then tighten down with a few more turns. repeat on the other side and then whip finish and you're done.

this is a lot easier for me when i'm tying smaller than size 18 and i like it better because i can get the legs exactly the length i want them to be without guessing. if you still want to do it the other way, by folding the wing case back, once you've split the fibers and pulled them back along the fly, pinch them tight on both sides of the fly and slightly down with your left hand. then use a couple loose turns of thread around the fibers before tightening the tension on the thread. this will help to keep them from sliding around the fly.

hope this helps,


02-24-2008, 09:19 PM

Hey, thanks alot man. Clipping those fibbers and retying them is making my flies look alot better! Tried pinching down and back but doing that and reproducing a similar effect/fly must be one of those things you get a feeling for after tying quite a few.

Also, I thought about using rabbit dubbing for the thorax and then just picking out some of the dubbing to simulate legs but my personal preference is for the peacock herl with the pheasent fiber legs. Just think it looks a little more classy when you can get it right.


02-24-2008, 09:29 PM
It would help if I could see what you were doing, I tie mine like this.


I try to fold the fibers more to the side than down. Try to push the fibers back with your right hand then capture them with and hold them in place with your left. Do not relax your fingers in between wraps! Once you have positioned the fibers along the side of the thorax do not relax your fingers in between wraps. Make a couple loose wraps, then you can reposition the fibers if you need to before finishing the head

02-26-2008, 07:12 PM
Hey guys I think I may be onto something. I think I was tying off the pheasant tail fibers to short before forming the wing case. Once I allowed for a little more length at that point ti gave my fingers a little more something to hold onto. Also, started using those first few loose wraps and double checking the legs before committing to sinchen em down permanent. Thanks for everyones help.


David Knapp
02-26-2008, 07:24 PM
Chad, I have found a slightly different approach to be easier for me. I tie in the pheasant tail fibers by the tips. Leave the proper length sticking out past the eye of the hook to later fold back for the legs. Then secure the fibers up the hook shank towards the bend to where they would normally be sticking out prior to forming the hook case. Tie in the herl and form the thorax. Next fan out the legs and secure them approximately where you want them but sticking up a little. Finally, pull the fibers that form the wing case back and tie them in. They will hold down the legs and keep them properly in place. This option makes it easy to achieve the proper length for the legs. If this doesn't make sense and you're interested, let me know and I'll try to post a couple photos of what I'm talking about...

David Knapp

02-26-2008, 11:56 PM
I am sure there are all kinds of ways to actually tie the PT. The thing that isn't going to change though is using the proper proportions. You should pay close attention to proportion during all the steps of tying the fly. Paying attention to proportion will help all your flies look the same which in my opinion is one of the hallmarks of a good tier.:smile:

02-27-2008, 06:51 PM
I'm sure your right flyman. I hope to become a much better tier eventually.:rolleyes: Sounds like you've been fly fishing and tying quite a while. Just curious how you learned first starting out?

David, I'd like to see a picture showing how you're wrapping in your herl for the thorax with the pheasent kind of looped up and over the top. (Note: I may be misunderstanding something here.)

Thanks again for everyones great advice!:smile:


02-27-2008, 07:46 PM
When you get a chance you should definetly go to the fly tying classes offered at LRO. I went through all 3 classes and learned more from those classes than I expected. You do tie the Bead head Pheasant tail.
It is worth it as many of us will tell you.
Good luck tying.
Practice practice practice.
Fish Fish Fish

David Knapp
02-27-2008, 09:20 PM
David, I'd like to see a picture showing how you're wrapping in your herl for the thorax with the pheasent kind of looped up and over the top. (Note: I may be misunderstanding something here.)

Chad, here are pictures of how I tie in. Like Flyman said, proportions are key and I'm terrible at getting them right. Tying in this way has made it easier on me although they're probably still off...just don't crowd the hook eye like I do...:rolleyes:




After tying in the materials, you can just about finish as usual. I usually pull the legs back before bringing the wingcase over and let it (wingcase) help hold them (legs) in position. The downside to using this method is that the head is messy. I usually tie these with a small beadhead that helps cover the flaws...:rolleyes: Won't win any beauty prizes but the fish like 'em...:biggrin:

Gerry Romer
02-27-2008, 10:37 PM
Found this video at the Fly Fisherman Magazine website. Very close-up detail shots of yet another way to tie a BHPT (bead on this one is optional, of course). You'll especially like the way he ties in the Peacock herl.



02-29-2008, 12:43 PM
Thanks fellas for pics and video. Those bring up a couple of questions. Do you guys prefer non bead head flies or do you love 'em? Also, noticed that the gentelmen in the video clips his legs for length as oppossed to trying to measure out just the right amt. Do you think those clipped legs give different action in water & does it matter? I'm sure profile and proportion are the keys to fly tying just like fly fishing. I guess this is all fairly speculative stuff but I've learned alot by asking questions like this from fellas that've been fly fishing alot longer then me and some of it, not all, but alot has realy helped me to catch more fish so fly tying I'm thinking should be the same.

Again, thanks to both you fellas for taking the effort to make those post. Hope there's some way I can return the favor some day!;)


Gerry Romer
02-29-2008, 03:16 PM
You're right about profile and proportion being more important factors, but don't forget size. I sometimes think size is more important than even color. As for cut-to-measure vs measured-to-fit, I don't think it really matters much because at that length the fibers are relatively stiff anyway and you're not going to get as much movement out of them as you would CDC fibers or small rubber legs at that length. IMHO


02-29-2008, 09:58 PM
I agree with Gerry, I doubt that cutting the legs makes much difference. The original Pheasant Tail tied by Frank Sawyer didn't even have any legs. It also didn't have a peacock thorax like the American version tied by Al Troth that most of us use today. Sawyer tied the fly to imitate swimming mayfly nymphs, and he reasoned that since they swim with their legs tucked along side and beneath their bodies, the imitation didn't need any legs. There were only 2 materials used to tie the fly. He didn't even use thread, the copper wire was use to tie in and tie off the pt fibers.

http://www.danica.com/flytier/hweilenmann/sawyer_pt.htm (http://www.danica.com/flytier/hweilenmann/sawyer_pt.htm)

Look at this old film of Sawyer tying the PT. I think this was shot it the 50's and it looks like it was shot on Super 8 or something. Look at his hands as he ties the fly. You can tell the man was no stranger to hard work.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=416Os9V84n8 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=416Os9V84n8)

I have to admit though on a personal level, I cringe when I see someone cutting hackle, hair, or anything else to size it correctly verses using proper proportions. ;)