Soft-Hackled Bead Head Pheasant Tail

Consider the humble Pheasant Tail. Basic brown. Unpretentious. Traditional. Looks like nothing specific and a lot of things in general. Add a bead head — copper, if you please, which feels more understated than gold. But let’s not stop there. Let’s give our fly the breath of life. A soft hackle will do. Webby brown hen that pulses and moves and whispers to the fish, “I’m alive.”

If you told me I had to choose one fly to fish for trout for the rest of my life, it would be a soft-hackled bead head Pheasant Tail.  You can fish it like a nymph, fish it like a wet, or do both. All on the same drift. Woo-hoo!

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Hook: Orvis 62KC size 8-12 (steelhead), 2x strong/2x short scud size 10-20 (trout)
Thread: Brown 6/0 or 8/0
Bead: Copper, sized to hook
Tail/Abdomen: Pheasant tail
Rib: Small copper wire
Thorax: Peacock herl
Hackle: Soft brown hen
When I first tried to catch a steelhead with a fly that used all-natural materials and drab colors, I chose this pattern. Mission accomplished, and now it’s a staple.
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The Soft-Hackled Bead Head Pheasant Tail Rogues’ Gallery:
Late winter Farmington brown, size 18.
3-10-14 Brown

7 comments on “Soft-Hackled Bead Head Pheasant Tail

  1. Alton Blodgett says:

    I like to tie that pattern with a copper bead thorax and grouse hackle for trout. The wet hackle fibers drape over the bead unimpeded and the bead is only partially revealed…very subtle. Semantics aside, it’s a great fly.

  2. Dwight says:

    Soft-hackle, bead head pheasant tail nymph is my all-time go to trout fly. For about 20 years.

  3. A dozen 3″ wild brown fingerlings swarmed the fly today, first time I tried it on the upper Gunpowder River in Maryland and it was the only fly that moved any trout today. Nothing like the trout you show, but beautiful little fish.

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