Pheasant Tail Nymph: Everything You Need To Know To Catch More Fish

Never been fly fishing before?  Or, maybe you’ve been out, but are looking for some quality flies to bring onto the water?  The Pheasant Tail Nymph fly is a great place to start.

Many fly fishermen swear by fly fishing with nymphs only, and for a good reason – they work very well.  The Pheasant Tail Nymph is one of the better nymphs that is available for fly anglers at the moment, I highly recommend picking some up.

Pheasant Tail Nymph Overlook

The Pheasant Tail Nymph fly or also known as the Sawyer’s Pheasant Tail is a classic trout fly that has been around since 1958.   It imitates a variety of Mayflies and other aquatic insects that trout enjoy.  The best time to use the Pheasant Tail Nymph is when the water visibility is low and trout aren’t feeding on the top of the water.

this is a picture of a Pheasant tail nymph fly.

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When to use the Pheasant Tail Nymph over dry flies

Nymphing is one of the most lucrative ways to fly fish.  When the trout aren’t biting the drys, maybe consider throwing on a nymph or two… Nymphs have an advantage over dry flies because they sink under the water, compared to a dry fly that floats on top of the water.  This puts the fly directly in front of the trout’s face, increasing the chances of one actually biting.

A trout isn’t going to eat what they cannot see

The best time to use a Pheasant Tail Nymph over a dry fly is when the water is either very turbulent or a bit deeper in general.  If you are using a dry fly in 6 feet of water, the trout are not likely even going to see the fly.  Same thing with the turbulent water, there is simply too much movement in the water (bubbles, sand, rocks, bugs) for the trout to even see your fly, if you are using a dry fly.

Trout aren’t going to move for something that they cannot see.   Throw on a Pheasant Tail Nymph in either of these situations and you might find yourself having a bit of luck.  This is because the nymph will drop down into the eyesight of the trout, giving you the best opportunity to catch em.

Related: Ten Most Popular Brook Trout Flies of All Time

Look for bugs in the water

A good rule of thumb for determining which flies you should use, is to actually find some bugs that are already in the water.  If you find some bugs that match the size and color of your Pheasant Tail Nymph, it probably isn’t a dumb idea to throw one on and see what happens.

If you aren’t sure which type bugs are in the water, that’s ok.  Just try starting out with one of these nymphs.  Chances are high that it will be fairly productive for you.  It hasn’t been one of the most popular flies since 1958 because it’s trash.   It isn’t!

Things to Look Out for When Using the Pheasant Tail Nymph

I personally have had a lot of success fishing with the Pheasant Tail, as have a wide plethora of others.  But, there are a couple of keys to success when using one of these little guys.  When it isn’t working, change it up.  Too many fly anglers keep using the same fly for hours straight, even though they are not catching any fish.  That’s a big no-no.  Mix it up.

Keep em off the bottom

Another key aspect of using Pheasant Tail Nymphs or nymphs in general is to make sure that they are off the bottom of the water.  In deeper waters, trout likely aren’t sitting on the very bottom of the river.  They also aren’t going to eat flies that are underneath them, simply because the trout can’t see the fly.  If you keep the nymph off the bottom of the river, it gives the trout a chance to actually see the thing.  Also, you will save yourself a few flies from snags if your fly isn’t scraping the ground the entire time.

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Related: 5 Rainbow Trout Flies That Are Going To Catch More Fish

The Pheasant Tail Nymph Is a Trout Angler’s Favorite

There is a reason that a lot of fly fishermen and women carry a dozen or two of the Pheasant Tail Nymph in their fly boxes – they work.  Trout will typically eat these little guys up and down the river, when the water temperature is right.  Throw this nymph on when the drys aren’t producing and the water visibility is low to give you a high chance of success.  Make sure the nymph is off the bottom of the river, and mix it up when it isn’t working.

Those are a couple of my tips for catching fish on the Pheasant Tail Nymph.  Best of luck my friend and tight lines!

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