Pheasant Tail; is it the most important tying material?
As we have just finished up our winter tying classes and I am reflecting on the past six weeks I realized something, when tying Trout flies we use a LOT of Pheasant tail. Typically our classes are set up to showcase a wide variety of patterns from tiny Midges to huge streamers depending on which class you are attending. One thing that always seemed to hold true is that when we were tying trout flies, especially nymphs, usually there was Pheasant tail somewhere in the pattern recipe. Many times in class we would say or hear somebody in the class say “if I were going on a Trout trip and could take only one tying material it would be Pheasant tail.” That is a pretty bold statement, and one I happen to agree with so I thought this deserved a little more thought.
I have often said a fly must have possess 3 things to become a staple in my fly box. First it must look cool to me. I am not saying this to be vain, what I mean by this is that if I don’t have confidence in the way a pattern looks I know I will not fish it effectively and will give up on it very quickly. You should be able to tie it in around 5 to 7 minutes, faster if possible. It also must be tied out of a material that is readily available. Well, most of our Pheasant tail flies possess all three of these qualities. I really like the way PT looks when applied to the hook, what’s more you can get tails died in a myriad of colors. Most, if not all flies can be tied very quickly using PT, heck I tied half of a dozen Teeny Nymphs the other day and averaged about a minute a piece. I would bet you would be hard pressed to go into any fly shop in the country and not find a few Pheasant tails on the wall. Last but not least even a high quality Golden Pheasant tail or a Lady Amherst tail are relatively inexpensive when you consider the amount of flies you will get out o one tail.
In preparing to write this I did a Google image search and typed in “flies tied with Pheasant tail”. I can’t tell you how many pages of pictures popped up. Many of the photos were variations of the original Sawyer Nymph, but I saw everything from standard PT’s to Caddis larva, dries, wets, streamers, Midges, and a few really cool looking patterns I will definitely try for myself this spring. I have no idea how many pictures would have popped up if I hadn’t stopped it after it searched for about 10 minutes and it was still going strong.
When you look at all of the positive traits of the Pheasant tail; the ease in which it ties, the color options, the availability, and the seemingly endless amount of different patterns that can be tied with it, it may just be the most important tying material we have available to us. A bold statement for sure, but I know that if I was going on a Trout trip and could only take one material to tie with take a guess what it would be.