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Sawyer Pheasant Tail Nymph

Fly Tying Corner

Sawyer Pheasant Tail Nymph

Monday - October 9, 2017
By Phil Fischer
Sawyer Pheasant Tail
This month's Sunriver Anglers Fly Tying Corner features a Sawyer Pheasant Tail Nymph. This is a pattern originated by Frank Sawyer in the early 1900's; it has been around a long time. It is a very simple, yet effective fly pattern. It is unique in that the only materials used is a hook, copper wire and ring neck pheasant tail. The fly does not use thread to bind it together. The fly imitates any number of different mayfly nymphs that are common in our Central Oregon streams and rivers.

I have used this fly effectively in a broad spectrum of rivers from Central Oregon to Montana and as far away as Argentina. It is usually one of the first patterns I pull out of my fly box when approaching a new river, as it is an excellent imitation for small mayfly nymphs. The pattern featured in this month’s column is tied to specifically imitate a Pale Morning Dun nymph. By I can adapt the size and color to imitate many different mayfly nymphs. Use a greenish pheasant tail, bronze wire and tie on a size 18, and you have an excellent imitation for Baetis, or Blue Wing Olives. Tie a little larger using pheasant tail and copper wire, and you have a Mahogany Dun nymph. This is my go to pattern in many situations and it is responsible for more fish to net than any other pattern I've fished. Give it a try. I think you'll like it!

I have tied the fly slightly differently than the original Sawyer nymph tied by Frank Sawyer. The main difference is in the tie-off point. The original pattern tied off the fly at the back of the thorax, whereas on my version it is tied off at the head. But I think you'll see how quick and easy the pattern is to tie. I've added UV Resin to the wing case to make the fly more durable; something that wasn’t available in Frank Sawyer’s time.

Sawyer Pheasant Tail Materials List:
  • Hook: Firehole Outdoors 627 Barbless Competition Hook (Short Shank, 2X Gape), Sizes 14-18, or similar
  • Abdomen, Thorax and Rib: Red Ultra Wire in Small/li>
  • Abdomen, Thorax and Wing Pads: Natural Ring Neck Pheasant
Tying instructions and steps are being published in video form, and can be found on the Sunriver Anglers Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SunriverAnglers/, or at the following YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/ab5yoHFZ7Mw.

Learn to tie this fly pattern and fish it in rivers, Crooked, the Fall River, Upper Deschutes, and the Main Stem Deschutes. If you have questions or would like additional information about the Sawyer Pheasant Tail, please don’t hesitate to email me. Learn to tie this fly pattern and fish it in rivers, Crooked, the Fall River, Upper Deschutes, and the Main Stem Deschutes. If you have questions or would like additional information about the Sawyer Pheasant Tail, please don’t hesitate to email me. Philfischer@sbcglobal.net.