Sawyer’s Nymph

Sawyers nymph

This nymph is probably Frank Sawyer’ most famous pattern and has lead to the development of many other variations. 

However, this original pattern, devised by him, used only pheasant tail fibres and red coloured copper wire and it became known as the Sawyer’s Nymph.The wire that Sawyer used was that found in small transformers or electric motors. He tied it using the wire as the tying ‘thread’ as he felt it was best to use wire as it would hang neatly from the hook and not unravel when tying in materials.

He tied it on hook sizes 00 (17) 0 (16) and 1(15).

Sawyer did not try to claim that he was the first to use pheasant tail as a material for nymphs, but the manner as to the tying of the pattern. He used the copper wire as weight on the shank, for building up the thorax and for tying the fly.


He stipulated that the nymph had to conform to the general shape, appearance and colouring and should be as close to the natural fly as possible. Also, it had to enter the water quickly without any extra weight added and finally, that it should be easy to cast accurately and delicately. He felt there was no need to have legs on the nymph, as when the natural is swimming, the legs are kept close to the body. He maintained that propulsion is by the tails, hence the tails are quite prominent.


The pattern is intended to represent five different families:

Pale wateries, olives, spurwings , pro-cloeon (Pale evening dun) and cloeon (Pond and Lake olives). The nymphs of these types are often referred to as Agile darters. These nymhs share common characteristics, they have three tails and the body is 2/3 the length and the thorax is 1/3 length.

Other artificial patterns may represent these flies, other than the Sawyer’s Nymph.

Now, Sawyer used four pheasant tails to represent the tail of the nymph. I presume this was as a safeguard in case one tail broke when tying in, or when eaten by a trout.

The tying is simple:

  • set the hook in the vice
  • Wind copper wire onto the hook and build up a pronounced hump at the thorax
  • Take 4 x pheasant tail centre fibres (brown-red)
  • Tie them at the end of the hook, so that about 1/8″ (4mm) projects from the hook bend
  • Wind the pheasant tail fibres around the wire
  • Wind this wire+fibres ‘rope’ around the hook shank to the eye
  • At the eye, or just behind it, separate the wire from the fibres
  • Pull the fibres over the thorax hump and tie down with the wire
  • Take the fibres forward to the eye and catch in with the wire
  • Repeat this a few times to form a good thorax
  • Take the wire back to the eye and secure with a whip finish or half hitch
  • I add a drop of varnish on these wire turns as an addded measure of security

It is intended that the copper wire is visible at the thorax and body.

A nice slim nymph is the result.

Sawyers Nymph x3

Reference: Nymphs and the Trout, by Frank Sawyer