The Pheasant tail nymph (PTN) is a popular nymph for fly fishing, as it has an attractive profile with a slim body and pronounced thorax. The name applies to the main material that is used to tie the fly; namely the cock pheasant tail fibres that are used for tail, body and thorax. Copper wire is used to add weight and it can be used as the tying ‘thread’ in lieu of normal thread. The PTN as it is commonly known is a general purpose pattern and may be taken as a wide range of aquatic food items, from small nymphs to small fish (in larger sizes).
The original pattern, devised by Frank Sawyer, used only the materials described above and it became known as the Sawyer’s Nymph. But Sawyer only used copper coloured pheasant tail and copper wire.
The pattern has developed into a multitude of variations with different coloured pheasant tail, coloured fur thoraces and fibres swept back to represent legs. The original Sawyer’s nymph had none of these extras and the only weight was provided by the copper wire. Nowadays, you will see gold bead, silver bead, tungsten bead and glass bead variations, as well as other types of weight under the body.
This pattern described uses black dyed pheasant tail fibres for the tail, body and thorax cover. The thorax comprises Peacock Glister sparkle dubbing, which is teased out to represent legs. A silver wire rib is used over the body only and the fly has been tied on a Kamasan B175, which is a heavy traditional design hook for nymphs, and other patterns. There is no extra weight used, but the pattern is described (*) as a good fly for the colder months, as when used on a long leader, it will reach into the depths.
*Reference for pattern described: Winter 2015 Fly Dresser.