While basking in the sunny climate of Casa Grande, Arizona during the months of February and March, I visited the local library several times and carried home numerous fishing books to puruse at my leisure between our golf games! I feel very knowledgeable about western Canadian waters but know little about the classic waters of the eastern United States. I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that one of my favorite flies is also extensively used in famous eastern rivers such as the Battenkill! It is the pheasant tail nymph which represents a mayfly larva both in the east and the west! The classic fly of the Battenkill is tied exclusively with pheasant tail while my nymph features a thorax of peacock herl, however, both flies are essentially the same, and to my mind, are equally effective. Our March article will therefore be the pheasant tail nymph so that you will not feel out of place if you should be so fortunate to fish some of the famous trout streams in the eastern United States.
Start by clipping several strands of brown pheasant tail, ensuring that the ends match in length. Secure these to the hook shank so that the feather ends project past the bend to form a tail. The cut end can then be wound forward to the hook eye if the clump has enough length. Regardless, I like to cut another piece of pheasant tail, a little less than before, to wind tip first, from hook bend to hook eye, thus making a body of the same material as the tail. The thorax can be made of pheasant tail as well, just wind a bit thicker as you near the hook eye. The next step is to cut another clump of pheasant tail, placing the cut end just at the hook eye and tie the material down over the hook shank to about 1/3 of the distance to the hook bend. Then pull the material back to the hook eye where you will cinch it down, pulling the ends of the pheasant tail under and back towards the hook barb. Before the final tie down, I like to wind in a single peacock herl to form a thorax, covering the loop of pheasant tail over this forward section of the hook shank. As mentioned before, the final step is to coax the ends of the pheasant tail material under and back towards the hook barb by careful positioning of your thumb and finger as you make the final half hitches. If you find the pheasant tail ends project past the hook barb, it is too long and the thick end of your clump should be shortened before starting the initial step. Some trial and error may be required to get the length correct. Whip finish, cement and you have completed a classic fly for those famous eastern waters as well as an excellent western still water producer!
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